Love Addiction

Being in love has different meanings to all of us and there are countless ways show it. In its purest and healthiest form, it is a deeply personal and intimate expression of vulnerability, a willingness to share all of ourselves – the good, bad, and the ugly – with a “cherished other,” and the emotional capacity to accept what that individual has to offer in return.

But what if that capacity doesn’t exist or is significantly limited?  Some people mistake intensity for intimacy, choosing inappropriate partners because they feel the excitement of being wanted, seen, and desired. To them, that is what love means. When that “high” inevitably wears off and the relationship becomes deeper and more intimate, they often find themselves unable to tolerate the difficult experiences and unpleasant emotions that are bound to arise in any relationship. Some may find themselves in a toxic or dangerous situation, while others may lose a sense of themselves as individuals and get lost in trying to hold on to their partner.

In the end love inevitably becomes loss, and the initial joy is followed by despair. This is love addiction.


Given that many in our society still has complicated beliefs about sex and sexuality, it’s important first to understand what sex addiction is not. It’s not a moral or ethical problem, or a religious issue. It’s not a sign of a broken relationship or an excuse to use for “behaving badly” by having affairs or cheating. Most importantly, it is not a way to pathologize alternative sexual identities and practices such as fetishes, BDSM and polyamory.

At its most basic, sex addiction means spending an inordinate and unhealthy amount of time fantasizing about, seeking, and engaging in sexual behaviors, resulting in negative consequences in every area of an individual’s life.  It is a search that becomes more desperate over time for the physical and psychological high that comes from achieving sexual gratification and the relief that comes with it. Just like with any other addiction, the need grows, the satisfaction diminishes, and the relief becomes more fleeting.  One then must seek more intense, more frequent, and sometimes more dangerous sexual outlets to try to manage difficult emotions and challenging relationships. The addict is never satisfied, and the hunger persists.

It is not about pleasure, and only leads to pain.


Recognizing and dealing with a sex or love addiction can be a painful process. These addictions, like others, are often signs of a deeper, more pervasive issues. They can be evidence of deep emotional pain, shame, or trauma. They can be the result of not having our emotional and psychological needs met earlier in our lives, and believing that sex or love is the only thing that will fill up the parts of us that feel empty. It is a search for wholeness and healing, but the individual is looking in the wrong direction.

Recovery doesn’t mean one has to give up on finding love or enjoying sex. It’s about understanding how and why these human needs have become obsessions, then treating the root causes, and developing a healthy relationship to oneself and others.


Symptoms of love addiction include:

  • Believing that not being with someone makes you somehow deficient.
  • An inability to tolerate the end of the honeymoon phase when relationships become less intense and more intimate.
  • Feeling like a relationship will solve all your problems.
  • Being overly dependent on your significant other to meet your emotional needs.
  • Prioritizing your partner over everything else in your life for fear of being rejected.
  • Relentlessly pursuing a partner or former partner, to the point of harassment.
  • Ignoring a partner’s faults and justifying abusive behavior.

Symptoms of sex addiction include:

  • Sex with sex workers
  • Pornography
  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Anonymous sex
  • Multiple affairs
  • Massage parlors
  • Strip clubs
  • Voyeurism


While there are no medications specifically designed to address these addictions, research shows that specific forms of therapy can be effective at identifying and eliminating the thought-patterns that lead to these self-destructive behaviors. Oftentimes, identifying and addressing a client’s co-occurring mental health problems – such as an underlying anxiety disorder, trauma, or mood disorder – can greatly decrease symptoms of a sex and love addiction.

Our treatment plan will differ depending on a client’s needs and circumstances. At The Verve, it isn’t about addressing the condition in a vacuum – we look at the whole picture. As such, clients with a sex and love addiction might be treated through:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Group Work & Meetings
  • EMDR
  • Art Therapy
  • Experiential Activities
  • Brainspotting
  • Family Support & Counseling
  • And more.

At The Verve, we tailor individualized programs to treat sex and love addiction – not through a cookie-cutter recovery process, but through an intense one-on-one therapy program that helps clients identify their most problematic behaviors, develop healthier coping skills for emotional and psychological pain, and become a more fully integrated individual. All with a dedicated support network in the form of the Verve community.


At The Verve, we partner each client with a peer professional. We value peer-to-peer treatment and believe that developing a bond with a single treatment professional can further strengthen a client’s recovery.

As the treatment process continues, a client’s needs may change and evolve. The scope of their treatment is adjusted accordingly, as is the evaluation of their condition, and the appropriate treatment modalities.

We don’t believe in the idea of short-term treatment, or that an encompassing and comprehensive recovery process can be achieved in a few weeks. Our peer work is meant to emphasize that interpersonal bonds and community support play a central role in the treatment of conditions like sex and love addiction.


It’s not just about getting a fresh start. It’s about committing to recovery and investing in the relationships that make the recovery process possible in the first place.

When working with us at The Verve, you can expect evidence-based treatments, and a support-centric recovery process that helps clients connect with other peers in their environment, as well as reconnect with friends and family.

Don’t let sex and love addiction control your life any longer. Get started with us today by calling (202) 816-6006 or sending us a message via our contact form. Give us a call to learn more about our different programs, to schedule an appointment, or to talk to a treatment professional.

Recovery from addiction, mental health needs, or whatever life may throw our way, takes more than just a fresh start.

It takes a dedicated support team, a robust recovery community, and a tailored therapeutic program to help you realize your potential. The Verve IOP is here to help you, your family, and your entire recovery support team navigate the road ahead, together.

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At The Verve you can design and create a recovery program that works for YOU!
You can unpack who you are today and discover your potential to help you build a future of endless possibilities.



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