Obsessive relationships begin just like all great loves. It starts as a special feeling toward another. Over time, those feelings develop into intense focus on the other person. As lovers express feelings of affection emotionally and physically, the energy of the love affair can become heightened. The relationship develops, and it is common to feel possessed by your loved one, and even lose your sense of self.
It is normal for two people in a relationship to become wild with love, but what happens when one partner becomes obsessed?
How obsession can hurt
Relationship behavior can go from normal to nutzo in a very short time. Here is a story (participant has chosen to remain anonymous) that illustrates what it can feel like in an obsessive love relationship.
“It was the most miserable summer of my entire life. I was only 25 years old but I could not understand exactly why I felt this way, and I couldn’t accept that I was completely dependent on my girlfriend.
I was actually addicted to her – a woman who so obviously did not return the feelings I had for her. I had been obsessed with women before, but never like this. What is wrong with me!? This is worse than ever before because I felt like if I lost her love, I was worthless. Not that I deserved her love. I was not a good looking man, or even deserving of her affection.
In fact, I didn’t deserve anything. I was overweight, uneducated and close to completely broke. I almost always felt an intense desire to be near her. Because, even at my worst even just one look from her was enough to distract me from any kind of anguish I was going through. Every second with her felt like, what is the word… relief.
Every time I heard her voice or saw her face my despair was instantly GONE. Just like that – poof! Even knowing that she was in the net room, or that she was going to call or that she was reading a text from me made me feel like I took a “hit” of some type of therapeutic drug.
I was always attracted to her but the first moment I saw her I knew that she would not be able to truly love me. Most women never even knew I was alive, but she gave me a shot. She gave me a chance at real love, and I wasn’t about to loose it. It felt so good to love her, and to have her love me back.
I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t stop myself from sending texts to tell her I was thinking about her. I couldn’t help but try to see if she felt the same way. Can I see you? Can I hear your voice? Did she just smile at the waiter?! I’ll have to ask him…
I admit it – I lost control. I wanted her (all of her) all the time, and to myself alone. Nothing else would be enough. I couldn’t get enough. Ultimately, I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t leave her alone, because I didn’t want to be without her. Not even for a moment.
I didn’t realize this was a problem, until she finally texted back. “STOP!!” She said, “Stop it you freak! You obsessive, overbearing, over zealous freak show!”
Oops. I guess she isn’t as into me as I am into her. Hmmmm… It is possible that my obsession with this woman has gone too far? Have I taken this affection past the point of fondness into the realm of soul-sucking addiction? Uh-oh!”
Your brain on love
Romantic love feels so good that it can be very difficult for people to realize when they have become too focused on their partner – and even addicted to them. The brain’s reaction to lust, attraction and the male/female attachment is a very real thing and can feel like an obsession. Neurologically, the chemical response of the brain to a long-term romantic relationship has been clinically shown to change the way the brain functions.
Here’s how it works: When we are in love, the brain responds by producing specific neurotransmitters that make us feel happy. These “feel-good” brain chemicals include serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.
They are very powerful neurotransmitters that leave us feeling more attached to our partners. The brain floods us with them after an intense cuddle session or the act of lovemaking.(1) But what happens when we no longer get that that intense “high” from our partners? Well… scientists suggest that the brain’s constant focus, wanting, and craving is NOT unhealthy, but actually a very natural and normal reaction to the “feel-good” neurotransmitters provided your partner.
Feeling obsessed with them is more than just a normal reaction; it is a scientifically validated withdrawal from those wonderful feelings of love that your brain got used to. Without the rush, most people experience a chemical dependency. And the withdrawal from it physically and emotionally hurts.
Lead researcher of a recent study about your brain on love, Dr. Lucy Brown describes the chemical changes this way, “Love is a natural, positive addiction,” Dr. Brown said, “But the symptoms of heartbreak, such as cravings and emotional and physical dependence, are similar to drug withdrawal.”
Becoming less obsessed
It is a fact that romantic love is one of the most addictive things on Earth. Obsessive feelings about your partner are normal. In fact, they are part of the reason we are able to stay in monogamous relationships. However, if you are relying solely on your partner for a fix of “feel-good” brain chemicals, you may be becoming too obsessive.
Try these three alternatives to boosting brain chemicals, if you feel overly obsessed with your partner:
- Exercise. Just 10-15 minutes on a treadmill or a walk around the block can ease obsessive feelings towards your loved one as it boosts serotonin and dopamine production. Curb couple cravings with a brisk walk!
- Try something new. Try joining a book club or taking a group fitness class to get your mind onto something new. Never underestimate the power of doing something different to create new neurological pathways.
- Adopt a pet. Studies have shown that animals are able to provide meaningful relationship powerful enough to increase the production of the same “feel-good” chemicals of a romantic relationship.
Did you know a mental disorder can lead to addiction?
One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.
But unlike real, effective, long-term solutions, such as medication and detoxification in a treatment center, drugs and alcohol won’t amount to effective treatment.
If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from addiction, then take our free 3 minute assessment.