Oct 28

Love and Romance Addiction: Key Points About Recovery

Love and romance addiction experts have been speaking about this issue for many years. Below some key info and resources have been capsulized.

A Quiz: Do You Have Love and Romance Addiction?

Is It Love Or Is It Addiction? (1997) by Brenda Schaeffer now has a more recent and expanded third edition. Get 12 or more affirmatives on her 32-point “Romance Addiction Questionnaire” and there’s a possibility you have an addiction.

A brief sampling:

2. Do you like melodrama: being a rescued victim or the hero?

3. Are longing and melancholy familiar to you?

5. Is being wanted extremely important to you?

6. Is the attraction phase of a relationship what matters most?

10. Is there a familiar pattern in your selection of partners?


Susan Peabody is the author of Addiction to Love: Overcoming Obsession and Dependency in Relationships and the recent Recovery Workbook for Love Addicts and Love Avoidants.

Stanton Peele recognized (Love and Addiction, 1975) that addiction wasn’t just about substance abuse. He continues to address this topic in his “Addiction and Society” blog on Psychology Today and elsewhere.

Pia Mellody‘s Facing Love Addiction “has been used as a sort of mini-Bible in addressing the issue for more than 20 years,” notes Barcella. One of Mellody’s contributions is her description of the “addiction/avoidance relationship cycle” in which a love addict has a pattern of becoming entwined with a “love avoidant.”

Although not a professional clinician like the above-listed, the writer of the popular Love Addict: Sex, Romance, and Other Dangerous Drugs (2011), Ethlie Ann Vare, is a recovering addict herself. Her alternate name for love addiction? Affection Deficit Disorder.

About a year ago on her blog (called Affection Deficit Disorder, of course) Vare listed “The Five Most Popular Paragraphs in LOVE ADDICT”:

1. Addiction is a disease of loneliness. Recovery is a process of community. Don’t try this alone. Your brain, an otherwise admirable tool of subtle complexity and divine reason, is a wee bit broken in this one particular area. Use someone else’s brain for a change.

2. When I stop doing the things that hurt me, I stop hurting. When I stop doing things that hurt other people, my self-esteem increases. When I have self-esteem, I am less inclined to do the things that hurt me. Simple.

3. The love addict is either chasing or being chased. As long as the person they’re chasing is unavailable, they’re madly obsessed and in love. But as soon as the person they desire is in their face saying, “I love you back and I want to be with you,” that’s when the love addict becomes the avoidant. They run for the hills, because they can’t handle the intimacy.

4. “We assign magical qualities to others. We idealize and pursue them, then blame them for not fulfilling our fantasies and expectations.”

5. Love addicts and sex addicts tend to go together. Love addicts are often people who were severely abandoned. And they tend to idealize people. It’s sort of romantic love gone pathological. The kind of person [they’ll] idealize will necessarily be the kind of person who will abandon them. If that person suddenly comes around and forms a closeness, the love addict will sabotage the relationship.


Although some kind of “sobriety” is important, as indicated by therapist Robert Weiss (SexualRecovery.com), this will differ for each person. One proposal for early recovery: “Sobriety can be delineated as abstinence from any romantic or sexual activity that causes the person to feel shameful or hold secrets, or which is illegal or abusive to others.”

Aug 14

Public Shaming: How NOT to Get Others to Change

At the same time that the serious and thoughtful work of such researchers as Brené Brown has helped us understand the harmful effects of shame, debate continues over whether the purposeful use of public shaming can motivate people to make healthy changes, e.g., to lose weight or recover from an addiction or be a better-behaved child.

Mirroring this issue has been a burgeoning public shaming humor culture in which photos of non-humans committing bad behaviors are posted online. These dogs, cats, bunnies, and even robots often wear signs expressing their various confessions of wrongdoing. Some examples can be found at the following sites:

Turning back to people, the following quote from Brené Brown, in an interview with Mothers Movement, is pertinent to the argument against the shaming method: “Meaningful, healthy change requires us to assess both our strengths and limitations. We change from a place of self-worth, not a place of shame, powerlessness and isolation. Real change requires awareness, insight and thoughtful decision-making – these are rarely present when we are experiencing shame.”

Unfortunately, our culture has long been into shaming, Brown points out. Children especially are often targeted, as for parents and other caretakers “(i)t is both effective and efficient in the short-term.”

She elaborates on how this tendency is then recycled throughout our culture:

…(S)hame is used as a change agent all the time. It’s used in our ‘here and now’ society because you can actually see a swift behavior change when you use shame. The consequences, however, are very serious. Shame promotes change by using fear of rejection, fear of not being accepted and fear of disconnection. Ultimately, shame is very destructive to both the person doing the shaming and the person being shamed. When you talk to 200 women about shame (and now some men as well), you quickly learn how many of our deepest scars are from being shamed and many of our most profound regrets can be traced back to experiences when we shamed others.

An example of shaming gone wrong, as reported in The Huffington Post, is seen in the recent research of psychologist Angelina Sutin et al. showing that it actually hinders weight loss—in fact, victims of weight discrimination were significantly more likely to become obese.

In a Psychology Today blog post, noted addictions expert Dr. Stanton Peele also warns against public shaming. He states that the too common practice of rehab shaming, or “hectoring addicts and alcoholics for their bad behavior,” also fails.

Peele refers to neuroscience journalist Maia Szalavitzwhose article in Time, “Being Ashamed of Drinking Prompts Relapse, Not Recovery,” cites new research results that “add to a body of literature suggesting that widely used shaming and humiliating methods of treating alcohol and other drug problems — such as those seen on shows like Celebrity Rehab — are not only ineffective but also may be counterproductive.”

In fact, we just wind up back where we started:

Why doesn’t shame change or deter addictive behavior? Shame is not only an effect of addiction but also can be a key reason why some people turn to drink or other drugs in the first place. Research suggests that people who feel particularly high levels of shame are at increased risk not just for addictions but also for other conditions that can worsen addictions, like depression…

That can set up a vicious cycle: if you drink to escape shame and then embarrass yourself while drinking, you wind up with even more reasons to drink — and to be ashamed of yourself.

Have you ever been shamed into changing your bad habits or behavior? How’d it work out?