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When facing love addiction, it is important to understand the difference between the normal emotions involved in healthy romantic relationships and the self-destructive effects of unrealistic infatuation or obsession. A person can indeed become addicted to the darker aspects of love and sexuality, in the same way another person could become addicted to the pleasures of overeating or consuming alcohol. Addictive behavior has the potential to cause permanent mental or physical damage, even if the object of that addiction is considered perfectly legal in the eyes of the world. A person facing love addiction should realize that he or she is currently powerless over his or her craving for physical and emotional release through unhealthy forms of love or sexuality.
A person addicted to love or sex often pursues a series of short-term relationships with partners who are physically or emotionally abusive, narcissistic, manipulative or unstable. The addiction is driven by the thrill of the pursuit, the seduction process, or the emotional and physical intimacy associated with a romantic relationship. A person without a love or sexual addiction may recognize the signs of an unhealthy match and break off the relationship, but for an addict the powerful release of both positive and negative emotions is part of the addiction process. Someone who finds himself or herself facing love addiction is often forced to recognize this self-destructive pattern of intense but short-term relationships which invariably end badly. Love addicts need to know they are prone to feed their addiction in repetitive cycles of behavior.
During professional treatment for love or sexual addiction, clients may be housed in a supportive clinical environment for a number of weeks. This allows trained counselors to remove addicts from the environments which usually act as triggers for their behavior. Clients may be asked to attend group therapy sessions as well as individual counseling appointments. The staff at a rehabilitation facility can remove items they believe could be triggers, such as pornographic materials, or restrict access to Internet chat rooms, email, or telephone communications with non-family members. A person facing love addiction could suffer a relapse if he or she has any contact with a former or current romantic partner, for example. Clients with love or sexual addictions are also discouraged from forming any inappropriate relationships with other clients or staff members.
A person with a love addiction often works with a counselor to discover the source of his or her difficulties. An early childhood sexual trauma or the loss of a parent, for example, could have serious repercussions during a person's young adult life. A failed relationship or unhealthy infatuation during early adolescence could also seriously affect an addict's ability to form healthy romantic relationships later in life. A client should anticipate some very difficult examinations of his or her personal life and history as part of the recovery process. Once a counselor can determine the underlying triggers for addictive behavior, he or she is often able to suggest ways for the client to overcome those issues.
Once the intensive treatment program is completed, however, the work must still go on. A love or sex addict can continue to receive individual counseling on a private basis, as well as attend support groups with other recovering addicts. If a recovering love addict chooses to pursue a new romantic relationship, he or she should have the necessary tools to recognize signs of addictive behavior and correct them. An understanding partner may also aid in the recovery process by setting proper boundaries in the relationship and learning more about the recognized illness known as love or sexual addiction.