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Confessions of a Relationship Addict: When Loving Hurts More Than Helps

Skylar is a free-spirited, creative writer who loves music, nature, and cats. She lives in Toronto and enjoys drinking lemonade.

Hi, I am a Relationship Addict.

"Hi, my name is Skylar Wong and I am a Relationship Addict."

Maybe you have heard from movies like The Sex Addict (2017) or Thanks For Sharing (2012) that there is such a thing as a Sex Addict, namely individuals who constantly think of having sex and can't seem to stop craving it. In fact, Love and Sex Addicts Anonymous (see link here) is a real group that allows sufferers to find support, following a similar structure as Alcoholics Anonymous does.

A lesser known, related mental struggle to that of the Sex Addict is that of the Love Addict, or what I rather call the "Relationship Addict". I choose the term "Relationship Addict" rather than "Love Addict" because I personally think everyone needs love, but not everyone needs a romantic relationship to survive.

There is a difference between wanting love in general, versus wasting one's life chasing after unhealthy relationships. There is also a difference between simply wanting a stable, loving relationship, versus hurting oneself just to experience a "high" off of romantic relationships.

What is a Relationship Addict?

I have attended a "Love and Sex Addicts Anonymous" group but have felt a bit out of place there because I was outnumbered by sex addicts. I don't have an addiction to sex and don't feel the need to have sex constantly, but I do feel the desire to always be in a romantic relationship, even when my brain tells me it's time to rest and heal up from the previous one.

How do you know you are a Relationship Addict? The Augustine Fellowship's list of characteristics (1990) on the Love Addicts Anonymous website paints us a very clear picture of the symptoms surrounding Relationship Addiction (see link here). One major characteristic is that Relationship Addicts are constantly "moving on" to the next relationship quickly after each breakup and cannot stand being single.

Whereas the typical person tries to heal after a relationship, the Relationship Addict quickly tries to find someone else to fill the gap, claiming that they are "over" the previous romantic relationship when all his or her friends are absolutely sure that they are definitely not over it.

Relationship Addicts seek attention and crave romantic feelings more than they even crave a long-term relationship. This draws them to idealize almost any person that gives them the attention that they so deeply desire, and the Relationship Addict may tend to choose either abusive or unhealthy relationships as a result.

There is danger for people who date Relationship Addicts too, because they are being used as rebounds for the Addict, providing them a comfortable "way out" of their previous relationship. Their relationship may be extremely rocky as the Relationship Addict craves attention first and foremost, and not necessarily healthy intimacy.

This may end up causing dramatic fights within the relationship, and may trigger suicidal thoughts or self-harming tendencies if the Addict feels that they are not getting enough attention or care from their partner.

Also, due to the highly emotional nature of the Addict's relationships, dating is often short-lived and breakups happen very quickly. The vicious relationship cycle continues after each breakup as the Addict seeks attention from a new person, hoping to find "the one", when really they are feeding off a "high" that comes from being in every new relationship.

Like a never-ending swing, the Relationship Addicts feed off the euphoric highs of being in a newfound relationship, but swing back to being low and desperate every time the relationship breaks up. They then push themselves to try a new relationship to find that "high" again, only to perpetuate the back-and-forth swinging of highs and lows.

The Never-Ending Relationship Swing

Just like a never-ending swing, the Relationship Addict always tries to seek for a new relationship euphoric "high", only to fall back down when the relationship doesn't work.

Just like a never-ending swing, the Relationship Addict always tries to seek for a new relationship euphoric "high", only to fall back down when the relationship doesn't work.

What Causes the Relationship Addiction?

Why are Relationship Addicts the way they are?

From my personal experience, there are various reasons. They may have grown up, as I did, very shy and not having a stable parental relationship. Mom and Dad were always fighting when I was growing up and threatening divorce or other types of horrible things.

After being a timid child in my early childhood, in high school I also had trouble finding a stable group of friends. Every year of high school, my friendship group changed. My friends either moved away, graduated before me, or ditched me for other friends. My loneliness and desperation may have had its roots there.

If it's not due to the Addict's childhood or adolescent experiences, being a Relationship Addict could also be simply part of the person's personality. They may have trouble managing their anger, have unrealistic expectations for themselves or for others, have drug or alcohol problems, come from a history of abuse, and/or may not have developed healthy problem-solving or coping behaviors in general.

Relationship Addicts all have one thing in common: they all possess very low self-esteem. That is why they cling to an endless cycle of romantic partners in order to make themselves feel good. Relationship Addicts feel empty and incomplete without a person to fill the void in their hearts. They rely on praise, compliments, or gifts from their partner to uplift them.

There is little research being done on whether Relationship Addiction as a disposition is related to genetics. However, according to the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual version 5, there is an officially diagnosed mental disorder that psychiatrists call Borderline Personality Disorder. It is listed in the "Cluster B" category of personality disorders (see here for more on personality disorders).

Not all Relationship Addicts are diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Conversely, not all people with Borderline Personality Disorder have an issue with Relationship Addiction although some do suffer from both. Having Borderline Personality Disorder is simply a potential contributing factor to Relationship Addiction.

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Unfortunately, I was officially diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder by an official psychiatrist last year. The psychiatrist said I had both Bipolar Disorder (diagnosed in 2008) as well as Borderline Personality Disorder (diagnosed in 2016). When I heard the diagnoses, I felt it made sense. Having both bipolar and borderline could have contributed to me becoming a Relationship Addict.

First of all, what is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder is a mental disorder that is characterized by unstable relationships, where the person experiences feelings of extreme hopelessness and depression. The person with Borderline Personality Disorder has feelings of being lost and empty.

The individual suffering from Borderline may have impulsive mood swings, thoughts of self-harm, and exhibit risky behavior such as use and abuse of alcohol or drugs. A possible symptom could also be feelings of dissociation, where the person "zones out" from reality for a period of time and dissociates from their immediate surroundings in a catatonic state. (Click here for a full description on Wikipedia.)

How about Bipolar Disorder? Is it pretty much the same as Borderline?

Bipolar Disorder may have similar symptoms as Borderline, but it is a totally different mental disorder altogether. It is not a personality disorder like Borderline. It is a mood disorder characterized by extreme mood swings. Moods swing back and forth from the manic phase and the depressive phase.

The manic phase of Bipolar includes symptoms of euphoria, hyperactivity, insomnia, over-confidence, having quick and nonstop speech, irritability, and in extreme cases, experiencing hallucinations or delusions. On the other hand, the depressive phase includes symptoms of hopelessness, loss of appetite or overeating, retreating from friends and enjoyable activities, crying spells, thoug