Obsessive love disorder is an extreme form of love that transcends into an obsession over time. It is characterized by an unhealthy attachment towards someone and can be triggered off by many factors such as anxiety, insecurity, and vulnerability.
“Love is as much of an object as an obsession, everybody wants it everybody seeks it, but few ever achieve it, those who do, will cherish it, be lost in it, and among all, will never…never forget it.”
Love is an emotion that is probably the most talked about, thought about, written about and not to forget, fantasized about thing in the world. While some would describe love as a tender and deep affection, others would associate the feelings with sexual passion and desire.
In the initial phase of a relationship, there is an overwhelming and instant attraction towards one’s love interest which slowly moves on to become a tender and beautiful relationship based on companionship and trust. And while this is the expected culmination for all relationships, there are instances when these feelings of love turn into an obsession.
The manic need to possess takes over and overrides the bond of trust and companionship that a couple shares. This condition is referred to as obsessive love disorder.
What is Obsessive Love Disorder?
Even though obsessive love addiction does not feature in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (the official handbook for mental health in the USA), it has been recognized as a serious mental disorder that requires treatment.
Obsessive love addiction disorder has its foundation in the insatiable fixation of wanting to possess the target of their obsession. The emotions that are experienced when in love, like mutual respect, trust, and security, are overtaken by feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and resentment.
This then gives way to a painful and all-consuming obsession and preoccupation with an actual or wished-for lover. This insatiable longing either to possess or be possessed by the target of their obsession, and rejection by physical or emotional unavailability of their target can result in the perpetual fixation and compulsion to obtain the person they desire.
The unnerving aspect is that a person might not even be in a relationship with the object of their desire or have (recently) separated from them, they might simply have had a stray conversation with them at some point and gotten interested in them, which has then slowly turned into an obsession.
Love obsession can start out with activities like keeping tabs on the person and then transcend into something far worse like stalking them, emotionally blackmailing them and in the most extreme scenarios, taking to violence towards the person or oneself.
What Causes Obsessive Love
Not every jilted lover becomes obsessively involved with their ex. Not every person who is in a relationship with someone gets into a maniacal need to possess them. Then why is it that some people do?
Childhood Plays a Great Role
The tendency to fall in an obsessive kind of love can almost always be traced back to one’s childhood and early adolescence. Factors like abandonment issues, mental or physical abuse, being neglected, being compared to one’s siblings and similar situations which may lead to the feelings of being ‘inferior’ or unworthy in a child may lead to the emergence of an emotional void in him/her. It is this void that they are trying to fill with the acceptance and love of the other person.
It has also been observed that usually it is people with a low self-esteem who develop the tendencies of obsessive love. In case the other person is not a part of their lives anymore, they convince themselves that their return will automatically solve all their problems and make them happy again. They thus, create an illusion for themselves and move farther and farther away from the truth.
Given to their lack of self-confidence, if there is any form of inequality with the partner, either in the social class or in the level of attractiveness – they might have the need to possess and gain control over the situation thus.
Alcoholic Families Have Negative Impact on Children
Also, the way a person learns to love is conditioned during his/her childhood. For example, a child who is not shown healthy love and affection during his formative years, may go on to have dysfunctional relationships later in life just to gain attention. Psychiatrists also believe that children from alcoholic families may be at a greater risk of developing love disorders and addiction.
Other reasons for why this obsession makes way is that there is, where a person has an inflated sense of self, is egoistic and has feelings of being special and/or different, so when there is a failed relationship, the person becomes obsessed and wants to possess and control the other.
Signs of Obsessive Love
Fixation with a person who they believe holds the key to their happiness and fulfillment.
The onset of tunnel vision, where the person cannot think about anything else except possessing the other person. This not only affects his thought processes, but his daily activities as well.
Onset of neurotic and compulsive behavior like rapid telephone calls to the lover’s place of residence or work.
Stalking them either physically or through varied social networking mediums in order to keep tabs on them.
When in a relationship, displaying certain telltale signs like becoming suspicious of their partner, resenting their relationships with others, accusing them of cheating, and in the most extreme cases, even resorting to violence (which could easily turn to murder).
Unfounded accusations of cheating.
‘Driveways’ around a love interest’s home or place of employment, with the goal of assuring that the person is at where he/she said they would be.
Physical monitoring of their activities by following them throughout the course of a day to discover their daily activities and whereabouts.
Controlling the partner. This includes questioning the commitment to the relationship so as to manipulate him/her into providing more attention.
Indulging in obsessive love stalking, rape, murder, and other destructive activities.
With deterioration of a love relationship, there may be stress-related disorders like asthma, diabetes, and obesity.
Onset of extreme depression that can even turn into suicidal thoughts and give rise to suicidal tendencies.
A sudden loss of self-esteem or feelings of guilt and self-hatred.
Denial that the relationship has ended. This is usually followed by attempts to win a loved one back by making promises to change.
The use of drugs, alcohol, food, or sex to mute the emotional pain.
Anger, rage, and a desire to seek revenge against a love interest.
Obsessive Love Treatment
The first and foremost factor that needs to be understood before one gets to the treatment phase is that the person has to realize that he is facing a problem and wants to change himself. After which, depending on the intensity of the disorder, the different treatment options can be looked into. The following are the varied steps that can be taken in this direction.
Keep Your Distance
At least for a short period of time till the obsessive thoughts don’t threaten to take over and you end up slipping back.
Do Away with Everything That is ‘Them’
Get rid of all the things that reminds you of them. When the constant reminders are done away with, it is easier to forget.
Join an Activity
Replace the time you would spend obsessing over them or keeping a tab on them by doing something else. This will help channelize your energy in the right direction and give you a sense of achievement as well.
Provide a Boost to Your Self-esteem
By signing up for an activity that you can excel in.
When you start succeeding in one area of your life, the high usually carries over to the other areas and you start feeling confident.
Talk to Friends and Family
Tell them that you’ll need their help in overcoming this pattern. You could either open up to them and simply talk, or you could plan an outing so you’re distracted. Either which way, don’t go through the process alone or it can be quite easy to slip into the obsessive pattern again.
Join a Support Group.
If opening up to friends or family does not seem like a viable option, then there is always the option of joining certain support groups. These will help by providing the required assistance in forms of healing activities and counseling.
Visit a Professional
In cases where the person has inflicted self-harm or harm to another person, a stronger approach needs to be adopted. This then makes it necessary that he visit a psychiatrist or psychologist who will then start him out on a combination of medications and varied therapies.
For example, cognitive therapy. This is a type of counseling approach which focuses on changing thought, behavior, and emotional patterns which are dysfunctional and bringing about a change in the patient’s behavior thus. The therapist will challenge and help the patient understand the pointlessness of fantasies and irrational thoughts by helping him concentrate on reality. This is believed to be an important tool in the healing process.
The only way that one can deal with this disorder is to understand that this is not the way to live. It is important that you break this vicious cycle of obsession and fixation with a person, and discover and address the underlying causes that support this obsessive behavior. To have someone else in your thoughts and obsess over them leaves you weak and vulnerable, and affects your sanity and productivity. The consequent step is to consciously take up the treatment options that have been provided for and help yourself heal.
(Disclaimer: This LoveBondings article is for informative purposes only and does not intend to replace the diagnosis of, and treatment provided by an expert.)