Many people often have serious questions about their relationships with friends, families, co-workers and lovers:
How do you know when a relationship is emotionally hurtful to you, or is unhealthy? What can you do if the relationship is destructive?
A reader emailed just such a question recently, and here is some information in response.
Q: I have a problem which may or may not be sex and love addiction. I tell myself that I really love this guy but the need to be with him becomes overwhelming at times. Through learning about co-dependency I learned that this is an unhealthy relationship. The question is can I be depressed and not know it when I fall into these intense feelings of needing his love? I realize that something lacking in my childhood has done a number on me to cause this, but depression and being self-destructive seem extreme. Would anti-depressants help to alleviate the pain? — Gloucester
A: You raise several important issues in your email letter.
First, compulsively continuing in a relationship that
you know is unhealthy can certainly be considered a form of love addiction or person addiction. Feeling that you must have this person in your life even though it hurts you to be with him could be symptomatic of deeper emotional issues.
Your second question concerns whether or not you are depressed. It certainly is a possibility since some forms of depression include the symptoms of obsessiveness and self-destructive behaviors.
Depression can be an overall feeling of “being blue” under which lies a more specific, deeper pain which some people attempt to alleviate by compulsively focusing on a person, alcohol, shopping, food, etc. Symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. As you suggest in your letter, for you the source of your pain may reach back to your childhood.
The important thing is to learn to aware of the specific feelings that can help you identify which of your emotional needs are not being met. If you aren’t fully and consciously dealing with your deeper pain and hurt, those emotional wounds and needs may be expressed in the form of love addiction.
Both depression and love addiction are symptoms of deeper emotional issues that have not come to the surface and been fully addressed in your life.
You also ask whether medication can help. It can help in many circumstances, but each person must be evaluated individually to determine if medication can help them, and what type of medication may be appropriate.
Also, to help address your specific problems and issues I would suggest you consider seeing a professional to sort through your concerns, and to determine if individual and/or group counseling might be necessary and helpful. Since love addiction seems to be present, you may also want to explore a group such as Al-Anon, which — while it deals with addiction for those who are addicted to others, most often to their alcoholic spouses or lovers — may still offer appropriate support for you.
Based in Rockport, life and relationship coach Susan Britt, M.Ed., a psychotherapist and former university director of career and counseling services, teaches individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship conflicts, clarify and achieve life goals, and accelerate personal growth. Questions and comments may be addressed to her at email@example.com and by telephone at 978-546-9431.