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Sacred Love Versus Profane Love (1602–03) by Giovanni Baglione.
Sacred Love Versus Profane Love (1602–03) by Giovanni Baglione.

Love addiction is a proposed model of pathological passion-related behavior involving the feeling of falling and being in love. A medical review of related behaviors in animals and humans concluded that current medical evidence does not support an addiction model for maladaptive passion-related behaviors.[1] There has never been a reference to love addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a compendium of mental disorders and diagnostic criteria published by the American Psychiatric Association.[2]


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The history of the concept
image icon The History and Rise of Sex and Love Addiction (INFOGRAPHIC)

The modern history of the concept of the love addict – ignoring such precursors as Robert Burton's dictum that 'love extended is mere madness'[3] – extends to the early decades of the 20th century. Freud's study of the Wolf Man highlighted 'his liability to compulsive attacks of falling physically in love ... a compulsive falling in love that came on and passed off by sudden fits';[4] but it was Sandor Rado who in 1928 first popularized the term "love addict" – 'a person whose needs for more love, more succor, more support grow as rapidly as the frustrated people around her try to fill up what is, in effect, a terrible and unsatisfiable inner emptiness.'[5] Even Søren Kierkegaard in Works of Love said "Spontaneous [romantic] love makes a man free and in the next moment dependent ... spontaneous love can become unhappy, can reach the point of despair."[6]

However, it was not until the 1970s and 1980s that the concept came to the popular fore. Stanton Peele opened the door, almost unwittingly, with his 1975 book Love and Addiction; but (as he later explained), while that work had been intended as 'a social commentary on how our society defines and patterns intimate relationships ... all of this social dimension has been removed, and the attention to love addiction has been channeled in the direction of regarding it as an individual, treatable psychopathology'.[7] In 1976, the 12-Step program Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (S.L.A.A.) started hosting weekly meetings based on Alcoholics Anonymous. They published their Basic Text, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, in 1986 discussing characteristics of and recovery from both love addiction and sex addiction.[8] As of late 2012, S.L.A.A.'s membership had grown to an estimated 16,000 members in 43 countries.[9] In 1985, Robin Norwood's Women Who Love Too Much popularized the concept of love addiction for women. In 2004 a program just for love addicts was created--Love Addicts Anonymous. Since, variations on the dynamics of love addiction have become further popularized in the 1990s and 2000s by multiple authors.

Cultural examples

"What though the radiance which was once so bright.
Be now for ever taken from my sight.
Though nothing can bring back the hour
of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
we will grieve not, rather find :Strength in what remains behind; :in the primal sympathy which having been must ever be;
in the soothing thoughts that spring.
Out of human suffering;
in the faith that looks through death;
in years that bring the philosophic mind."

– William Wordsworth

See also


  1. ^ Reynaud M, Karila L, Blecha L, Benyamina A (2010). "Is love passion an addictive disorder?". Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 36 (5): 261–7. doi:10.3109/00952990.2010.495183. PMID 20545601. S2CID 12189769.
  2. ^ Shaeffer, Brenda (2009). Is It Love Or Is It Addiction? The Book That Changed the Way We Think about Romance and Intimacy (3rd ed.). Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden Publishing. ISBN 978-1-59285-733-3  The book has been translated into Spanish as Es Amor O Es Adicción ((cite book)): External link in |postscript= (help)CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  3. ^ Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (New York 1951) p. 769
  4. ^ Sigmund Freud, Case Studies II (PFL 9) p. 273 and p. 361
  5. ^ Maggie Scarf, Unfinished Business: Pressure Points in the Lives of Women (Ballantine Books, 1995) Chapter 12.
  6. ^ Quoted in Susan Peabody, Addiction to Love
  7. ^ Quoted in Bruce E. Levine, Commonsense Rebellion (2003) p. 242
  8. ^ Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous official website
  9. ^ "Letter to Healthcare Professional" distributed at 2012 SASH Conference.
  10. ^ Anaïs Nin, A Spy in the House of Love (Penguin 1986) p. 36
  11. ^ Anne T. Salvatore, Anaïs Nin's Narratives (2001) p. 67
  12. ^ Neville Symington, Narcissism: A New Theory (2004) p. 56
  13. ^ Quoted in T. S. Eliot, The Complete Plays and Poems (London 1985) p. 79
  14. ^ Judith C. Stark, Feminist Interpretations of Augustine (2007) p. 246

Further reading