When love is torture

Did you know that you can become addicted physically, emotionally and mentally to love?

Did you know that you can become addicted physically, emotionally and mentally to love?

Sharon Theron who counsels people with addiction problems, says an addiction is any activity or substance a person repeatedly craves.

"Any fixation for which a person is willing to pay any price necessary to receive is an addiction," says Theron.

She says that love addicts go through life with desperate hopes and constant fears. Fearing rejection, pain, unfamiliar experiences and having little faith in their ability or right to inspire love, they wait and wish for love.

"Because of fear of change in their addictive fix, love addicts will go to any level to regain their lost love. That is why people go to sangomas for love potions and muti. Their desperate need for a fix consumes their every moment, shaking their security, creating obsessive thoughts of their love and creating emotional scheming."

Andiswa Langa*, who suffered from the addiction, said it is a very dangerous condition and should be given attention as soon as possible.

"I was obsessed with being in love. Men ran away from me because I stuck like glue to them. I was scared not to be in love. I became a stalker and I was suicidal.

"Even though my man made it clear that it was over, I continued chasing him. I would call him and threaten to kill myself if he did not come back to me. I had his pictures all over the place. Just thinking about him or seeing him, spoilt my whole day," says Langa.

She says it continued until she sought professional help.

Theron says love addicts continue their obsessive need for the relationship long after it is over.

She says that an addict does not succumb to the addiction for any reason other than an intense craving.

"It is not the source of their addiction that they need, it's the satisfying of the intense craving that motivates them," she says.

Theo Ranaka* who also suffered from love addiction, says she was obsessed with falling in love.

"I used to think that if I was not in love I would be stressed, anxious, angry, unwanted, unloved, unneeded, undesirable, unworthy, depressed, bored and lonely. Love created a positive mood for me," says Ranaka.

Theron says when obsessing over the loss of a relationship causes intense and continuous unhappiness, it is a sign that a person is addicted.

Siphiwe Zulu*, a gay man from Soweto, says he was constantly preoccupied with his ex- boyfriend and finding a new man.

"It left me empty, without self-respect. Every time I saw a couple walking together I hated myself for not being able to hold on to my ex. And I was in denial about my addiction."

Theron says that not admitting the problem exists can be as devastating as the addiction.

"When we are in denial, we are blind to such an extent, or severity, that the addiction wrecks our life. We don't see the connection between the addiction and our pain and suffering and we don't seek the help we need."

She says denial is very dangerous because it impairs judgment, resulting in self-delusion. Denial prevents people from understanding the implications and consequences associated with addiction.

Common characteristics of love, people or relationship addiction:

l Consuming or obsessive thoughts of the object of your love;

l Avoidance of the loss of this love;

l Seeking to avoid rejection or abandonment at all cost;

l Manipulation to regain this love;

l Extreme dependency on this love;

l Sense of worthlessness without a relationship or partner;

l Feelings of not being whole outside of a relationship;

l Extremely accepting of abuse;

l Defining wants as needs;

l Refusal to acknowledge the problem.

* Not their real names.