Embedded in her adult psyche this fantasy plays out in real time with real people, over and over again to no avail. This fictional love, however, resides in well-worn, dissociative patterns in the brain and body, which, over time, become more tenacious until she feels powerless over her very own life.
Love addicts, through no fault of their own, use distorted love scenarios as a faulty means of managing painful emotions. This automatic, dissociative process is an adaptive strategy unconsciously honed in childhood to create the much-needed comfort she never received from a trusted other.
Understanding Adult Attachment PatternsAs with other addictive and compulsive behaviors, these issues consistently indicate a dysfunction in the woman’s implicitly learned attachment patterns: that is, in her very ability to regulate herself, her personality structure and her ability to seek comfort from appropriate others. These problematic attachment patterns are at the core of why many females act out in obsessive love relationships.
Attachment patterns develop from infancy between the baby and her primary caregivers and become solidified later as she grows into toddlerhood. For example, when an infant is upset, or dysregulated, the “good enough” mother soothes the infant thereby down-regulating her nervous system into a regulated state where she can rest, digest and play.
Consistent tending and soothing not only assists the developing brain in forming its structures and regulatory capacities, but also encodes, or patterns, the nervous system to respond appropriately under stress. If a baby is soothed while under duress, that baby grows into a resilient toddler, then child until she grows into a secure, functional adult who can soothe herself while under stress. This ability to self-soothe is the hallmark of a securely attached adult.
On the other hand, if the mother is chronically dysregulated due to depression or anxiety, she will imbue her infant’s system with those same vegetative or agitated patterns. This less than favorable scenario, will hobble the infant’s brain and nervous system structures rendering her unable to properly regulate or self-soothe herself as an adult. As a result, the depressed or anxious traits of the mother become insecure states and, therefore, attachment patterns in the adult person. Moderately to severely dsyregulated nervous systems then, can lead to addictive behaviors in adulthood.
Like all addicts, love addicts are chronically dysregulated. They seek relief from underlying mood problems such as depression or anxiety using the dissociative strategies of fantasy and serial relationships to mitigate their pain. But only temporary relief comes from their internal dysregulation through the relentless pursuit of obsessive love.
The simplest way to think about adult insecure attachment patterns is:
The Anxious-Avoidant type is both anxious and avoidant of intimate relationships. She appears commitment phobic, unable to choose wisely or stay in a healthy relationship.
The Preoccupied personality is ambivalent in her attachment style. Her mixed messages of, “come here, go away” make it difficult for her to sustain a long-term commitment.
The Disorganized type is simultaneously terrified of engulfment and abandonment. She fears closeness because relationship struggles telegraph abandonment, and closeness makes her feel suffocated.
Help for Love AddictionWith solid psychological work directed specifically at the treatment of love addiction, dysfunctional patterns can change over time. Through close examination of the underlying mechanisms that drive the love addiction, women can make profound changes in their body/mind/brain toward optimum mental health leading to the integrated experience of self-regulation. In time, the insecure, love addicted female can grow into a secure, mature adult woman who can tolerate a close intimate relationship with a significant other so that she can finally, experience the love she deserves.