Understanding Obsessive Love Disorder: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Updated September 7, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Obsessive love disorder isn’t an official diagnosis. It’s not something you’ll see in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders, at least at this time.  However, fixation itself is very real. If love and relationships cause extreme distress for you, there are some possible solutions.

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Obsession Isn’t Love

What Are The Consequences Of Obsessive Love Disorder?

When you obsess over a potential love interest, it can make for strained or unhealthy relationships, negatively impact your mental health, and even stop potential partnerships from forming. Not only can it be a challenge for the person experiencing it, but it can also lead to negative consequences for the person who is the target of the obsession. While it might seem like a nice idea to have someone put you up on a pedestal, this type of infatuation can be counterproductive. While many popular love stories glamorize obsessive, intense love, or jealousy, in reality, this type of obsessive focus may be anything but desirable. In some cases, it can even be emotionally damaging. 

Understanding Obsessive Love

It's normal to think about a love interest frequently. When a relationship first begins, you may be excited and have feelings of infatuation. Obsession is different in that it can feel like your entire life and emotional stability hinge on the other person and/or the relationship. Although obsessive love disorder isn't an official diagnosis, it is a recognized concern. Moreover, there are some mental health diagnoses that may correlate with the signs of obsessive love. For example, borderline personality disorder, attachment disorders and perhaps even relationship OCD ( a subtype of OCD ) could play a role. Additionally, attachment style could be a factor.

Symptoms Of Obsessive Love Disorder

Here are some of the signs or symptoms that you may be experiencing obsessive love disorder:

  • A strong attraction to a current romantic interest

  • Possessive and clingy behavior

  • Extreme jealousy 

  • Severe challenges in handling rejection

  • Obsessive thinking involving the person of interest

These symptoms can appear in various ways, depending on the person. For example, the individual may send excessive texts or social media messages to the object of their affection. They may stop interacting with anyone else in their lives, including their friends and family. In addition, they might keep constant tabs on the person, a behavior that can become dangerous if it progresses to stalking or harassment. 

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Why It's A Problem

You may be wondering what it is about love obsession that makes it such a problem. This type of obsession can become problematic when it prevents someone from living independently. In any healthy relationship, the people involved have their own identities and are able to pursue their own interests and friendships. However, when a partner experiences obsession, it can lead to codependence and isolation from others outside the relationship.  

The fixation itself often stems from the fear of being left or abandoned. Thus, it often manifests in intense jealousy and emotional dependence. The partner experiencing the obsession may become extremely jealous of everything the other partner does. There may be frequent accusations of infidelity despite little or no evidence of unfaithfulness. A healthy relationship is built on trust and mutual respect as well as the ability for each person to have their own independence. When you fear abandonment or fixate on a love interest, it makes these relationship fundamentals difficult to achieve.

Other symptoms include thinking excessively about the partner, needing constant reassurance, maintaining continuous contact, limiting other social interactions or activities, and spending as much time as possible with the partner. Love and obsession may be at the forefront of the individual’s life, which may conflict with other areas of life such as a person's functioning and ability to engage in their job or career. Losing contact with family, difficulty having friendships, or complications with relationships outside the romantic one, can also occur. 

How Obsessive Love Differs From Healthy Love

Not all of us are clear about what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like. Family can often be the primary factor in your understanding of a healthy relationship. If you grew up without a model for a healthy relationship, you may grow up without a clear idea of what a good relationship should look like. Moreover, we may receive a lot of mixed messages from our everyday lives as well as the media. Thus, it could be common for an obsession with a crush or love interest to be seen as cute or romantic. 

It may be helpful to remember that in a healthy relationship, there is usually some form of common ground. Both parties contribute emotionally to the relationship and do what is needed to strengthen the bond. With obsessive love, one partner may experience more intense feelings of affection, which can cause the relationship to become unbalanced. Sometimes, the obsession can develop even if the couple is not in a serious relationship. This may lead to delusional thinking that causes the person with obsessive love to have a distorted view of the relationship.

What Causes Obsessive Love?

Though there is no one definitive reason that it occurs, there are things that could lead to a predisposition toward obsession in love or romance. Some of those possibilities include:

  • Low self-esteem

  • Repeated contact with a love interest

  • Unwanted attention towards a love interest

  • An intense focus on only good or bad aspects of the love interest

  • Difficulty focusing on anything other than the love interest

  • Constant attempt to control the love interest

  • Extremes when it comes to feelings about individuals 

Attachment, particularly insecure attachment, may also contribute to obsessive love. Attachment theory claims that as we grow and develop, we will have one of a few attachment styles, depending on how our parents raise us. 

Those with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style may be more likely to have obsessive and "clingy" tendencies. They might need constant reassurance or experience unwarranted jealousy. While your attachment style may not be set in stone, it can take a commitment to self-awareness and developing new skills to change it.

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Obsession Isn’t Love

Getting Help

Getting help in the form of therapy can help you manage emotions related to love and romance. Romantic connections are a very common reason people seek the support of a therapist. Many providers who help people with relationships may be able to address various aspects of love, including how to form a new relationship appropriately, how to maintain a healthy love for yourself and others, and how to balance your partnerships.

One type of therapy technique that you may experience in counseling is cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. CBT is appealing to many because it is non-invasive, well-researched, and effective for a wide variety of mental health concerns ranging from mental health conditions to general life stress. 

Online Therapy

Seeing a counselor or therapist can feel vulnerable, especially when it comes to topics related to love, obsession, and mental health conditions. Finding the right therapist and working with them in a comfortable environment can make a significant difference, which is where online counseling could offer an advantage. Many people find themselves less hesitant to open up during online sessions versus in-person sessions. Online counseling may also be more convenient since it can be accessed from home. 

Online counseling through Regain may be able to help you with your relationships. When you sign up for Regain, you will select from individual counseling, couples counseling, or click "not sure" if you are not sure what kind of counseling you would like yet. 

Below are some reviews of Regain counselors from people encountering similar concerns.

Counselor Reviews

"Sessions with Natalie are very insightful and give practical advice on implementing new habits and changes. Be prepared to engage and be challenged to think in a different way. I know that my partner and I can already see improvements in our relationship and feel more positive about working through our issues together."

"Austa has been wonderful thus far. She has helped my partner and I during an unimaginably difficult time... She has also guided us in communicating effectively and setting appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I was hesitant to pursue counseling at the beginning, but I truly believe that it is making a difference for our relationship. Austa is easy to talk to and she is a great listener. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a counselor."

Takeaway

You don't have to let your obsessive love control your feelings. A stronger, healthier love is right around the corner. Our counselors are here for you to provide all the tools you need to get there. Whether you pursue counseling alone or with a significant other, it is possible to have healthier connections. Take the first step today.

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