What to Do When You're "Addicted" to a Person

When we become addicted to a person we suffer, lose our integrity, and lose freedom. Find out why this happens and what to do about it here.
What to Do When You're "Addicted" to a Person
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 29 March, 2023

We don’t just become addicted to drugs, shopping, exercise, or the internet. Our bonds and relationships are also susceptible to addiction, and they can plunge us into a situation of dependence and lack of control. When we become addicted to a person, we abandon our dignity, endanger our sense of integrity, and suffer. Why does this happen and what can we do about it?

The truth is that this is a widespread reality. In fact, in Spain, for instance, about half of the population has declared itself emotionally dependent, and more than 8% identifies with the most severe degree of this continuum.

When we talk about love addiction, it is not so much about the counterpart (who we have in front of us at that moment), but about a dysfunctional way of bonding that we have learned. This implies that this pattern of dependency, of unbalanced relationships, of submission, and desperation can be repeated in different bonds and with different partners.

Therefore, more than leaving the relationship, the goal will always be to understand why we function in this way. And, of course, how we can improve.

How do we act when we become addicted to a person?

One of the most striking characteristics of addictions is the lack of awareness that the person has of his or her problem. It is common for them to fail to identify or admit that they have a dependency and to not perceive or minimize how it is impacting their life.

Therefore, a fundamental first step is to recognize that we have become addicted to a person.

When this occurs, the following characteristics are usually present:

  • The other person becomes the center of your attention and of your life. You spend a great deal of time thinking about them, caring for them and being there for them. In addition, when you are apart, you may suffer from anxiety and the need to resume contact immediately.
  • You establish an unbalanced relationship in which you adopt a submissive position. You tend to please the other person in everything, leaving you aside and putting up with unacceptable situations for fear that he/she will leave or withdraw affection from you.
  • Likewise, you abandon your opinions, hobbies and social relationships to conform to what the other person wants from you.
  • You constantly demand attention, affection and security. You need to reaffirm that the other person loves you and will stay by your side. Not only that, but you need to bond excessively and create a very close emotional intimacy. You want to be the center of their life.
  • You idealize the other person while at the same time devaluing yourself and considering yourself inferior in many ways.
  • Although you are suffering in this relationship, the very idea that it could end seems catastrophic to you. This is your greatest fear and you do not visualize yourself as capable of moving forward after a breakup.
Mujer con dependencia emocional.
In addiction to another person we put ourselves aside and put our needs last.

What to do when you become addicted to a person

When we become addicted to a person mechanisms are operating at different levels. On the one hand, at a biological level, falling in love floods our brain with dopamine, generating very pleasurable sensations and encouraging constant contact. In its absence, we suffer craving (an urgent need to look for it).

On the other hand, at a psychosocial level, we have a pattern of unsatisfied emotional needs that we try to palliate by bonding in this way. This may have its origin in an anxious attachment style, arising in the earliest relationships. In any case, if we want to get out of this dynamic we must address several issues.

Do some inner work

Your addiction to love really has nothing to do with that particular person who is now your partner. The origin of the problem is in you, as well as the solution. Therefore, work on your own emotional shortcomings, analyzing what led you to have them and how you can heal them appropriately.

By understanding that your attachment to that person is not a great love, but a strong fear derived from your inner discomfort, you can begin to see your reality with different eyes. However, you may need professional support to make this realization.

Modify your way of bonding

If you want to regain your emotional independence, start by modifying some of your bonding behaviors. For example, stop looking for constant reassurance, with incessant questions. Try not to claim and do not try to control.

Learn to relate in a healthy way and identify all those behaviors that you carry out from the lack and need. It is time to build your own security and not base your well-being on the words or actions of others.

Watch your internal dialogue

If you explore your thoughts, it will be very easy to become aware of your dependence, as you will find recurring phrases such as the following:

  • “I can’t live without this person.”
  • “I need him.”
  • “He’s all I have.”
  • “I don’t know what I would do if he left me, I couldn’t bear it.”

These types of beliefs that you repeat to yourself only reinforce the dysfunctional situation. Therefore, start replacing them with more appropriate thoughts that reinforce your self-esteem and empower you.

Learn to prioritize yourself and set limits

The fear of abandonment can lead you to take very complacent and submissive attitudes, but this is not healthy. A person should love you for who you are, not for what you do for them or how much you serve them. So, start connecting with your own opinions, wants and needs and assert them.

Mujer poniendo límites en su dependencia emocional.
Setting boundaries is part of the process to overcome emotional dependency.

Resume your bonds and hobbies

It is very common that emotional dependency leads people to focus so much on their partner that they end up neglecting all other aspects of their life. However, it is very healthy to retain a patch of independence, to have your own interests and other nurturing attachments to enjoy.

So take up your hobbies, take care of your social ties and cultivate your well-being beyond the relationship.

Ultimately, being romantically addicted to someone can generate great suffering and wreak havoc on self-esteem. Therefore, even if it is not about the other person, but about yourself, it is often necessary to review the appropriateness of the link.

Perhaps you have accepted and are sustaining a relationship in which you are disrespected, disregarded or is full of pain and conflict. In this case, the best thing to do is to analyze what is happening and take action.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Castelló, J. (2000). Análisis del concepto dependencia emocional. En I Congreso Virtual de Psiquiatría (Vol. 5, No. 8).
  • Gómez, M. N., & López-Rodríguez, J. A. (2017). La dependencia emocional: la adicción comportamental en los márgenes de la patología dual. Revista de Patología Dual4(2), 2.
  • Instituto Andaluz de Sexología y Psicología. (2021, 18 febrero). Dependencia emocional: la nueva esclavitud del siglo XXI. Recuperado de https://www.iasexologia.com/dependencia-emocional-la-nueva-esclavitud-del-siglo-xxi/

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.