Women – Love Addiction Vs Sexual Addiction

Contributor: Article Contributed by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

whisper-408482_640As an addiction without any formal diagnostic criteria, sexual compulsive disorder is continually being studied and understood, especially as an increased number of women are struggling with this behavior.

One of the many aspects that strike confusion about sexual disorder is in regards to what sexual addiction involves and how it differs from a “love addiction”.

Let us take a look at these two different disorders to better understand a love addiction versus a sexual addiction among women and how these are different from one another.

What Is a “Love Addiction”?

A “love addiction” is not a formally classified disorder with official diagnostic criteria. Regardless of this, there are many behaviors that are associated with this disorder that are regularly observed in women who may struggle with this type of addictive conduct.

A love addiction can simply be classified as an addiction to the feeling of being in love, but what types of behaviors does this involve?

A woman who is addicted to the feeling of being in love may exhibit any of the following behaviors:

  • Continual involvement with an individual in a romantic relationship, even if that person is harmful, abusive or destructive
  • Using romantic relationships to cope with overwhelming emotions or circumstances
  • Achieving a feeling of euphoria or “high” from romance or fantasy in romantic relationships
  • Co-dependency on a romantic or sexual partner to the point that one feels distraught or anguished if separated

An Obsessive Attachment to Others

Women who struggle with a love addiction can be seen as obsessively attached to the person of their affection. Like any other addictive nature, a relationship or person serves as the drug of choice, and pleasure/satisfaction is induced through the feeling of being in love or finding self-worth in a relationship with another person.

It is not uncommon for women who are love addicts to form addictive relationships with avoidant partners who are emotionally unavailable [1]. This can create a relationship that is characterized by:

  • Unhealthy boundaries
  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Intimacy issues
  • Chaos

For these reasons, women who are love addicts will continue to pursue an individual in a romantic relationship, even if the person or the relationship itself has become damaging.

Comparing Love Addiction to Sexual Addiction

In contrast to a love addiction, a sexual addiction is a disorder that is based on attachment to specific sexual acts and encounters rather than a particular person in a romantic relationship.

While sexual addiction is also not officially classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), there is a criterion that is widely recognized in the field of mental health, which may include but is not limited to the following:

  • Obsessively engaging in sexual activities or ways to have sexual encounters. This can include compulsive masturbation, use of prostitutes, one-night stands, promiscuous sexual encounters, etc.
  • Preoccupation with sexual activities to the point that it interferes with normal and daily living
  • Markedly distress when unable to engage in sexual activities
  • Increasing intensity or need for sexual acts and encounters
  • Unable to resist or stop from sexually compulsive behavior, even if desired
  • Continuing to act out in sexual compulsive behaviors, despite negative consequences that may result

The Same Umbrella of Addiction

Couple discussing Love AddictionBoth sexual addiction and love addiction can be classified as Intimacy Disorders, which are behavioral patterns that neglect to support the progression of healthy interpersonal relationships. While love addiction and sexual addiction are differing disorders, there are common roots that may tie the two together.

Women who develop a sexual or love addiction may do so because of a history of emotional, physical, or sexual trauma, abuse or a pattern of neglectful relationships in the past, including the parent-child relationship.

Help Is Available

While a sexual or love addiction can wreak havoc on a woman’s life, there is also hope for recovery and healing. Whatever the issues are at the root of the problem that is fueling the intimacy disorder, there is help available to face and address these issues holistically.

If you or a woman you care about is struggling with an intimacy disorder, such as sexual or love addiction, reach out for professional help to work through these behaviors and find true healing and recovery.


  1. Facing Love Addiction by Pia Mellody. ISBN 978-0-0625-0604-7

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on October 31, 2014
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 4, 2018

Published on AddictionHope.com