Love addictions and stalking - seminar held by Doctor Maria Prassede Capozio - psychologist and psychotherapist. - translated from italian-ENCICLOPEDICA 

Love addiction and stalking

Seminar on "love addiction" and "stalking"


Research exhibited by Dr. Maria Prassede Capozio psychologist and psychotherapist at the register of Psychologists in Rome for "Saturday Seminars" in February 2008.

A criterion that allows us to distinguish an emotional dependence or love addiction from the healthy feeling of love is the type of relationship existing in the couple.
The addictive relationship is characterized by pain, dissatisfaction, humiliation, self-destructiveness. It is almost always present: incompatibility, lack of respect, planning diversity, hostility, non-sharing of needs and desires.
It is the opposite of healthy love which becomes growth and expansion of the ego, pleasure, joy of living and is able to develop intimacy, complicity, a sense of belonging. Why then do we remain anchored to pain, humiliation and unable to escape from stories of this kind?
Addiction arises from rejection and if there were no rejection it would probably end soon. The desire to fight and win increases as the pain and difficulties increase.
The disease of love and the consequent addiction arises when we try to satisfy our needs, in relationships with individuals who do not want or cannot satisfy those needs.

Expectations become too high and not at all realistic compared to what the other person can give. A vicious circle is created: the more one chases the more the other runs away because he is afraid of being suffocated or vampirized. In such an unbalanced relationship there is anxiety on the part of the employee and the need to be reassured and this leads her to be more and more insistent and stubborn.

The reasons for the withdrawal of the beloved may be different:

The excess of emotional demands on the part of the loved one (the idea that a person's happiness or unhappiness depends on us is often frightening.)
Sometimes the partner is a narcissist who takes pleasure in seeing himself loved and feels reassured and satisfied by the conquest and recognition of his loving abilities. The narcissus is a sentimental helpless person who needs to seduce to test his power, his appeal and, when he succeeds, the game runs out for him.
In other cases, if the partner is older, they end up limiting themselves and excluding themselves from the relationship because they find the idealized image that their loved one has of him very demanding.
There is another reason that makes the more traditionalist partner retreat: he feels dispossessed of the classic role of suitor, of the one who has to take the initiative. The steps that according to tradition he should take, are taken by the woman.

Also in the woman there can be a narcissistic response that is expressed by putting into action her weapons of seduction, but she, often, for psycho-socio-cultural reasons, does not allow herself to live only a story of sex, she looks for an alibi; it gives a loving connotation to the relationship and begins to be dependent by recognizing a real or imaginary power to the other.

The origins of emotional addictions
What drives emotional employees to carry on their battle is the need to heal an ancient wound and be compensated for unmet emotional needs, rejection and humiliation received, in a period of personality formation. John Bowlby in the theory of "attachment", accepted by many and contested by others, illustrates the concept of addiction: - Talking about a dependent person tends to be derogatory: describing a person as attached to someone can be approving.
If the mother figure is present or its movements are known, the child ceases to exhibit attachment behavior and quietly explores the environment -. It is the dynamic that recurs in emotional addictions and that will recur in various situations in life: the more the beloved is absent, not very reassuring, not very participatory, the more the employee establishes a relationship of attachment.

Robin Norwood known to the public above all for "Women who love too much", highlights the personal and family characteristics of those suffering from addiction: a childhood characterized by a feeling of insecurity that later leads to an obsessive control of the partner, disguised as a desire to help each other. A family history characterized by lack of affection tends to re-propose in the couple's life the attitude experienced with parents to try to obtain those affective responses, not obtained before.

Bieber and Bieber hypothesize that when there are emotional dependencies, the father figure has not established a loving or esteem relationship with the child, resulting in psychoaffective immaturity and thus preventing the child from having a good identification. Even the overprotective maternal figure can generate confusion in the child who will live the father figure with hostility and the maternal figure as welcoming.

Denis de Rougemont in his famous book "Love and the West" sees the passion that often results in addiction as typical of Western society in which passion is deified because it allows us to escape from the world we do not like, promising us happiness: - Why does the man of the West want to suffer this passion which wounds him and which his reason fully condemns? Why does he want this love that exploding into can only mean suicide? -. He then contrasts the West with the East where the concept of passion does not exist, but on the contrary, persisting the custom of arranged marriage makes couples healthier and less problematic because the absence of idealization leads to a better acceptance of reality.

Even Jean Claude Kaufmann in "Once upon a time there was prince charming", argues that the passionate search is basically the search for a figure that evades the boredom of an overly stabilized identity.

The recurring symptoms in affective addictions are the same as those of a depressive syndrome, and people often find themselves with an official diagnosis of depression. But this description is not appropriate to the malaise that is linked to falling in love. Love sickness has been taken into consideration since ancient times. Plutarch biographer and Greek philosopher, already in the first century AD. he had outlined a picture of the sickness of love: - Some thought it was a rage ... so you have to forgive lovers just like the sick. Likewise, a cultural trend that goes from the Stoics to Kant, considers the excess of emotions a mental disorder.
If we re-read the old diagnoses of love sickness from past centuries, we realize that they almost perfectly coincide with today's diagnosis of obsessive or mood disorder. There are many aspects of falling in love similar to a mental disorder, a way so faithful that perhaps there is no real difference between an obsession with the loved one and an obsession proper.

Symptoms characteristic of affective addictions
  • Obsessivity
Addiction sufferers in the manner of obsessive-compulsive disorder sufferers are unable to control the content of their mind. The attention is polarized towards images and thoughts that the will is unable to drive away. The thought of the beloved recurs at all times of the day. The energies are completely channeled in that direction and therefore the relationships with the rest of the world are superficial or non-existent. His gaze is fixed on the phone or e-mail waiting for him to show up. You skip activities or work poorly; the family affections that were previously dedicated become secondary.
  • Compulsiveness
There is an urgent and urgent need to see the beloved who normally withdraws, and to communicate with him in every way.

  • Anorexia
People in love-addicted "have no time" to think about food and therefore eat little and badly, resulting in weight loss.

  • Insomnia
There is a state of constant agitation and restlessness. Thought is always active, the mind is restless and intrusive thoughts make relaxation and sleep difficult.
  • Cyclothymia
Unrequited love oscillates between two moods: heaven and hell. This mood change makes it similar to bipolar disorder. Often the beloved is seen as a savior or as the happy island where it is possible to allay restlessness, and can have the same function as a drug.

  • Projection
The mythization of the beloved is often a projection of one's needs and unmet expectations. The lover builds an image of the beloved for her use and consumption, with strongly romantic traits that do not correspond to reality.

  • Drugs and alcohol
When a relationship of absolute dependence is established, the lover creates the same addiction with the loved one that is created with drugs or alcohol. He needs to see him often, hear him, talk to him, otherwise agitation, malaise, unavailability, aggression or other addictions such as smoking and alcohol take over. The similarities between love pain and addiction to substances such as drugs and alcohol are many. Even drug addicts and alcoholics are aware of the irrationality of their behavior but are unable to change them. But there is also a chemical similarity. Meeting a person we are attracted to causes the release of phenylethylamine, a compound similar to amphetamine, in the brain. The abandonment, on the other hand, causes a sharp lowering of its level which is very similar to the withdrawal crises of a drug addict. According to a study by Semir Zeki published in "Neuro report" in 2000, the brain areas involved in falling in love are the same as those involved in the use of opiates and cocaine.

  • Anxiety and euphoria
There is a continuous mobilization of anxiety, the inability to process it, the need for the other to appease it. Everything is experienced at a dizzying pace and euphoria and intoxication occur when there is the possibility of meeting the beloved, especially if the encounters are difficult and fraught with obstacles.

  • Time and space
There is an altered perception of time. Often my patients say: - I haven't seen him for a long time. Then investigating I discover that it is a matter of a few days, if not a few hours. The altered perception of space is mainly due to a morbid need to see where the beloved lives, where he works, to know the places he frequents well, not excluding the place of origin. The life of the dependent person takes place mainly (both mentally and in reality) in the places where love encounters take place, and the rest of the world does not exist. You end up spending little time with friends and relatives and all interpersonal relationships become more tiring. Sometimes a paranoid control over the life of the beloved takes over, his movements, the people he associates with. In short, in the name of love we are transformed into private investigators.

  • Happiness or moment of the myth of Hermaphrodite
The moment of meeting, of possession, of "fusion" with the beloved is one of the pre-eminent aspects because it is considered the heavenly moment, the time of recomposition. Like the nymph Salmacide, who fell in love with Hermaphroditus, was sick every time she had to part with him, the employee would never want this sublime moment to end. In the Greek myth the gods moved by so much love united the nymph in a single body with Hermaphrodite.

  • Ambivalence and insecurity
The sense of sadness that persists even when lovers have the opportunity to date is typical of emotional addictions. The after is always tinged with pain and suffering. The emotional ambivalence is summed up well in the maxim of the Latin poet Ovid: - neither with you nor without you -. "I can't be with you" because of the pain, humiliation, dissatisfaction and sometimes even mistreatment that exists. “I can't be without you” because it feels lonely and adrift.

  • Psychosomatic disorders
Chronic emotional activation leads to psychosomatic disorders and the situation worsens when emotions cannot be expressed. Already the poetess Sappho in the seventh century BC. described with precise strokes the physical torment present in the passion: - ... because as soon as I look at you I cannot speak, my tongue jams, immediately a thin fire runs under the skin, the eyes no longer see, the ears roar ... the sweat flows, a tremor grabs me all, I am greener than the grass, I see myself one step away from being dead -. (fragment 31)

  • Phase of yearning
If the beloved is busy with his commitments and does not correspond to the need for reassurance, closeness of the bodies, communication, the phase of yearning, of mania, of longing can take over. It is a phase similar to delirium in which all feelings are magnified; there is a yearning for the other, it is difficult to apply to any activity and there are continuous crying fits. It is as if all the symptoms are composed together in a constellation. Since it is difficult to find peace and tranquility, psychotropic drugs are sometimes used but there is also the risk of suicide.

  • Phase of rejection and abandonment by the loved one
When the beloved, with various reasons and sometimes without providing explanations, puts an end to that strong bond, so full of requests and expectations, the most painful period occurs for the lover. It is rarely the addicted person who puts an end to such an engaging and painful relationship, since even if you manage to understand rationally that you are living a one-way story, emotionality and not rationality prevails.

According to the English psychologist Frank Tallis, love has condemned us to experience a mental illness because it is a safety mechanism developed by evolution to protect the species from our own rationality: - It must be irrational to ensure procreation and therefore continuation of the species. Our children are born very vulnerable and weak and need constant parental care.

And unlike other animals, we have highly developed brains that allow us to rebel against our reproductive instincts, and reject the hard work of raising children. We could all decide not to have children and the species would become extinct. Instead we continue to have them. It is no coincidence that in most experiences the actual falling in love phase lasts about two or three years. The madness of love lasts just long enough for our genes to pass to the next generation -.

When you become aware of the harm that your loved one has caused, resentment and anger can also turn into hatred. They can become deeper and more devastating when the idealization of the beloved ceases and the employee has a disturbed personality as in the movie "Fatal Attraction" in which the rejected woman takes revenge on the beloved and his family.
The cases of "stalking", of dumped partners who then become torturers are on the rise and this tells us that we accept less refusals and abandonments. According to a research, 20% of the population has been harassed by former partners. Melanie Klein believes that rejection by a lover often precipitates severe clinical depressions leading to suicide attempts and hospitalizations in people who have a particular "sensitivity to rejection" and who suffer from "separation anxiety".

I have noticed that people with personality disorders have love addiction as a lifestyle. Often the loved one is even unaware of their feelings and it is very difficult for them to change their way of life except with effective psychotherapy, in which there is a good relationship with the psychotherapist. I speak of a good relationship because the same psychologists and neurologists are seen as saviors and therefore at risk of creating addictive relationships in turn. 
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