The Path Forward
In 1983, I was diagnosed by my sponsor in AA as a co-alcoholic. Years later, when my new husband turned out to be a drug addict, not an alcoholic, I was diagnosed as a codependent.
I began to research this, and decided that I was also what they were calling back then a love addict. This is someone who obesses about another person, but is not in a relationship with them except in their mind.
As the years passsed, so did the terms used to describe me. I contributed to this by creating my own list of love addicts which you can find on the internet. There are more than a few.
Eventually, Pia Mellody introduced the codependent counterpart--the avoidant. I then introduced the ambivalent in 2004 when I co-founded Love Addicts Anonymous.
Last year, one of my students founded a treatment program and she said there was no such thing as a love addict and that the term shamed people. She treated love addicts anyway, without labeling them, and described them by their first diagnosable disorder--what she called attachment dysregulation. This term stems from what the DSM IV calls an attachment disorder.
I am writing this to help untantagle the web of labels and to help people differentiate between the disorder and the root cause of the disorder as well as the underlying issues.
In summary then . . . If a person develops an attachment disorder between the ages 1 and 5 then they are likely to develop attachment regulation in later years. This means that when they bond with someone things go terribly wrong. The list of what goes wrong is endless and unique to each invidivual. Some people hold on for dear life and others run for the hills.
The codependent and the love addict are the ones that cling beyond all hope. The avoidants never completely bond. The ambivalent bonds sometimes and runs sometimes.
The lay person will call this bonding love, but it is actually a bio-chemical process, not what we would call healthy love. Underlying issues include anxiety, depression, shame and personality disorders like BPD and OCD.
When you seek treatment, your dianosis will change according to who is treating you. You may have one or all of the above problems. I had an attachment disorder that turned into attachment dysregulation which manifested itself as love addiction, love avoidance, ambivalence, ODC, BPD, anxiety, depression, shame and low self-esteem.
Now what?. To be honest, you do not have to know all this to get better. Labels only lead you to the right research material like self-help books. What you do have to know is that something is wrong and that you have to change if you want to get better.
When it came time for me to change (1982), I did not know what to do. I had no manual. So I figured it out little by little and by trial and error and published the results in my book, The Art of Changing. If you need instructions they are now available. Just remember that changing is a process. It happens slowly. There will be easy days and hard days. There will be grief when you let go of bad habits and joy when you realize you are happier every day.
I will leave you with a little gem from AA, the program that helped me the most. Change does not hurt. Only resistance to chage hurts. So move forward and let your inner caterpillar become a butterfly.
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Change is to the human being what the metamorphosis is to the caterpillar. It is the inevitable cyle of life. If there is no change thare is no life. Susan Peabody, The Art of Changing, 2004