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What's the difference between love addiction and trauma bonding?

Some psychological terms, like the ones you are using in your question, have become mainstream and are often used in everyday conversations without a clear understanding of their formal definition or clinical application. So, I applaud your question.

Love addiction is a term that is not officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). In research, the concept of love addiction is often associated with the broader category of sex and relationship addiction, which is sometimes used to describe individuals who compulsively engage in sexual behaviors or repeatedly involve themselves in unstable or unhealthy relationships.

In a clinical context, love addiction is mostly used to describe people who seem to have a dependency on being in love, feeling intensely, and being embroiled in romantic drama. Being addicted to love becomes obsessive, using the actual romantic partner as the desired object (or substance of choice), but being more obsessed with feeling in love than with the person themselves. After a break-up, they may “feel like dying,” but then they fall in love again with the same intensity as before but with another person. There is no addiction, but the patterns may seem similar to being intoxicated, needing more to have the same highs, suffering from withdrawals, and thinking about love more than other important things. The need to feel loved and to be in love may become pathological when it interferes with their regular life.

Trauma bonding, on the other hand, is more about abuse than love and is not officially recognized either. The term was originally coined by Patrick Carnes, who was a proponent of the concept of sex addiction. Trauma bonding is used more to describe situation where someone falls in love with their abuser more than with obsession. The abused person tolerates and accepts maltreatment because of the way the abuser shifts from punishment to reward. The abuser creates the illusion of not being able to live without the abused, which makes the abused feel validated, important, and needed.

As you can see, they are quite different.


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