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After "Vanderpump Rules" star Rachel (Raquel) Leviss opened up about her stay at a mental health treatment facility to deal with her "love addiction," Canadian experts are weighing in on the condition.
When a person is falling love, addiction specialist Ron Kellestine said it's "sort of like being a four-year-old being given as much chocolate as you want to have." But, he explained it's only there for a short period of time.
"People (who have grown addicted to the feeling of falling in love) want to gobble the chocolate forever and ever," said Kellestine. "They like the fun, the mystery, and the complete overwhelming joy."
When Leviss first joined the show in season five, she was in a relationship with James Kennedy, but they split up after five years, ending their engagement. Leviss then briefly dated her co-star Peter Madrigal before hooking up with Tom Schwartz (her friend Katie Maloney's ex-husband).
Earlier this year, Leviss admitted to having a months-long secret affair with Tom Sandoval, who was in a nine-year relationship at the time with Leviss's friend Ariana Madix. The cheating scandal that broke the internet was known among the show's fans as "Scandoval."
Leviss recently appeared on the ReWives podcast revealing she won't be returning to "Vanderpump Rules" to tell her side of the story in season 11, and explained why she sought treatment.
"But then the other part of the reason why I wanted to go to a treatment facility was to understand my behaviours," Leviss told Bethany Frankel in the Aug. 16 episode.
"My goal was to really get down to the bottom of… why am I choosing men that are unavailable? Why do I keep finding myself in unhealthy relationships?"
"It took me a while to accept, but I learned about love addiction, and it's a real thing. It's where you confuse intensity for intimacy… It explains why I couldn't stop seeing this person, but it also doesn't excuse the fact that it happened," Leviss added.
Yahoo Canada took to experts to find out more about "love addiction" — its symptoms and causes. Read on for everything you need to know.
What is 'love addiction'?
Love addiction describes a condition that can create fixations and compulsions in love interests. It can lead to unhealthy behaviours toward loved ones, and even result in affairs, broken relationships, poor job performance and mental health issues, according to the Addiction Centre.
This is different than sex addiction, which is described as "an intense focus on sexual fantasies, urges or activities that can't be controlled." People are considered to have a sex addiction when sexual thoughts and activities consume their life in a problematic way.
Shimi Kang, psychiatrist at Future Ready Minds and author of The Tech Solution, explained love is driven by dopamine, a feel-good chemical released from the brain.
Kang claimed humans can become addicted to anything that releases dopamine — including the feeling of falling in love.
"It doesn't last… and the minute (someone with a love addiction) is no longer falling in love and that initial honeymoon is over, they are bored and they no longer want to be in that relationship," said Kang.
Causes and triggers
There are multiple factors in place that trigger that addiction, and Kang said genetics can play a role.
"Addiction has a genetic component… If your parents had it, you will get an addiction… and that's true for all addictions, including sex, love, gambling, alcohol and drugs."
Love addiction can also be traced psychologically to a person's childhood, with Kang explaining it can develop with absent parents.
"Maybe your parents were busy, had depression or addiction and you didn't feel that connection or attachment, that early experience of love," said Kang.
There are also social factors in place driven by the use of social media. Kang explained if someone spends a lot of time seeing engagement announcements or relationship reveals, that could lead to more extreme behaviours.
Dating apps like Tinder and Bumble make it easy to find partners now, and that can facilitate excessive or co-dependent behaviours.
Kang explained it's important to have a healthy relationship with technology and pay attention to what it’s doing.
"Tech is a very easy route to initiate, facilitate, or perpetuate any kind of addiction, particularly this — what we're calling love addiction."
Symptoms of love addiction
There are telltale signs that a person is getting addicted to falling in love, according to Kang, and it's driven by a fear of being alone.
"'You complete me' became this famous line and it's actually the problem here," Kang claimed.
"You feel like you need someone to complete you in order to be happy and that your sense of self and self-worth is tied into having a partner."
Any kind of negative consequence that's attached to that behavior is a big red flag.Dr. Shimi Kang
She explained seeking a partner who has the same values for companionship is healthier than seeking a partner out of fear, insecurity and lack.
Otherwise, a person can become unreliable, unable to commit, and may even start losing friends.
"Any kind of negative consequence that's attached to that behaviour is a big red flag," said Kang. "Where next thing you know… you're at it again. You're at a party, you're having a hard time controlling yourself and you're breaking your own limits and boundaries."
The final symptom to watch out for is craving a person's love, said Kang.
"You're in the middle of having lunch with your grandma, or whatever, and that's where your mind is constantly going," she said, for example.
More common in men than women
Addiction specialist Ron Kellestine, said he sees this condition, in his practice, in men more so than in women. But, it can happen to anyone.
"Women seem to be able, for the most part, to look at a relationship and want love, not the thrill or the chase," said Kellestine.
When it comes to his male clients though, Kellestine said they're different.
"The thrill of the chase is really what interests them, not actually love… When they start to feel in touch with someone and it's not like falling in love anymore, they'll go to the next person," he explained.
Kellestine says this can lead to cheating, which can be exciting for them.
"It's sort of like falling in love with no responsibilities. It's being in rapture with a person," he said. "You cheat to get back to falling in love because now the relationship you're in is sort of repetitive and boring."
How to break free from the cycle
According to experts, there's no "magic formula" that will help someone break free from the love addiction cycle. But, healing starts with finding a way to accept there's a deeper joy than just falling in love.
"They have to figure out what they're missing," said Kellestine. "They need to figure out if they just want the thrill or the knowing, being and having the complete acceptance of [love]."
One of the main symptoms of addiction is denial and not knowing that you're in it.Dr. Shimi Kang
He said people with this kind of addiction need to look at what they're lacking and what it is that they're afraid of that's keeping them from having a meaningful relationship.
"Maybe it's the fear of losing a loved one that's keeping you (in this cycle), so you keep chasing and (finding relief) in knowing there's always going to be someone somewhere else," said Kellestine.
Kang added basic self care can help in tackling the behaviour, including: getting regular sleep, exercise and positive social connection outside of a relationship.
"Have your circle of trust," she advised.
"Those people that you care about who will say the things that you don't want to hear… because by definition one of the main symptoms of addiction is denial and not knowing that you're in it. So that's really important," said Kang.
If that's not enough, Kang recommended reaching out to a therapist or counsellor to help identify healthy coping skills to use when falling back into that habit.
"If you keep falling into trouble with these behaviors, there's a good chance you may have an anxiety disorder, depression, or maybe another addiction," said Kang.
"So really looking at what's missing... That's where getting treatment including more specialized therapy or medication can be helpful."