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The Exhausted Woman
with Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC

Can You Be Addicted to a Person?

The short answer is yes. While this might seem like a strange concept, those who have been victims understand it all too well. An acquaintance starts sending excessive messages, magically showing up unexpectedly, asks too intimate or probing questions, gives inappropriate gifts, and seems to immerse themselves into environments or other friendships just to stay close. At first glance, this might be innocent but over time it becomes something quite different.

In order to better understand what this looks like at an addictive level. It is best explained first by having a definition of what it means to be addicted to a substance. Then that same definition can be applied to a person later.

  1. Substance abuse. Just about any substance can be abused when it is used beyond the recommended dosage. The substance meets a desire for an escape, pleasure, numbing, or fantasy. Seen in the reverse, this is the inability to consistently abstain from a substance without a physical or emotional reaction.
  2. Increasing amounts. “If some is good, more is better,” is a common statement from an addict. There is a craving for the substance that is unsatisfied any other way except to use it again. After a time period, a small dosage is not enough to satisfy so more must be used to achieve the same effects.
  3. Distorted thinking. Addicts tend to say the same things. “I can stop anytime I want (except they have tried numerous times and failed in the long term).” “I won’t have to do this if… (fill in the blank with a person or circumstance that is blamed for the usage).” There is a diminished ability to recognize that the use of the substance is causing significant problems in multiple environments or relationships.
  4. Repeated acting out. The frequency of using the substance increases while satisfaction decreases resulting in damaged relationships, finances, health condition, or work impediment. There is a significant impairment in the ability to control behavior and/or return to a healthy level.
  5. Intense emotional reaction. This is frequently manifested in anger outbursts when a person is confronted about their abuse of a substance. First, they deny, then defend, and finally blame others for their behavior. There is a complete refusal to accept responsibility, be held accountable, or regulate their dysfunctional emotional response.

While a person can be addicted to a friend, acquaintance, child or co-worker, for purposes of this article, the focus will be a spouse. When a person is the object of an addiction, it looks like this:

  1. Person abuse. What does this look like? An addict spouse must know every thought, action, and behavior of their mate to the point of isolating them from friends and family. The abuser sees their spouse as a physical extension of themselves and therefore justifies tracking devices on cars and phones, reading all text messages and emails, monitoring phone calls, and even having cameras installed.
  2. Increasing presence. The addict spouse will find ways to “appear” in random places or conveniently show up when not invited. This is usually done under the guise of “I was just trying to protect you,” or “I knew you won’t be where you said.” Sex becomes intense and uncomfortable because the abused is unable to express their wishes without being told by the abuser that that is not what they really want. Literally, there is no privacy for the abused or the ability to make choices for themselves.
  3. Distorted obsession. The addict spouse can’t stop thinking about their abused and thus works very hard to condition the abused to be the same way as them. This is frequently done in corporation with verbal, physical, mental, emotional, financial, spiritual or sexual abuse tactics. The addict is obsessed with the abused and wants the abused to be equally obsessed with them. Even when this is achieved, it still fails to satisfy the addict who continually wants more of the abused.
  4. Controlling behavior. Every behavior of the abused is analyzed, synthesized, and categorized by the addicted spouse. Then the behavior is twisted into an unintentional motive such as, “You did this because you don’t really love me.“ Finally, the addict uses the behavior and the motive as justification for even tighter restraints, more isolation, and more abusive behavior on their part.
  5. Ranting. One of the common angry expressions of an addicted spouse is ranting. This one-way communication style which feels more like a lecture than anything else is designed to intimidate, overwhelm, and dominate the abused. As the addict becomes more engrossed in their addiction, the ranting intensifies. While it is mostly done for hours at a time in person, it can also be done over text (hundreds of messages a day) and phone calls (constant and repeated calling).

A person who truly loves another does not tighten restraints, isolate from friends and family, and/or belittle or minimize a person’s character, feelings, or beliefs. If any of this sounds familiar, please get help immediately from a professionally trained counselor. This is a situation where it is imperative that the abused get help from someone who understands this process and is familiar with assisting a person out of their environment.

 

Can You Be Addicted to a Person?

 


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APA Reference
Hammond, C. (2019). Can You Be Addicted to a Person?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 17, 2019, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/exhausted-woman/2017/03/can-you-be-addicted-to-a-person/