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Raquel Leviss, Bethenny Frankel, ‘Vanderpump Rules’ and love addiction

Raquel Leviss, Bethenny Frankel, ‘Vanderpump Rules’ and love addiction

Is it possible to become addicted to love? “Vanderpump Rules” star Raquel Leviss − and mental health experts − say it is.

Leviss, who now goes by Rachel and gained notoriety this year for having an affair with her co-star and former friend Ariana Madix’s then-boyfriend Tom Sandoval, revealed on the “Just B with Bethenny Frankel” podcast Wednesday she recently learned she suffers from love addiction.

Though love addiction doesn’t appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which psychologists use to diagnose mental health conditions, experts agree it’s a legitimate phenomenon and one that can lead to disastrous consequences.

“You can blow up your life or other people’s,” says Stacy Thiry, a mental health clinician with Grow Therapy, adding that these people can be driven to affairs, cyber-stalking and other destructive behavior. “It can be dangerous. Oftentimes it can lead to abusive cycles in relationships as well, so it really is something to be aware of.”

What causes love addiction?

At its core, love addiction is a form of anxiety characterized by fears of unworthiness and abandonment.

Stephanie Sarkis, a psychotherapist and author of the book “Healing from Toxic Relationships,” says people with anxious attachment styles or those who experienced neglect, abuse or abandonment in childhood are more likely to become addicted.

As a result of experiencing absent or fleeting love early in life, these people, she says, crave approval, affection and intimacy as adults, similar to how some may crave drugs or alcohol.

“You feel like you don’t have value outside of a relationship, and you put a lot of meaning onto your relationship to the point where you feel like you can’t function without it,” Sarkis says.

Love addiction can get exacerbated if someone is in a relationship in which affection arrives intermittently and unpredictably, she adds. This causes the person to wonder when their next “hit” of love is coming and, by extension, their brains to crave it even more.

“It becomes like an addiction where you get a hit basically from this person contacting you, and then, if they don’t contact you, you can go through anxiety and rumination, obsession about the relationship,” she says. “If a person is inconsistent with their attention, our brains tend to get hooked on that, because it’s like a drug hit and withdrawal.”

Adam Jablin, a certified life coach and author of the book “Lotsaholic: From a Sick to Sober Superman,” says he’s worked with many clients who had a love addiction that compounded other habits.

Jablin notes a more accurate name for love addiction might be approval addiction, since the rush sought is quite different from the feelings of security found in a healthy relationship.

“A lot of people with love addiction, they’re craving approval,” he says. “What they’re not realizing is that love and approval are two totally separate things.”

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Struggling with love addiction? Try these tips

If you think you might have a love addiction, therapists offer the following tips:

  • Seek therapy: Mental health experts agree love addiction is best treated with the help of a professional.
  • Join a support group: Thiry recommends joining groups like Love Addicts Anonymous online, and Sarkis adds 12-step programs like Co-Dependents Anonymous and Adult Children of Alcoholics & Dysfunctional Families can also help people cope with love addiction. “Having a group environment can be really helpful, because that can be an opportunity to have healthy relationships with healthy boundaries modeled for you to experience what healthy does look and feel like,” Thiry says.
  • Figure out your attachment style: Finding out if you have an anxious attachment style through counseling or research can also help shed light on what you’re feeling.
  • Feel your feelings: “Part of the healing process is getting in touch with feeling your feelings and confronting them and experiencing them,” Sarkis says. “It can be daunting for someone that has survived by shoving their feelings down. It can take some work, and progress comes in stages. You want to be really gentle with yourself.”

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