couple ignores each other

Symptoms & Signs of Relationship Disorders

Relationship disorders are conditions that lead to one of two general outcomes: difficulty establishing intimate relationships with others or an unhealthy focus on an actual or potential relationship partner. The first scenario revolves around a fear of intimacy, and may include diagnosable symptoms of a condition called social anxiety disorder. The second scenario revolves around an addictive behavior commonly known as love addiction.

Fear of Intimacy and Social Anxiety Disorder

A current or potential intimate relationship can trigger significant feelings of anxiety in you or your loved one. In many cases, this anxiety involves a fear of intimacy. Potential symptoms of this form of relationship disorder include:

  • Fear of making a commitment to a long-term relationship
  • Difficulty expressing affection toward your partner
  • Difficulty feeling like “yourself” while with your partner
  • Fear of talking openly about serious emotional topics
  • Fear that your partner is too attached to you
  • Fear that your partner will come to rely on you
  • Fear of dealing with any problems within the relationship
  • Fear of discussing painful personal topics
  • Fear of revealing your true wants and needs

In some cases, the anxiety associated with a fear of intimacy may result from the presence of social anxiety disorder. This condition, which the American Psychiatric Association officially views as a diagnosable mental health issue, leads to excessive feelings of anxiety in any social situation that could potentially result in critical judgment from others or embarrassment. If you have social anxiety disorder, the list of symptoms you may experience when faced with embarrassment or judgment includes:

  • Intense self-consciousness
  • Trembling or spasming muscles
  • Unusually high sweat output
  • Nausea
  • Stomach distress
  • Blushing

Symptoms that can occur outside of an embarrassing or judgmental situation include:

  • Fear of social interactions (even potentially positive interactions)
  • Extreme fear of what others might think
  • A tendency to stay away from places where social interactions can occur
  • Worrying about an upcoming situation or interaction well in advance

Crucially, the presence of social anxiety disorder can interfere with your ability to establish or maintain an intimate relationship.

Love Addiction

In the past, doctors and mental health experts believed that you could only become addicted to substances (i.e., drugs or alcohol). However, current research now indicates that you can also develop an addiction to a harmful or dysfunctional behavior. The general term for this type of non-substance-based addiction is behavioral addiction. Love addiction is a relationship disorder that falls within this larger category.

A person affected by love addiction develops an unshakable focus on finding and keeping the “perfect” intimate partner. Instead of contributing to feelings of security and safety, this focus decreases the ability to function well in at least some aspects of daily life. While no one knows for sure why love addiction occurs, many affected individuals had an unstable or non-nurturing relationship with a parent during childhood. Potential symptoms of this behavioral condition include:

  • Frequently feeling needy while in a relationship
  • Compulsively pursuing a mate when not in a relationship
  • Experiencing feelings of anxiety about not being in a relationship
  • An inability to distinguish genuine intimacy from romance
  • Pursuing activities you don’t like just to appeal to a partner
  • Abandoning activities you do like just to appeal to a partner
  • Frequent fear of being abandoned by an intimate partner
  • A tendency to choose emotionally remote or abusive partners
  • A tendency to choose physically abusive partners
  • An unwillingness to end a relationship, even in the face of emotional or physical abuse

It’s important to note that many of these issues can occur in the context of a healthy relationship. However, in cases of love addiction, the listed problems become a relationship disorder that dominates and distorts daily life.

Resources

Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety: Social Anxiety and Intimacy
https://akfsa.org/social-anxiety-and-intimacy/

National Institute of Mental Health: Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder) – Always Embarrassed                                                                http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/social-phobia-social-anxiety-disorder-always-embarrassed/index.shtml

American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Introduction to Behavioral Addictions
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3164585/

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