By Ryan Rivera
Contrary to popular belief, drugs are not the only thing that is addictive. You can be addicted to exercising. You can be addicted to chocolate. You can also be addicted to your own emotions. It’s not uncommon to find that if you suffer from one emotion for too long, your body essentially gets used to that emotion, to the point where it feels – in some ways – less comfortable when the emotion is not there, as though you’re not really yourself.
I met a young lady that suffered from this very problem. She had a severe anxiety disorder – one that was diagnosed at a young age for which she received no treatment. She was also working three jobs, two of those jobs in order to pay for her boyfriend’s apartment.
Her Emotional Addiction to Anxiety
While there are two sides to every relationship, she was clearly in one that was emotionally abusive. She was called names regularly, told she was worthless, and openly cheated on. Yet she kept staying with him, determined to ride it out.
There’s a popular theory – and one that is most likely true – that one of the reasons that women stay in abusive relationships is because they’re made to feel that they need their partner, through the years of emotional abuse. My guess is that this is true in over 90 percent of all cases of long lasting abusive relationships. But in her case I became much less convinced.
She never really believed that she needed him. In many ways she was pretty independent, and while she never had any desire to leave him, she never made it seem as though she had lost her self-esteem or that the abuse affected her. But she was showing something else.
Her Response to Happiness
When they were fighting, she was an incredibly pleasant person. She would smile every day. She was nice to her coworkers and her friends. She was a joy to be around. But then every once in a while, he partner would become a great guy (usually because he needed something). He would buy her things and treat her well for roughly a week or so. During that time she would have the following emotional response to her friends and coworkers:
- Day 1: Elated – The best mood anyone has ever seen her in, gushing over her love.
- Days 2 – 6: A complete terror. Angering those around her until they get so mad they snap at her.
- Day 7: Yelling in “arguments” when there was no argument being made, such as “would you like a soda?” “Are you saying I need to drink? Why are you being such a jerk to me?!”
Then by the end of day 7 or so, her and her partner would fight again and she’d go back to being a pleasant person. She was so addicted to the anxieties and stress of her relationship, that – while her first response to his kind words was extremely positive, her mind simply couldn’t handle living a normal and happy life. She would create stresses and problems for herself in an effort to bring back her anxieties, until the day they fought again, when she would go back to being the great person that her friends knew her as. I was in touch with this young lady for 5 years before I eventually had to move away, and this cycle was so common that her other friends would have fun at her expense making up terms for it.
As someone that suffered from anxiety myself, anxiety addiction can be powerful. Anyone that suffers from anxiety knows they want to get rid of it, but if you’ve had it your entire life, you have to learn a completely new way of living once you’ve rid yourself of it. In my case, I learned to live without anxiety. In her case, she stayed (and continues to be) in an emotionally abusive relationship because she couldn’t learn to live without it.
About the Author: Ryan Rivera has seen how people’s dating lives can be affected by anxiety. He writes about anxiety attacks and related anxiety symptoms at www.calmclinic.com.