Am I Addicted to My Friend?

Reader’s Question

Thank you for this site. I’m sure it helps many.

I have a response-question to the post My Long-Distance Relationship is Making Me Crazy. My long-time friend has just moved back into the area where we first met and for the first time in 3 years is living in close proximity to me. Now that he is nearby, I cannot seem to get him out of my mind. I crave seeing him nearly every day. It’s as if we are on vacation somewhere or as if he is only in town for a short time and I can’t have enough of him when I get the chance. I seem to be able to think of nothing else but seeing him. It is getting in the way of my usual business and other friendships, and I don’t know how or why it is happening. While he was away and inaccessible to me, it seemed like I was able to cope with the fact that I couldn’t see him as often as I would have liked. But now that he is here in town, I find myself wanting to be with him as often as possible. I am acting like I have an addiction or something. Can you explain what’s going on?

Psychologist’s Reply

Interestingly enough, there are some aspects of what you are describing that parallel what persons with true addictions experience. There are also parallels to what folks who have eating disorders experience when they have periods of starvation followed by periods of gorging. But the bottom line about why people experience such patterns is that there is something about the behavior that triggers the chemicals in our brain’s pleasure centers and gives us a feeling of well-being. It’s the same process that leads people to an unhealthy dependence on drugs. We then keep wanting to do what we’ve learned will bring on that good feeling. Obviously, when your friend was away, although you may have been “starved” for his company, you found other ways to get those good feelings. But perhaps none of the ways were as satisfying or produced the level of “high” you get being with him. Now that he’s back and more available to you, you’re “gorging.”

It would be a good idea to take a closer look at the various things you like so much about being with this man. Make a list. Be sure to include every aspect of being with him that makes you feel good. Then, give some attention to the other areas of your life in which you have derived similar feelings. After that, explore the ways that you can enhance those other activities and relationships so that they can include more of the good feelings you experience when you’re with your friend. That way, you won’t run the risk of overwhelming him to quench your emotional hunger.

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