6 Signs of Love Bombing with Dr. Steve Sultanoff

Signs of Love Bombing with Steve Sultanoff, PhD

LOVE BOMBING is a manipulation technique used by one person to gaslight another in order to control and dominate them. It is commonly used by highly narcissistic people and people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), but it can be used by other types of manipulators as well. The aim is to give the perpetrator an advantage over the recipient of the abuse. This is accomplished using a schedule of intermittent reinforcement that alternates between love bombing and devaluation to deliberately induce, escalate, and then soothe anxiety in the victim-survivor. One of the dangers of love bombing is that it feels so good it can be difficult to recognize it for the psycho-emotional abuse that it is. Today, we’re going to highlight 6 Signs of Love Bombing with clinical psychologist Steven M. Sultanoff, PhD

For more than thirty years, Dr. Sultanoff has been a professor at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology. He’s also served as a clinical supervisor and spent twelve years as clinical director of a psychology training network. In 2012, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award in therapeutic humor from the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: What is something most people don’t understand about love bombing?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: The extreme narcissist is a “big game hunter.” He is stalking his prey, and the thrill is in the hunt and capture of the prey. In order to capture the prey, the narcissist will go to almost any length to achieve that goal. The result is self-congratulatory: “Look what major feat I accomplished!” In other words, “I made you fall for me.”

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: What you are describing it sounds more like entrapment than love.

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: He is on a quest to “do” whatever it takes to achieve the goal: capturing a “love” connection or perhaps more accurately capturing the object of his desire. Nothing will stand in the way. Whatever it takes (behaviorally) he will do. He will shower the “love object” with whatever might be pleasing including gifts, flowers, romantic getaways, etcetera.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: This is an excellent analogy because it illustrates how little a narcissist’s behavior has to do with the person they are pursuing and everything to do with their self-image. What’s the pay off for the narcissist?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: Once the goal is achieved, he will feel “full,” valued, worthy, etcetera until the moment of the accomplishment wears off.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: So, they obtain narcissistic supply through success in pursuit and conquest of someone they regard as “prey”. It gratifies their ego and fills them with a sense of pride in their ability to manipulate the person they targeted. What is the first major red flag that people should look out for?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: One tell-tale sign is over the top extreme behavior that, of course, feels like being nurtured and loved.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: But in reality it’s neither of those things because the narcissist is using the capture and conquest of their “prey” to feed their ego. Dr. Sultanoff, you have been practicing for over thirty years. Please share something you’ve observed about narcissists in your clinical experience.

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: Most narcissists are men, although women are not immune to the disorder.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Indeed, that’s consistent with the research. Can you please share some other signs you think might help people recognize when they are being love bombed?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: Narcissists are frequently absolutely charming and they make a great appearance. For example, they are often coiffed meticulously. They are usually generous with money and material things, showering the object of their affection with an assortment of gifts mostly of monetary value but not necessarily. Depending on their style and expertise, they may offer more personal gifts such as poetry, writing songs, sunsets on the beach, looking at the stars, etcetera for their partner. They make a major effort to be in contact with their partner and may frequently text or email with lots of emojis or other endearing extras.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: It’s often said that narcissists target people who have one or several blind spots. Can you talk a bit about this?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: One sign that is often overlooked is the partner’s reaction to the love bomb. If you feel enamored, giddy, or enthralled especially to the point of discussing all the gifts with others then you may want to examine the relationship. It is easy for the partner to be “sucked into” the love bomb since it “feels” so good to be loved at such an extreme level.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: That’s a very astute and helpful tip! Dr. Sultanoff, do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share on this topic?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: Bottom line, if he is too good to be true, he likely is too good to be true. Look for the signs of excessively loving behaviors, look for feeling immersed in his love, look for constant actions of his love and desire to be with you, and finally look beyond his loving actions and ask yourself, “What is the substance behind the actions. Is he who I can love if all these loving actions were not present?”

Dr. Sultanoff’s 6 Signs of Love Bombing

To summarize, Dr. Sultanoff highlighted six signs of love bombing and they are:

  1. Too good to be true
  2. Charm
  3. Flamboyance
  4. Generosity
  5. Excessive Attention
  6. Euphoria

Visit Dr. Sultanoff’s website humormatters.com to learn about therapeutic humor.


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Manya Wakefield is an educator and recovery coach specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy and trauma. She is also the author of 'Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?' and host of the Narcissistic Abuse Rehab Podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.