There are many types of addictions in the world, but the most powerful one is love addiction, otherwise known as limerence.
Even though you’ve probably never heard the term before, limerence is something you have definitely witnessed or perhaps even experienced.
The concept of love is depicted and constantly being rewritten by popular culture and modern media.
Movies, books, TV shows, songs – they all represent love in their own way, which is often not real love but rather an intense love addiction known as limerence.
Remember all those movie scenes where usually a girl is lying on her bed compulsively re-reading every single text message with that smile plastered on her face, and she’s fighting the strong urge to text/call him?
She can’t do anything else but spend a great amount of time fantasizing about the object of her desire, and if he happened to ignore or reject her, her world would literally fall apart, right?
Now, the question is: What is she doing and how is she feeling exactly? What processes are taking place in her brain?
Many of you have probably answered: Well, it’s obvious what’s going on here. The girl is in love! And that’s exactly what I would say too if you asked me the same question a few years ago.
But now that I’ve learned the difference between true love and limerence, my answer is that the girl is getting high on infatuation (I know how weird that sounds).
When love becomes an addiction, we tend to behave differently. We do things we normally wouldn’t.
One text message or a romantic gesture can trigger euphoria within a nanosecond, whereas one unanswered text can put you in misery for hours, days, or even months.
But there’s nothing you can do about it because you’re in a state of being addicted to love – you’ve become limerent.
Where Does The Term Limerence Come From?
The term limerence was coined in 1979 by professor and psychologist Dorothy Tennov in her book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love.
She defines the meaning of limerence as “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and emotional dependence on another person.”
This state of being addicted to love has nothing to do with our will or choice, but it is caused by biochemical processes in our brain.
A cocktail of chemicals (dopamine, estrogen, testosterone, and similar) is responsible for awakening strong feelings toward the limerent object.
Obsessive thoughts, heart palpitations, and mood swings are just some of the most common symptoms of limerence.
Remember when I said that the girl is high on infatuation? Well, the state of limerence is exactly the same as being doped up on drugs, but in this case, we’re talking about being high on love.
It’s an intense, addictive emotional state where the object of our desire (the limerent object) is literally our drug. We become obsessed with pursuing them, especially if our feelings are not reciprocated.
It is an unhealthy state of mind that results from brain changes due to a compulsive desire to bond with another human being.
Limerence is a combo of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and addiction towards the object of a limerent person’s desire, as defined by Albert Wakin (a psychology professor at Sacred Heart University and leading expert on Limerence).
Call it obsessive love, lovesickness, or overly intense romantic love, one thing is sure: Limerence can greatly affect our mental health and how we function on a daily basis.
10 Most Common Signs Of Limerence
Idealizing the other person’s positive and negative traits
Every human being has both positive and negative traits. We’re born imperfect and we all have our unique quirks and flaws, toxic habits, and different personality types.
We’re not meant to be perfect and that’s totally okay. As long as we’re striving to become the best versions of ourselves, we’re on the right track.
A nonlimerent person notices both positive and negative traits in other people and she likes/loves them in spite of them.
For example, if the other person seems to be lazy sometimes, she is aware of it and doesn’t try to find excuses to justify such behavior.
She doesn’t idealize their negative traits along with the positive ones, but is realistic about it.
She recognizes it as a problem, not something she can influence if the other person is not willing to change.
Now, if you’re a limerent person, you’ll see this somewhat differently. If your limerent object has a negative trait of being lazy, for instance, you wouldn’t see it as something negative.
Instead, you would interpret it as being laid back and casual, and always find excuses for such behavior.
I can relate to this one from my personal experience of limerence. When I was in college, the guy I was dating was extra lazy and careless, but back then I didn’t see it as a bad trait.
I was drawn to such behavior, thinking that it would make me feel more liberated because I’m the total opposite.
Of course, that didn’t happen. When the feelings of limerence faded, I realized how blindly obsessed I was about the guy. I saw him as a perfectly flawless being, even though reality was far from it.
Intense and unwanted thoughts about the other person
When we really like someone, it is normal to feel this butterfly sensation in our stomach because we’re so excited about seeing them, spending time with them, or just contemplating them.
We go through a spectrum of different emotions and our lives are no longer black and white, but a million shades of grey.
You know you’re a limerent person if you feel all that too, but in a more intense way. You basically think about the object of your desire 24/7.
When you are at work or doing something random, you have difficulty focusing on tasks because it means you have to shift to reality.
You are constantly thinking about them because this makes you feel good. Remember when we compared limerence with being high on drugs?
Well, that’s exactly what’s going on in a limerent person’s mind.
When you are thinking about the object of your desire, you are basically getting high on love or affection. This means that you need your daily dose, which often turns into a 24/7 dose.
Once you experience this feeling of being high on love, it’s really hard to replace it with being in reality.
Focusing on other daily tasks makes you feel miserable and your mind subconsciously wonders toward your limerent object.
And often those intense thoughts turn into unwanted thoughts because of overthinking.
Do you know that feeling when you look at yourself in the mirror for a little too long so that you start noticing every single imperfection?
The same thing can be applied to intense feelings and thoughts where you (as a limerent person) start noticing all the flaws in your thinking.
If your feelings are not reciprocated, you start obsessing about it and as a result, feel frustrated.
You fear that the object of your desire might never notice you or like you back, and this thinking turns into long sessions imbued with unwanted thoughts that can be really harmful to your mental health.
Contemplating and obsessing over clues of reciprocation
We’ve all done this at some point.
When we like someone (especially when we start dating them), we turn into decoding machines when it comes to reciprocation – of course, when we’re not sure whether or not they like us back.
But, that phase usually doesn’t last that long and it’s not as intense as is the case with limerent people. They take clues of reciprocation to another level.
If you can’t help but constantly overthink your love interest’s every single word and action via social media, in person – you name it – then you know you’re a limerent person.
Obsessing about it becomes your main hobby because their reciprocity is the most important thing in your life at that moment.
For example, if they all of a sudden change their texting style, the first thing that comes to your mind is that it has something to do with you.
If your love interest suddenly sends you texts with lots of emojis and are generally more cheerful, you instantly see it as a potential clue that their feelings are reciprocal.
Or if they ignore you or write in a lazy manner, you connect this with a lack of reciprocity and continue obsessing about it.
This limerent attachment style is unhealthy because it is both time-consuming and draining.
Feeling ashamed, nervous, and confused, and experiencing physical symptoms around the other person
It is true that we all feel a certain amount of anxiety, shame, and nervousness when it comes to someone we really like. But, once again, limerent people experience this more intensely.
The sole idea of talking to the object of your desire is totally scary and almost paralyzing. The main reason why it is so is because of constantly contemplating and obsessing over them on a daily basis.
When you spend so much time thinking about a certain person, the adrenaline and anticipation kicks in, making it hard for you to stay relaxed around them.
Another reason is that you are overly anxious about whether they feel the same way.
You want their love and affection desperately, which turns you into nervous, confused, and an anxious being with severe heart palpitations, because you’re afraid you’ll do or say something wrong in front of your love interest, or embarrass yourself.
Constantly fearing rejection
Whether you are pining after your limerent object, dating them, or even in a relationship with them, a constant fear of rejection is always present.
If you are only thinking about dating them, you fear that you will never get into contact with them and even if you do, you will most certainly get rejected.
If you are dating or in a relationship with them, you will constantly fear that you will do something wrong, disappoint them, and so on.
Because of that, you become extra careful of your every move, which is truly exhausting.
This mindset prevents you from letting things happen at a natural pace. Since you have a tendency to overthink things, you will always have multiple outcomes in your mind for every single occasion.
And if you get rejected by your limerent object, your world literally falls apart. You might experience a wide array of negative emotions from utter sorrow to contemplating suicide.
The reason why you are feeling this way once you get rejected is because you are literally sent to rehab.
When your brain has been high on love (especially for a long time), rejection creates the same effect as if someone took away a hardcore drug addict’s fix from him.
Recalling every encounter (real or virtual) with them in detail
This one is partially connected with the third sign above (contemplating and obsessing over clues of reciprocation).
If you’re a limerent person, you probably have this tendency to recall every encounter with your limerent object in detail, and for two reasons:
– to obsess over clues of reciprocation, and
– to recall encounters for the sake of reliving the feeling of getting high on love.
I think there’s no need to explain the first one in detail – we’ve already said enough about reciprocation.
Mainly, you recall encounters in order to analyze every detail of your convo, their body language, and similar, in an attempt to figure out whether they like you back or not.
Another reason why you would want to recall encounters is for the sake of experiencing those intense feelings again.
If it is a virtual encounter, you would re-read your texts again and again (or only those texts that you find most special).
If it is a real-life encounter, you would be replaying everything in detail in your head.
Experiencing euphoria where there is any kind of reciprocation
Yes, we all love when the object of our desire shows interest, makes us feel special one way or another, and reciprocates.
We feel truly fulfilled when we know that their affection toward us is real and they like us back just the way we like them.
But, if you’re a limerent person, you don’t just love when the other person shows reciprocation, you really LOVE it to the extent of experiencing euphoria for hours, days, and in some cases even months.
This euphoric feeling makes your heart beat faster, inspires you to jump on your bed from happiness (remember all those bed-jumping movie scenes?), and feel sheer excitement as if everything finally makes sense in your life.
You see their reciprocation as the key to your happiness and that is why you react so intensely. If they like you back, you will experience vast happiness regardless of everything else.
But, if they don’t reciprocate, then you experience emotions on the other side of the spectrum (negative and draining ones).
My personal limerence definition would be the following: It is a roller-coaster experience where a limerent person goes through sensations triggered by the object of their desire.
Connecting everything around them with the other person
Due to the intense feelings of being high on love and constantly thinking about your limerent object, you have this tendency to connect everything you see and experience with them.
Regardless if you’re in a store, going for a walk, or spending time at work, there will always be one or more things that will remind you of the object of your desire.
The main reason for this happening is because you’re spending a great amount of time thinking only about them.
So, you get this urge to show them and tell them everything (that cool new gadget in the store, a funny situation at your work, a hilarious movie scene, and so on).
You feel intensely drawn to them and that’s why you can’t help but want to share all your experiences with them.
It’s like when your brain is a computer that has this one tab (someone you like) open for eternity.
No matter how many new tabs you open, you will always go back to that special one and bring everything into close connection with it.
Arranging and rearranging activities in order to spend more time with the other person
It is completely understandable and natural to want to spend as much time as possible with someone you’re really crazy about, but when this starts interfering with your daily routine and life in general, then you know that limerence is taking its toll.
Constantly rearranging your schedule to spend as much time as possible with the object of your desire means that one person is your main priority.
Because of that, work, friendships, and other relations become overshadowed by your limerent object.
There is no longer a clear distinction between what needs to be done and what can wait.
It’s when necessary obligations and chores become less important than spending time with your (potential) soulmate, or better said, spending time on getting high on love.
As you can see, this is another similarity between real drug addiction and love addiction.
In both cases, the person starts neglecting other things in order to commit their full attention to their drug of choice (in this case love).
Overanalyzing their every word, action, and gesture
Since your limerent object is the most important thing and source of joy in your life, you tend to spend a great amount of time overanalyzing their every word, action, and gesture.
This is an exhausting mental process that takes lots of time, nerves, and devotion. But, it is a process that you probably enjoy, like the rest of the limerent crew.
Every new thing you learn about the object of your desire makes you overly excited.
Every cute gesture makes your heart beat faster. Overanalyzing all of it is like doing homework on something you just learned today.
It’s like creating a mosaic with special compartments where you put their every word, action, and gesture where it belongs and create their addictive personality.
The Difference Between Real Love And Limerence
Since limerence can be easily mistaken for real love, you’re probably wondering what the difference is between the two.
After all, if you don’t know all the differences (or main difference), you cannot know whether or not you have ever experienced or are experiencing it.
So, the main difference between a healthy romantic relationship and limerence is in the give-and-take aspect.
In a way, a limerent person’s romantic attraction primarily revolves around the urge to secure the affection of the object of their desire.
A limerent person is not really focused on the natural process of love/attraction stages, but they want it all and they want it now.
Instead of working on developing commitment, they are constantly in the state of intrusive thinking about their limerent object.
If the other person isn’t reciprocating, a limerent person starts experiencing a series of intensified mental and physical symptoms (slightly different from those symptoms that surface on a daily basis).
Nonlimerent partners in a healthy relationship don’t have this problem. They experience intense feelings of being in love, but they don’t fight incessant, intrusive thoughts about each other.
Instead, they establish a connection through spending time with each other, sharing interests, their deepest thoughts, preferences, and so on.
Such relationships can last for a long time, whereas limerent relationships (where both or one partner is experiencing limerence) are not stable, therefore, they often don’t last for long.
I deliberately added “often” because in some cases such relationships have the potential to grow into healthy ones.
In case you’re wondering about the duration between the two concepts, limerence usually tends to last longer than real romantic love.
It can last for a couple of weeks to a couple of decades. However, the duration greatly depends upon the reciprocity aspect.
If the limerent person’s affection is reciprocated in some form, the intense feelings of limerence can persist for a long time.
If affection is not reciprocated, then the feelings of limerence usually vanish with time (unless they are in a state of confusion due to mixed signals given by their limerent object).
In such particular cases, limerence may be prolonged.
Is There A Cure For Limerence?
Given that we’re living in a world where there are tons of remedies for every condition, there is also a remedy for limerence – it’s called no contact.
If you’re experiencing limerence right now and you want to wean yourself off this love drug, then the no contact rule is something you should really consider applying.
It means cutting all contact with the object of your desire, including texting, seeing them, and every other aspect that you can influence.
Over time, you will also stop contemplating them because they will no longer be your limerence object – you’ll be rehabilitated from your addiction.