She saw him from across the room. Their eyes met. She made her way across the crowded dance floor to reach him. It was like a slow dance as she made her way to him. Finally, they stood inches apart and gazed into each other’s eyes.
She believed she had found her Mr. More Than Right. From that moment forth, she placed him on a pedestal and her perfect lover could do no wrong. She pined for him with an acute longing, and she obsessed about him day and night. One problem: He did not feel the same. Still, she believed and hoped that one day he would. She had fallen into a state of limerence. And she was hooked bad.
Limerence might sound like nothing more than an odd word, but it actually is a condition that some think should be classified as a mental disorder. The term, created in 1977 by psychologist Dorothy Tennov, refers to an overwhelming obsession with someone and an intense desire to have those feelings returned.
Limerence is more than just a crush because a person becomes obsessed with the object of his or her affection. They think about the “limerent object” day and night; in extreme cases, fantasies and plotting to win the love of the limerent object might become the entire focus of the person’s life. So, while you might have a crush on Ryan Gosling or the cute guy on your morning bus to work, you likely don’t spend every waking minute thinking about him or plotting ways to create a relationship, especially not to the detriment of your own health and well-being (or his health and well-being).
It isn’t always clear why limerence occurs, nor is it clear why it occurs when it does. For example, most people who experience limerence do so only once in their lives. They might even have a history of normal, stable, and healthy relationships, yet when it comes to this one individual — called the limerent object — very unhealthy and unstable feelings of obsession can occur. Researchers even liken limerent feelings to what addicts experience when craving their drug of choice, or to the same pull people with obsessive-compulsive disorder feel when it comes to their rituals.
Feelings of limerence aren’t always easy to decipher early on. You might not even realize when you are veering into dangerous territory. After all, early feelings of love and attraction often mimic feelings of limerence. Some people even say that they can’t eat, can’t sleep, and can’t stop thinking about their new love. Even though such hyperbole is common in love songs, it is important to understand that this level of intensity is fleeting and, in reality, of course the person can and does eat, sleep, and think of other things.
Yet someone experiencing limerent feelings might not. As their obsession grows, it might morph into something out of control. It could even lead to stalking and unwanted contact with the limerant object. Imagine how scary that is for the individual in question. However, the person experiencing those limerent feelings might not realize that their advances are unwanted, and even if they do, they might continue on regardless.
Primarily, this is the main quality that separates limerence from an average crush. A person undergoing limerence wants to be with their “true love” at all costs and will do anything to make that happen, even if that person does not reciprocate the feelings. Even if a person in limerence is clear-headed enough to realize that, he or she still might feel a desperate desire to make those feelings reciprocated at any cost.
Clearly, limerence can be quite a dangerous condition indeed, and if you are experiencing symptoms such as those described above, you should cut off all contact with the person you are obsessing over right away. Spend some time getting your head together and detaching for your own mental health. If you are incapable of doing that, you should consider talking to a therapist who can help you safely move past those feelings and find someone who will return your love.