Can love ever be unhealthy?
I came across the concept of limerance in grad school and it continues to fascinate me. While research says that limerance only affects 5 percent of the population I can’t help but wonder…haven’t we all experienced a glimmer of limerance?
So, what is limerance? Limerance is the psychological state of deep infatuation. According to the psychologist Dorothy Tennov, who coined the term, limerance is “an involuntary state of mind which seems to result from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated”. Basically, it is the state of being completely carried away by passion or love, even to the point of addictive-type behavior.
You know that first stage of a relationship – the crazy infatuation stage – where you can’t stop thinking about the other person, your hormones are flowing and everything feels right? Well, people who are diagnosed with limerance are permanently trapped in this stage of euphoria and their thoughts and behaviors become obsessive and compulsive.
So here’s a great example that I found in an article in Psychology Today:
A woman recounts in first-person a previous relationship in which she dated a man happily for six months until he ended things. The woman describes feelings of intense grief during these days apart and after eight months sent him an e-mail only to learn that he was engaged to another woman. This news generated feelings of sickness in the form of dry-heaving, chest pains, heart palpitations, insomnia, lethargy, and an inability to consume food. Upon experiencing these symptoms she was informed by a therapist that she fit the profile for Limerence, which Albert Wakin, a leading expert on Limerence and Professor of Psychology at Sacred Heart University, defines as an involuntary and incessant state of “compulsory longing for another person.”
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? This is a diagnosable psychological disorder that is very treatable…however, doesn’t it sound quite a lot like some behaviors that we (or someone you know) have experienced at least a slice of in our lives? It sounds almost like the feelings inspired by the most intense, unrequited crush you’ve ever had. Probably not really to the extreme of actual limerance…but perhaps only a few steps behind.
Limerence can happen to anyone - all age groups, both genders, and those from various socioeconomic levels. As I mentioned it’s treatable through therapy and medication, and one of the most effective approaches to eradicate limerence is to completely disconnect from the ex.
Interestingly it is said that love mostly starts out as limerance, but limerance doesn’t always evolve into love.
So, what do you think about limerance? Have you ever seen it in action? Have you ever felt like you experienced a glimmer of limerance?
Learn more about Limerance:
Photo credit: ky_olsen’s Flickr photostream