Feelings of Limerence: What Is It and How Is It Different From Infatuation?

At the beginning of a love relationship, the loved one becomes the center of all thoughts and actions. However, when the intensity lasts over time to the point of causing discomfort, we may be facing a case of limerence.
Feelings of Limerence: What Is It and How Is It Different From Infatuation?

Last update: 09 July, 2021

Love is one of the most intense and mobilizing emotions. Falling in love and the beginning of a love relationship usually generate positive sensations of euphoria, pleasure, and desire for intimacy. However, sometimes these natural and pleasant reactions take on an obsessive tinge and begin to generate negative consequences. That’s when we’re in the presence of feelings of limerence.

This term was coined by psychologist Dorothy Tenov to describe a psychological state of obsession for another person, characterized by strong desires for reciprocity of the loving feeling. It’s a condition that shares similarities with obsessive-compulsive disorders and addictions.

How can we differentiate feelings of limerence from infatuation?

A large number of people suffering from limerence aren’t aware of how harmful their thoughts, emotions, and attitudes are. It’s often confused with typical infatuation.

As happens on other occasions, natural and expected reactions become problems when they get too intense. Thus, infatuation can also lead a person to think constantly about their loved one and to desire to be reciprocated in their feelings. Limerence has some distinguishing characteristics.

Infatuation has a temporary character that eventually gives way to more serene feelings, based on intimacy, complicity and commitment. The couple gets to know each other and share moments and interests until a deeper bond is forged.

In the case of limerence, the obsession can last for months or years without reducing its intensity, leading them to completely ignore the defects of the other and idealizing them to the extreme.

Moreover, in a normal relationship, the welfare of the other is a priority. Both partners treat each other with respect and consideration. The person suffering from limerence prioritizes their desire to be emotionally secure. Therefore, they may go so far as to pursue, harass, and push the boundaries of the other person. They do this to prove and reassure themselves of the other’s affection.

A woman remembers her man
In feelings of limerence, there’s an obsession that lasts and is unhealthy, affecting one’s own life and that of the other.

Signs to recognize limerence

As we’ve mentioned, it’s not always easy to identify that you’re experiencing limerence. Therefore, here are some of the basic characteristics:

  • Presence of intrusive and recurrent thoughts about the other person: they spend a great deal of time fantasizing about an ideal relationship and analyzing their every gesture and movement to see if reciprocity exists. Moreover, these signals are often exaggerated and given a meaning they don’t have.
  • Excessive focus on the loved one: this leads to social isolation and neglect of other important areas of life. This can affect studies or employment.
  • An intense fear of rejection: this can even manifest itself in physiological symptoms of anxiety, such as tachycardia, tremors, hyperventilation or appetite problems.
  • Need for reciprocity: the lack of reciprocity generates intense states of anxiety and depression. In addition, given the importance given to the other, the person suffering from limerence suffers low self-esteem and comes to think that their life is meaningless without the affection of their partner.

Consequences of limerence

Feelings of limerence can have serious consequences on several levels. Firstly, obsession with the object person leads to neglect of other vital areas. This can result in poor academic or work performance.

It also affects personal relationships, as there’s a tendency to isolate oneself and react negatively to criticism.

In addition, there’s significant emotional distress. Jealousy, stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms arise. This is an involuntary state in which thoughts and feelings are uncontrollable.

On the other hand, the other person may feel harassed, pressurized, and disrespected by the constant attempts to ensure reciprocity. In short, it’s a harmful and unpleasant situation for both people involved.

Is there treatment?

Feelings of limerence are difficult to address because, in many cases, the person isn’t aware of the problem. However, psychological intervention is very effective. It’ll help to identify the origin of the disorder and the factors that maintain it.

But it’ll also have an impact on changing thoughts about the desired person, about oneself and about the meaning of a relationship. Because of the similarities with obsessive-compulsive disorder, exposure with response prevention also offers good results.

A woman on a computer
In the limerence, there are actions of harassment that are directed to the other, including through the Internet and social networks.

Love shouldn’t lead to obsession

Love is a positive and pleasant feeling that favors an emotional connection with other beings. Feelings of limerence is a disorder that causes suffering and deteriorates the quality of life.

Therefore, it’s important to look at the beliefs we hold about love and analyze the emotions and behaviors that come with it. When suffering becomes habitual and begins to affect our daily lives, we must seek help to overcome it.

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  • Tennov, D. (1998). Love and limerence: The experience of being in love. Scarborough House.
  • Wakin, A. H., & Vo, D. B. (2008). Love-variant: The Wakin-Vo IDR model of limerence.
  • Willmott, L., & Bentley, E. (2015). Exploring the Lived-Experience of Limerence: A Journey toward Authenticity. The Qualitative Report20(1), 20-38.