Most of us have had an all-consuming crush on someone. Maybe you can’t stop thinking about them or feel giddy every time they text you back. According to psychologist Dr. Funke Baffour-Awuah, the average length of a crush is four months, but these feelings of infatuation can last anywhere from a few hours to a few years (McArthur, 2019). If your crush lasts longer than a of couple years, it may be a sign of limerence, a term coined by Dorothy Tennov in her 1979 book Love and Limerence: the Experience of Being in Love to describe an addiction to the feeling of being in love.
But limerence is pretty rare (only 5-10% of the U.S. population will ever experience it). Lovesickness is a more common, less intense form of limerence that occurs when our brain releases chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin as a reaction to the person we have a crush on (Earp et. al., 2017). Are you suffering from lovesickness? Here are 6 Signs You’re Lovesick:
1: You Fantasize About Them
Do you make up detailed scenarios about your crush in your head? If you often find yourself daydreaming about them or having imaginary conversations with them, this may be a sign of lovesickness. When you’re infatuated with someone, there is a level of uncertainty surrounding them that can make you nervous or euphoric (Frankel, 2002). Imagining a chance encounter with your crush or a future with them is one way of processing your feelings for them. But if these daydreams are almost constant or interfere with your productivity, you may be dealing with lovesickness rather than a simple crush.
2: You Idealize Them
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), idealization is exaggerating someone’s positive traits without seeing or acknowledging their negative ones (n.d.). When you’re feeling lovesick over someone, it can be easy to idealize them because you feel good around them. Your friends may try to point out your crush’s flaws to you, but you either can’t see them or choose to ignore them. Putting it simply, you’re blinded by your feelings for them. So if you find yourself talking and thinking nothing but praise about your crush, even if you know deep down they are not perfect, you are still in the infatuation phase. If these feelings persist, it could turn into lovesickness.
3: You Can’t Stop Thinking About Them
It’s normal to have your crush on the brain, especially when you first realize your feelings for them. But if you can’t get them out of your head, even when you really need to focus, you may be experiencing lovesickness. Albert Wakin, a psychologist and professor at Sacred Heart University, compares brain processes of those experiencing limerence to those in people with OCD (Sack, 2012). Because lovesickness is not as extreme as limerence, if you are dealing with lovesickness, you might still have repeated, intrusive, or distracting thoughts about your crush that interfere with your daily routine, but you can usually overcome them with effort (McArthur, 2019).
4: You Read Into Everything They Do
Do you reread every text your crush sends you looking for a hidden meaning? Do you catch yourself paying closer attention to the slight changes in their tone of voice than what they’re saying? If so, this could be a sign of lovesickness (Frankel, 2002). In the same way you might idealize someone you’re infatuated with, if you obsess over your crush’s every word and action towards you, you can quickly become attached to the idea of them rather than their actual personality. If your crush is sending you mixed signals — or you don’t know them well enough yet to read them — you may feel especially giddy or on edge, riding the rollercoaster of euphoria and disappointment that is a symptom of lovesickness (Frankel, 2002).
5: You’re Extremely Nervous Around Them
Many people have a physical reaction to their crush’s presence. Common reactions include increased heart rate, flushing, shaking, and sweating (Cassibry, 2020). With lovesickness, these feelings are more intense. If you are lovesick, you might also experience heart palpitations, heightened anxiety, and nervousness (McArthur, 2019). A debilitating fear of rejection can also come with lovesickness, so you may be afraid to be yourself around your crush, which can lead to more anxiety (Tennov, 1979). So if you literally feel weak in the knees whenever your crush walks by or speaks to you, you may be dealing with lovesickness.
6: You Get a Rush When They Message You Back
A emotional rush — sudden feelings of euphoria — is an indicator your brain released high levels of dopamine (the happy hormone) into the body (Earp et al., 2017). If you feel a rush of excitement and nerves every time you think about your crush or get the notification that they replied, you might be lovesick. When you crush on someone new, there is an element of unpredictability because you don’t know much about them yet (Frankel, 2002). When you learn something new about your crush or think about how little you know about them, the uncertainty is associated with positive feelings of newness and excitement, which triggers dopamine. So you might be experiencing lovesickness if you feel happier every time you are reminded of your crush.
Have you ever been lovesick? It’s important to remember that you probably won’t get lovesick over every crush, and some people might never experience it. If you think you do have lovesickness, remember that it will likely pass; infatuation is one of the normal stages of crushing on someone, and it can be fun to ride the feelings of euphoria that come with liking someone. But if you feel like your crush on someone is unhealthy or lasts longer than a few years, seek guidance from a licensed mental health professional.
- American Psychological Association (n.d.). Idealization. In APA Dictionary of Psychology. Retrieved 25 June from dictionary.apa.org/idealization.
- Cassibry, K. (2020, February 13). “What Is Love? The Psychology of Love and Crushes.” Inpathy. Retrieved 25 June from https://inpathybulletin.com/the-psychology-of-love-and-crushes/.
- Earp, B. D., Wudarczyk, O. A., Foddy, B., & Savulescu, J. (2017). Addicted to love: What is love addiction and when should it be treated? Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology : PPP, 24(1), 77–92. https://doi.org/10.1353/ppp.2017.0011.
- Frankel, V. (2002, November). “The Love Drug.” O, The Oprah Magazine. Retrieved 25 June from http://www.oprah.com/relationships/the-science-of-being-love-sick-relationships-and-limerence/all.
- McArthur, A. (2019, November). “Is It True That Crushes Only Last 4 Months Before Becoming Love? We Asked an Expert.” Sweety High. Retreived 25 June from https://www.sweetyhigh.com/read/crush-not-interested-or-oblivious-dr-funke-baffour-111319.
- Sack, D. (2012, July 28). Limerence and the biochemical roots of love addiction. Huffpost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/limerence_b_1627089?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living.
- Tennov, D. (1979). Love and limerence : The experience of being in love. Scarborough House.