What is Limerence?

By on April 14, 2015

If you haven’t heard of limerence it’s an important term that everyone should be familiar with. Limerence is a pattern of thinking behaviors that can cause extreme anguish. Many people confuse limerence with love. Limerence has also been called love sickness, infatuation, love obsession or love addiction. It’s important to know how to direct your love in healthy ways to avoid becoming obsessive about someone. The term ‘limerence’ was coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov in her book published in 1979 titled, Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love. She defines it 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.”

Unfortunately, emotional coping skills and behavioral coaching is not a part of schools yet. Most of our ideas about love come from the media and often the media dramatizes love so much that they show it in it’s obsessive form. This has created a culture that breeds unhealthy, codependent relationships. Healthy relationships are when both people enjoy the other person’s company but they spend a healthy amount of time apart and do not constantly think about the other person.


Difference between Love and Limerence


So how can you tell if you are actually in love or if you are in limerence? To start to understand what limerence is, let’s look at what people in ‘limerence’ do that’s different that people that are in ‘love.’ Limerence does not involve the feelings or desires for physical intimacy that love does however, people that do have a physical relationship can still experience limerence although their obsessiveness will be over attention and appreciation, not sexual fantasies. Limerence want’s gratification from the person in a very different way. It’s all about getting attention from the other person for doing something heroic. In limerence, the ego searches for compliments or even subtle forms of attention to get their addiction fix. This is an addictive type of thinking that creates fantasies and can become so obsessive that the person with limerence can only think about that person they are seeking attention from.


What’s also distinct about limerence is that the basic fantasy is actually usually in epic life threatening situations where they can save the person they obsess over or help them in some way, thus becoming the hero of the story. This is an unhealthy way of thinking and it is not about physical attraction, it’s an obsessive and unhealthy behavioral pattern that is often confused with love sickness or just being in love.


Signs of Limerence

The major difference between love and limerence is that when a person is feeling limerence, they will not tell the person they like them. They will feel nervous around the person and have trouble talking to them. Their heart will race and they will feel high from one glance or acknowledgment but they will experience severe anxiety and depression when the object of their desire returns no attention or appreciation for them.



Another sign of limerence is being afraid of losing the other person. Limerence creates very strong insecurities and rejection can lead to thoughts of suicide. Limerence is very codependent and people may obsess over what is said and really read into things more than usual. It’s not that there is really even a relationship, although there can be. It’s more about the gratification of that person’s attention that you fear losing like it’s a drug that you must get to feel happy.


If a person has the behavior of limerence, they will feel like they are on a roller coaster and either extremely happy or extremely sad. They will not be able to control their emotional state and it will change frequently.


Finally, it’s important to know that this is a biochemical process created by the brain and anyone experiencing these types of thoughts and behaviors should seek help from a licensed psychologist. This is a leading cause of breakups and divorce. Healthy relationships that are based in love care about the other person’s well being but will respect if the other person doesn’t reciprocate the feelings. If a person has limerence, they will not accept rejection and continue to think they have a chance.

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