Limerence: What It is, What Causes it, and How to Stop It

Published By Justin Baksh, LMHC, MCAP
April 21, 2024


He waited impatiently for her to enter the room. The rest of his colleagues were involved in a heated discussion, raising good points about a interdepartmental problem. Although he should have been paying attention, Liam’s focus was elsewhere. Where was Madison? When was she getting here? He fidgeted as the minutes ticked by.

Suddenly, she was there… Madison was in the room, moving toward the table. Liam’s excitement flared; a big smile broke over his face. He watched her intently as she greeted everyone, said her apologies for being late, and took her seat at the table.

Liam thought, Did she greet me more heartily than the others? Is she as happy to see me as I am her?

As if he wished it into being, Madison looked in his direction, giving him a smile and a nod of acknowledgement. What did that mean? Was she being friendly? Or could she possibly have feelings for him as well?

Needless to say, Leon didn’t get much out of the meeting… or the rest of the day, for that matter.

When Madison passed him in the hallway, when she had a conversation with a colleague in the same office, when they were both in the lunchroom, albeit at different tables, he was obsessively watching her, looking for signs. In Liam’s mind, an endless loop played: Did she look at me? Was she smiling at me? Could she be thinking about me secretly like I do about her? It was no different at home on the weekends. Even at night, Liam lay awake thinking about Madison. He wondered over and over, Does she feel the same way?

Liam was suffering from limerence. And Madison, unbeknownst to her, was his limerent object.

What is Limerence?

“Limerence is characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings… not primarily for a sexual relationship (though the sexual aspect may be intense), but for a mutual understanding or bonding. The limerent person values this understanding above all else, sometimes to the detriment of their own well-being.

-Dorothy Tennov, Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love

Limerence is a complex emotional state involving an intense and often overwhelming desire for an emotional connection with another person, hoping deeply for those feelings to be reciprocated.

Unlike mere infatuation or sexual attraction, limerence is the desire for a profound emotional bond, mutual understanding, and acknowledgment from the limerent object.

The condition is marked by a combination of emotional dependence, obsessive thoughts about the person of interest, and a significant investment in the idea of their approval and reciprocation. Those suffering from limerence may find themselves preoccupied with thoughts of the other person, interpreting even minor interactions as significant indicators of reciprocal feeling. The intensity of limerence can lead to significant emotional highs and lows, driven by what the person perceives as signals of reciprocation or rejection from the desired person.

Despite its potentially disruptive impact on daily functioning and wellbeing, limerence is driven by a genuine desire for an emotional, rather than purely physical, connection with another individual.

The intense emotional investment put into gaining the affection and emotional reciprocation from the other person distinguishes limerence from mere sexual desire or infatuation. It is the focus on mutual understanding, emotional connection, and the depth of longing for an emotional bond that defines limerence.

What Are the Three Stages of Limerence?

“I had known this man briefly for some time and really got to know him when I was 32 and he was 26. We met at a work camp of an organization we both volunteer for, where we were staying for a weekend in a group of people who are mutual friends.

In the beginning, he sought my company, we worked together and sat together during meals. It felt like finally someone was there who was interested in me and I couldn’t believe it. It was a great feeling and I completely sank into it. Nothing overtly sexual happened, except him putting his arm around me for a photo and brief touches. We didn’t even kiss. I just had a feeling that he could be attracted to me.

When we went back home to our normal jobs and lives we initially stayed in contact through WhatsApp. However, he did not write too much, almost never initiated a conversation and always took long to answer. We never arranged for a date. However, our mutual friends arranged for us to meet at parties etc., and he turned up to regular meet-up events of the organization we both do voluntary work for.

I always interpreted his showing up there for interest in me. I explained away him not answering my messages with the excuse that he generally doesn’t like social media and digital communication. Nothing romantic ever happened between us. I even stayed overnight at his place a few times as I lived outside the city and it was hard to get home at night. We slept next to each other without touching once. I explained it away with his shyness.

This went on for one-and-a-half years. In between, my friends tried to convince me to let him go, so I installed a dating app which helped me to distract myself a bit.

I had constant thoughts about him, I fantasized about us as a couple, I constantly checked if he was online on social media and posted content there just because I knew he would see it.

The whole thing ended when he told me at a party that he definitely wasn’t interested in me. I still had a hard time believing it until we talked it all out three weeks later at another party. This was the moment that I could finally accept that we would never be together. It was hard, but liberating.

As luck would have it, my now boyfriend of one year contacted me on social media two days after I had ended my limerence. We instantly clicked and took only a week to get together romantically. He knows about the guy and they have even met, although he doesn’t know about the full extent of my limerence.

I have only recently discovered the concept of limerence and I it has helped me massively to make sense of what happened to me in the past.


Limerence typically unfolds in three distinct stages. Each one is characterized by its own set of emotions and behaviors, as a person progresses through the intense experience of being limerently attached to someone. These stages can vary in duration and intensity, depending on the individual and their circumstances.

3 Stages of Limerence

Limerence Stage 1: Infatuation or Quest

The initial stage is marked by an overwhelming attraction to the person of interest, often accompanied by intense thoughts and fantasies about them. The person developing limerence starts to feel a strong desire for an emotional connection and begins to idealize the limerent object, focusing on their positive traits and dismissing any negatives.

During this phase, any signs of reciprocation from the object of limerence can significantly amplify the intensity of these feelings.

Limerence Stage 2: Uncertainty and Heightened Sensitivity

As limerence deepens, the next stage is fraught with uncertainty and heightened emotional sensitivity towards the limerence object’s actions and responses. The fear of rejection becomes pronounced, leading to intense highs when there is any perception of reciprocation and profound lows at signs of disinterest or rejection.

This stage is characterized by a preoccupation with interpreting the limerent object’s behaviors and trying to discern their feelings.

Limerence Stage 3: Resolution

The final stage of limerence leads to a resolution of these intense emotions, which can occur in several ways. The limerent feelings may gradually fade if the individual realizes that reciprocation is unlikely or impossible.

Alternatively, if the limerent object reciprocates the feelings, limerence may transition into a more stable and mutual emotional relationship.

In some cases, external circumstances such as geographical separation, or a deliberate decision to avoid contact with the limerent object, can also lead to the resolution of limerent feelings.

What Triggers Limerence?

I had it once. It was horrible. One day I was fine, and the next day, I could not get him out of my mind. It felt like dopamine flooded my brain and there was a sense of euphoria that I could not shut off. I felt so out of control and I did not like it. I often wondered if this is how people on heroin felt.

I could not focus at work. I lost weight. I had to see this person everyday. Eventually I left the situation. It hurt, [it] felt like withdrawals, but now it is over and I have myself back… sort of. When you have an intense emotional experience, it’s not easy to come away unscarred.

Sometimes I wonder why it happened. I was having lots of scary ‘first time in my life’ experiences at the time in my personal life and career. Maybe when we are feeling especially vulnerable, it’s easy to catch limerence when we meet someone we like. If I ever catch it again, I’m going to run like hell. It brought nothing but misery and sadness.”


Limerence taps into fundamental human desires for connection, validation, and love. It’s triggered by several different psychological, social, and possibly even biological factors. While the exact cause of limerence isn’t definitively known, there are several widely accepted theories and observations about why it happens.


Emotional Needs

Individuals with unmet emotional needs may be more susceptible to limerence. The intense connection felt towards the limerent object can be a subconscious attempt to fulfill these needs, providing a sense of validation, self-worth, or completeness that the individual feels is lacking in their lives.


Attachment Styles

Formed early in life based on relationships with caregivers, attachment styles can influence susceptibility to limerence. Those with insecure attachment styles (anxious or avoidant) may be more prone to experiencing limerence, as they often struggle with self- esteem and fear of rejection or abandonment.



Limerence often involves idealizing the object of one’s affections, focusing on their positive qualities while dismissing or overlooking negative ones. This idealization can stem from a deep desire for perfection in a partner – driven by personal insecurities, societal pressures, or cultural depictions of romance.


Novelty and Uncertainty

The early stages of a relationship or attraction are often filled with novelty and uncertainty, which can intensify emotions and lead to limerence. The brain’s reward systems are engaged by these feelings of uncertainty, creating a cycle of obsession and desire for reciprocation.

Biological Factors

There is some evidence to suggest that neurochemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin play a role in the experience of limerence. These chemicals are associated with pleasure, reward, and attachment, potentially exacerbating the obsessive and compulsive aspects of limerence.

Social and Environmental Factors

Situational and environmental factors, such as stress, isolation, or a lack of fulfilling relationships, can also trigger limerence. Individuals might turn to limerence as a form of escape from other areas of dissatisfaction in their lives.

Is Limerence Bad? Is it a Disorder?

When I was going through my limerence episodes, I still could relatively function in my day-to-day. I went to work, finished up tasks given to me, studied for exams, read books, went out with friends, yada-yada.

But what most people didn’t know and I didn’t quite realize is that my limerent object (LO) was always somewhere at the back of my mind. Although I wasn’t quite consciously thinking of him, intrusive images of him would pop up randomly in my mind. And I’d entertain them sometimes and go on this wave of fantasy.

I used to brush this off as simply something ‘normal’.

But it took me snapping out of my limerent reverie and turning over a new leaf – basically saying NO to limerent relationships – to realize how much of space my LO did take up, even if I relegated him to the back of my mind.

-Sonia Alonso, Limerence Takes Up an Incredible Amount of Mental Space That You Could Be Using on Fulfilling Your Life,

Limerence itself is not classified as a disorder in diagnostic manuals such as the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) or the ICD-11 (International Classification of Diseases, 11th Revision). It is a state of intense romantic infatuation that can lead to a range of emotions and behaviors, from euphoria to profound distress.

Whether limerence is considered “bad” depends on its impact on the individual’s life and wellbeing.

Potential Negative Aspects of Limerence

Limerence can be all-consuming. It can distract individuals from their responsibilities, goals, and other relationships. The intense focus on the object of affection and the rollercoaster of emotions can cause significant distress. If the feelings are not reciprocated, the individual may experience deep sadness, anxiety, or low self-esteem.

In severe cases, limerence can interfere with an individual’s daily functioning, affecting their work, social life, and overall mental health.

Even when limerence leads to a relationship, the initial intensity might not transition into a stable, long-term partnership. Idolizing the object of limerence can also lead to disappointment when the reality of the relationship does not match the fantasy.

Potential Positive Aspects of Limerence

Limerence is not inherently negative or a disorder. For some, it can be a phase of intense emotional exploration that, when navigated thoughtfully, can lead to personal growth and deeper self-understanding.

The intense emotions and energy of limerence can be a source of motivation and creativity for some, inspiring works of art, literature, and personal growth.

The desire for a deep connection can lead to meaningful relationships, whether or not the limerent feelings are reciprocated, fostering personal development and understanding of relational dynamics.

When Could Limerence Be Problematic?

Limerence might be considered problematic or akin to a disorder when it significantly impairs the individual’s ability to function in daily life, leads to distress that outweighs any positive aspects, or when the behaviors associated with limerence become compulsive or harmful to oneself or others.

How to Know if You Have Limerence

Recognizing limerence involves identifying specific feelings and behaviors that distinguish it from more typical crushes or romantic interests. If you’re trying to determine whether what you’re experiencing is limerence, consider the following common signs and characteristics:

8 Signs You Have Limerence

  • Intrusive Thoughts: Frequent, intense thoughts about the person of interest that seem difficult to control or diminish. These thoughts can occupy your mind to the point where it is challenging to focus on other aspects of your life.
  • Idealization: Viewing the person as perfect or near-perfect, focusing on their positive traits, and dismissing or overlooking any negatives. This idealization often goes beyond normal attraction or admiration.
  • Emotional Dependency: Your mood and emotional state are significantly influenced by interactions with or thoughts about the person. Small gestures or indications of interest from them can cause extreme euphoria, while signs of disinterest or rejection can lead to profound despair.
  • Fear of Rejection: An intense fear of the person not reciprocating your feelings, coupled with a strong desire for them to return your affection. This fear can lead to anxiety and stress, particularly in situations where interaction with the person is anticipated.
  • Fantasizing: Spending a lot of time fantasizing about a future with your limerent object, from everyday interactions to major life events, even if there has been little-to-no indication that the relationship will progress in this way.
  • Need for Reciprocation: Unlike a crush where one might hope for reciprocation but still enjoy the feeling of attraction, limerence carries a strong, almost compulsive need for the feelings to be mutual. The uncertainty of reciprocation is often a central, distressing theme.
  • Jealousy and Possessiveness: Experiencing intense jealousy or possessiveness, not necessarily due to any actual threat to the potential relationship, but as a result of the overwhelming desire to be the sole focus of the person’s affection.
  • Efforts to Maintain Connection: Making significant efforts to maintain or enhance proximity or emotional connection with the person, which can include changing one’s habits, appearance, or interests to become more appealing to them.

If you find that many of these signs resonate with your experience, you might be experiencing limerence.

It’s important to approach this realization with self-compassion and understanding. Limerence can be challenging, but it also offers opportunities for self-discovery and personal growth. Seeking the guidance of a mental health professional can be particularly helpful in navigating the complexities of limerence, especially if it’s affecting your wellbeing or day-to-day life.

How to Stop Limerence

Managing and eventually overcoming limerence involves a combination of self-reflection, behavioral changes, and possibly seeking support from professionals or supportive communities.


Acknowledge Your Feelings

Recognize and accept your feelings of limerence without judgment. Understanding that limerence is a common human experience can reduce feelings of shame or isolation.


Seek Understanding

Explore the underlying reasons for your limerence. Consider whether unmet emotional needs, insecurities, or patterns from past relationships might be contributing to these intense feelings.


Set Boundaries

Creating physical and emotional distance between you and the object of your limerence can help reduce the intensity of your feelings. This might involve limiting contact with them.


Focus on Self-Care

Spend time doing things that boost your sense of well-being and happiness outside of your limerent object. This can help shift your focus and energy.

Challenge Idealization

Actively work to challenge the idealization of the person by reminding yourself of their human qualities and flaws. Writing down or reflecting on aspects of them that don’t align with your ideal can help diminish the intensity of your feelings.

Develop Coping Strategies

Develop some coping strategies for dealing with moments of intense longing or emotional pain. Journaling, art, writing, mindfulness or meditation can all help.

Redirect Your Attention

Engage in new activities or rekindle interest in old hobbies. Learning something new or dedicating time to personal goals can help shift your focus and provide a sense of accomplishment and self-worth beyond your limerence.

Seek Support

Talking to friends, family, or a support group about what you’re going through can provide relief and valuable perspectives. Consider seeking professional help from a therapist who can offer strategies tailored to your experience and underlying issues.

Consider Professional Help

A mental health professional can offer guidance in exploring the roots of your limerence, developing coping mechanisms, and working on underlying issues that may contribute to limerent feelings, such as low self-esteem or attachment issues. A certain cognitive behavioral therapy approach has shown promise in treating limerence as well.

Practice Patience

Overcoming limerence often takes time. Patience is important as you work through these feelings. Progress may come gradually.

It’s important to remember that limerence diminishes when the emotional needs fueling it begin to be addressed in healthier ways. By focusing on personal growth, self-understanding, and emotional resilience, it’s possible to move beyond the intense grip of limerence.

  • Alonso, S. (2022, December 26). Limerence takes up an incredible amount of mental space – that you could be using on fulfilling your life. ABSTRACTED COLLECTIVE.
  • Fisher, Helen; Xu, Xiaomeng; Aron, Arthur; Brown, Lucy (9 May 2016). “Intense, Passionate, Romantic Love: A Natural Addiction? How the Fields That Investigate Romance and Substance Abuse Can Inform Each Other”. Frontiers in Psychology.
  • ‌Willmott, L., & Bentley, E. (2015). Exploring the Lived-Experience of Limerence: A Journey toward Authenticity. The Qualitative Report20(1).
  • ‌Wyant, B. E. (2021). Treatment of Limerence Using a Cognitive Behavioral Approach: A Case Study. Journal of Patient Experience8, 237437352110608.

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