Love

The Scientific Reason You Can’t Stop Thinking About Someone

Photo: Olena Yakobchuk / shutterstock.com
couple cuddles on a balcony in a city

It can happen to just about anyone who has ever felt infatuated with another person. You feel as if you are floating on air, like a skier learning to do new tricks. You're unsure of which way is up or down.

It can be exhilarating. Terrifying. Mind-bending, confusing, transformative. It can last for months or years.

If this happens to you, you might be stuck in a state of limerence — a term coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov in the 1970s to describe a particular all-consuming and obsessive state of being in love.

Some have called it a crush, or intense infatuation. But it's more than that.

Limerence can quietly, and then not so quietly, unseat you at your heart, your soul.

The physiological factors behind limerence

Keep this in mind: It's not all in your head, because there are physiological factors at play. 

Let’s take a look into the science behind what’s causing your brain to focus all your attention on this one person over all others — and what it takes to break that seemingly unbreakable connection.

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A potent neurotransmitter cocktail 

Your brain’s personal and unique love map has been storing all the big and little things you find attractive, familiar, and even unattainable in another since you were very young.

Your conscious and unconscious mind picks up on certain cues (verbal, nonverbal, sensory ie. visual, smell) you find attractive from your "LO" (limerence object or love object).

High levels of dopamine and norepinephrine are released, giving you that intense feel-good rush, attraction, and the hyper-focused drive and motivation to attain reciprocated feelings from the object of your affection. You can feel giddy, energized, excited, even weak at the knees, and too shy to speak in the presence of your beloved. Wondering why you can’t sleep or eat? These hormones can often suppress sleep and appetite.

Estrogen and testosterone kick up a notch and desire can feel off the charts. Your libido is supercharged and you’ve never felt so passionate or alive!

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The opposite of commitment

Levels of oxytocin and vasopressin drop as dopamine, and norepinephrine skyrocket. This can explain some of the anxiety and instability that can be felt during limerence.

Oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) and Vasopressin are linked to feelings of commitment, connection, and attachment. Oxytocin lowers blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol.

Without these hormones in steady supply, it’s like getting on an emotional roller coaster without any safety belt. Feeling intense feelings of overwhelming love without commitment, confirmation or reciprocation can feel exciting to some and torture to most.

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Maybe you’re reading this because you’re curious or perhaps you’re looking for a cure.

I can say with all certainty that peace and transformation can be found on the other side of this experience.

Yes, there can be extremely difficult days.

There may be dark nights of the soul. You may be changed by limerence, but you also have the unique opportunity to grow and evolve in unexpected ways.

RELATED: The Only 3 Ways To Know You Really Love Someone

Stephanie Lazzara is an ICF-certified holistic life and relationship coach. She helps her clients move through grief, loss, and heartbreak. More info about Stephanie is available on her website.

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This article was originally published at StephLazzara.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.