Limerence involves an obsessive infatuation with a specific person. This individual’s feelings toward the person with limerence are typically unclear. This can cause the individual with limerence to obsess over how that person feels.

When someone experiences limerence, the person who becomes the subject of their obsession is known as the limerent object (LO). The LO may have no romantic involvement with the individual who experiences limerence.

This article discusses what limerence is in more detail, including who it may affect, its symptoms, and how doctors may treat it.

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Limerence occurs when a person develops an obsessive attachment to someone. It may feel like a very intense form of being in love that may also feel irrational, intrusive, and involuntary. Dr. Dorothy Tennov, a psychologist, first described it in 1979.

A person with limerence may find themselves thinking constantly about their LO, which may feel overwhelming.

They may repeatedly go over encounters with the LO, searching for indications of how the LO may feel about them. Limerence may feel like a “deeper” connection than simply romantic.

An individual experiencing limerence may feel euphoria when their LO interacts with them positively. Additionally, they may feel despair if they have a negative or perceived negative interaction with the LO.

In general, the LO is unable to reciprocate the feelings of the person with limerence. A case study from 2021 states that the uncertainty about the LO’s feelings differentiates limerence from the early stages of a mutual romantic relationship.

The more unclear the LO’s feelings are, the more intense the thoughts of someone with limerence may be about them. A person who experiences limerence may obsess about their LO so much that it affects their productivity and daily functioning.

An individual may have several limerent episodes in their life and several LOs.

Limerence is separate from erotomania, which is a rare form of paranoid delusion where someone believes another individual is in love with them despite clear evidence that this is not the case.

Currently, more research into limerence is necessary, and so the amount of people it affects is unclear.

Limerence can affect people of all genders and ages. A person may develop limerent feelings toward someone who is a gender they are not usually attracted to. They may feel drawn to this individual on a level that transcends any attraction they have experienced previously.

A 2015 study stated that limerence may have an association with attachment disorders, which are behavioral conditions that cause a person to experience difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships.

Researchers also note that insecure attachment styles may affect people with limerence. An attachment style is the pattern of behavior an individual exhibits when interacting with individuals they have close relationships to.

This is generally a caregiver in childhood and a romantic partner in adulthood.

This includes four different attachment styles:

  • Secure: If a person has a secure attachment style, their primary caregiver will likely have provided them with comfort, support, and protection during childhood. An adult with a secure attachment style may be content being single or in a relationship.
  • Anxious: If an individual has an anxious attachment style, they may have had a caregiver whose actions were hard to predict. Their caregiver may have been available and supportive sometimes, and unavailable at other times. Anxious attachment style can cause an adult to fear rejection, appear “clingy” to others, and have difficulty being alone.
  • Avoidant: An avoidant attachment style can occur if someone experiences neglect or rejection as a child. Their caregiver may have been constantly unavailable or unkind. An adult with an avoidant attachment style may be comfortable alone, but not in relationships. They may also have difficulty sharing how they feel and may seem distant or uninterested in others.
  • Disorganized: If someone has a disorganized attachment style, which healthcare professionals may also call fearful avoidant attachment style, they may have experienced abuse or negative treatment by their caregiver. This attachment style can cause an adult to find it hard to trust other people. They may also have difficulty feeling close to others and communicating effectively.

People may also refer to anxious, avoidant, and disorganized attachment styles as insecure attachment styles.

If a person with limerence has an insecure attachment style, they may believe their LO can provide them with the attachment caregivers denied them as children. They may idolize their LO and be unable to see their flaws.

Additionally, 2021 research suggests that limerence also has an association with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and substance use disorder (SUD). However, it is its own separate phenomenon.

Limerence may cause an individual to experience a variety of symptoms. These may include:

  • euphoria, ecstasy, and reassurance following a positive encounter with their LO
  • constantly going over real and imagined interactions with their LO
  • withdrawal symptoms when they are away from their LO, such as:
  • anxiety, which may involve physical symptoms such as a rapid heart rate and nausea
  • a constant need for interaction with their LO to relieve anxiety
  • a desire to be physically and emotionally close to their LO

A person with limerence may obsessively read over messages from their LO, or look at photos of them on social media. They may experience joy when passing by their LO’s house or a particular restaurant their LO likes.

An individual may not desire an actual relationship with their LO. The uncertainty of the LO’s feelings toward them may fuel the obsessions of someone who experiences limerence.

There is limited scientific research about limerence. This means that there are no diagnostic criteria available for a doctor to diagnose someone with limerence or any standard treatments for the phenomenon.

However, a 2021 case study notes that a person who had limerence experienced a reduction in symptoms 9 months after having exposure response prevention (ERP).

Healthcare professionals typically recommend this treatment for people who have OCD.

ERP involves a doctor exposing someone to a stimulus that makes them fearful or anxious. The individual then tries not to engage in compulsive activities that reduce their anxiety.

If an individual has limerence, the doctor may ask them to imagine being apart from or rejected by their LO.

Limerence involves an obsessive involuntary attachment to another person.

Someone with limerence may constantly obsess about their LO and whether they reciprocate their feelings. This may feel overwhelming and affect an individual’s productivity and daily functioning.

There is limited scientific information about limerence. Some researchers believe that it may be related to insecure attachment styles. Others propose it may have similarities to OCD and SUD.

Limerence is not the same as erotomania, which is a form of paranoid delusion.

A person should speak with their doctor if they think they are experiencing limerence and it is interfering with their daily life.