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How to Overcome Limerence: The Psychology of Obsessive Love

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As a neuroscientist, I am fascinated by mental health, consciousness and perception, as well as the psychology behind human relationships.

We're All Wired Differently

As a neuroscientist, I have come to understand that romance only strikes a small percentage of the population in a wildly euphoric and anguishing way. Limerence can be considered pathological and 'love gone wrong', since it greatly perturbs the life of the limerent individual. Typically, they will involuntarily alternate between an extremely elevated, hypomanic mood and heavy depression (Fisher et al., 2016), depending on the perceived level of attention received from their love interest (limerent object/LO). Read more about the psychological symptoms of limerence here.

As with all biological phenomenon, there is a clear biological basis underpinning the tendency to experience such insurmountable feelings in response to love. Limerence involves a certain disposition, or collection of traits; after all, not everyone is affected by romance in this way. All sufferers are prone to obsession; the low serotonin levels observed in states of romantic longing are also seen in OCD, and allow for rumination and thought-loops (Marazziti et al., 1999). The tendency to enter manic states is also a prerequisite to limerence, so bipolar disorder is naturally also often a comorbidity (García, 2017).

There Is No Biological 'Free Lunch'

Limerence is a behavioral addiction, and all addictions epitomize the concept of duality in that the initial high does not come for free or last long. The reinforcing buzz that you receive from your LO's attention eventually lessens in intensity, until withdrawal symptoms prevail and you require a 'fix' to simply function and feel normal (Chassin et al., 2007). Ironically, this need not even be a real-life conversation with your LO, as reminiscing, viewing their photos or mentioning them to friends can give you a similar hit. It is important to rise above the delusion that you have met your 'twin flame' by reminding yourself of this.

My first 'limerent episode' crushed me into tiny pieces, forced me to adopt an entirely new attitude regarding pair-bonding and taught me that a good life is lived only when you discipline the beast that is your mind. Through this article, I hope to show you that despite limerence shaking you to the core, you are not alone in the ineffable intensity of your feelings. If you are open to adopting an analytical perspective and to resisting destructive highs, you can and will avoid future episodes.

The order of this article is as follows:

1. The three stages of limerence (glimmer, initial euphoria, addiction).

2. An overview of the types of people who commonly trigger limerence.

3. An in-depth analysis of the two prerequisites to limerence:

  • A LO who glimmers to you and makes you feel secure/'high', by meeting unmet needs or reviving hidden traits of yours (a.k.a. your trigger 'archetype').
  • Confusing behavior from your LO that sustains addiction.

4. Introduction to Carl Gustav Jung, and his role in showing us that we can handle this pain (by considering it a mere psychic dilemma).

5. The one trick that makes you resistant to limerence!

An uncomfortable life truth is that stable, emotionally-available partners do not make us euphoric.

An uncomfortable life truth is that stable, emotionally-available partners do not make us euphoric.

1. The Glimmer (She's Different)

A common phenomenon amongst limerents is to experience an initial 'glimmer' when meeting a new LO. It seems that early environmental influences and unhealed wounds result in us subconsciously curating a 'dream archetype', with regards to the individuals that trigger limerence in us.

Physical attraction is heavily implicated in infatuation, but true limerence only brews when you feel that you have an uncanny emotional connection with your LO. You feel that they offer you freedom and excitement that you cannot obtain elsewhere, to the extent that you need them like a stimulant addict needs a substance.

Looking back, I can see that I, like most limerents, was hooked from that first spark of recognition. Establishing and continuing with the addiction, however, is always a choice.

Many of us naturally gravitate towards non-compliant 'bad boys/girls'. The trick is to realize they are only appealing because they present us with unpredictability and emotional intensity that our life lacks.

Many of us naturally gravitate towards non-compliant 'bad boys/girls'. The trick is to realize they are only appealing because they present us with unpredictability and emotional intensity that our life lacks.

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