OCD and Limerence

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Albert Wakin, a professor of psychology and expert on limerence, defines the term as a combination of obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction – a state of “compulsory longing for another person.” Professor Wakin estimates that five percent of the population struggle with limerence.

Limerence involves intrusive thinking about another person. It is often confused with love addiction but there is a fundamental difference. In love addiction, people want to replicate the feeling of falling in love again and again, while those experiencing limerence are focused on feelings for a specific individual.

Limerence is not the same as being in love. It is smothering and unsatisfying with little to no regard for the other person’s well being. In healthy relationships, neither partner is limerent; they do not struggle with constant, unwanted thoughts about their partner. A person experiencing limerence has feelings so intense that they rule every waking moment causing everything else to be left in the background. The person also tends to focus completely on the positive attributes of the “limerent object” and avoids thinking about any negative aspects.

Professor Wakin says, “It’s an addiction for another person. And we find that the obsessive-compulsive component of it is extremely compelling. The person is preoccupied with the limerent object (the subject of their obsession) as much as 95 percent of the time.”

When I began researching OCD and limerence I was interested in learning about their connection. I imagined it might be the opposite of relationship OCD (R-OCD). But now I’m not so sure. I certainly see the obsessive component to limerence and the compulsions could involve ruminating about the limerent object, but so much of it just doesn’t seem like OCD to me.

One question that I wasn’t able to find the answer to is, “Do those with limerence realize their obsession isn’t rational?” My guess is there is no simple answer. In this day and age, when young people in particular are influenced by television shows such as The Bachelor, it’s not hard to understand why so many of us are confused about what is rational and what isn’t when it comes to feelings, relationships, and love.

To confuse matters more, there appears to be no solid evidence that people with OCD (or substance addiction) are more likely to experience limerence. Professor Wakin and his colleagues hope to conduct and compare brain-imaging research on those with limerence, OCD, and addiction, to see how they might or might not be related. This research should be helpful, but in the meantime, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has shown some promise for those dealing with limerence.


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18 Responses to OCD and Limerence

  1. Okay, so this is something I’ve never heard of before. I have more questions. I’ll definitely need to educate myself about this!

  2. anxiouswriter says:

    Curious to know if this is similar to individuals with BPD having a “favorite person”…?

  3. Luanne says:

    I’ve never heard of this before, but it makes sense.

  4. aviets says:

    Thanks for introducing me to a new word and concept. I’ll keep that one tucked away…

  5. What is the CBT approach to working with someone who experiences limerence? How is this done? I think I know peers with this.

  6. Courtland says:

    Omg I need to be apart of this study! Lol. I have pure O OCD, have struggled with alcoholism in the past, and have experienced limerence most of my life (it started with Disney princesses haha). I’m also historically anxiously attached, but am more recently secure thanks to ACT and ERP and lots of emotional work. I still experience limerence but I know that it’s not rational. I’m so glad this subject is getting more exposure.

  7. hudapervez says:

    So I was researching this issue I seem to have where I get obsessed with people and and get these constant unwanted feelings and thoughts on them and came across the word ‘Limerance’ which seems to describe what I have. Is limerance a type of OCD?

    • I don’t believe it’s technically a type of OCD but they can be interwoven. My suggestion would be to speak to a professional who can help you sort out what is going on. Good luck, and thanks for sharing!

  8. Meredith says:

    I experience limerence and have been searching for what exactly I was experiencing and I’m so glad I finally found a term for it. I just read a research article by Wakin and have been googling for more but there is so little. To answer your question in your post…I absolutely know it isn’t rational thinking and this just adds to the frustration and shame associated. I want so badly to stop these intrusive, non-stop thoughts. In my experience I haven’t been focused on someone I’m sexually/physically attracted to or in love with. Rather, I have noticed a pattern in that my LO’s are always female and always older than me. I’m wondering if this stems from attachment with my mother and I am looking for ways to fill something that didn’t happen in childhood. I have been seeing a therapist for years (I have depression and GAD) but I’ve never brought up this type of involuntary addictive thinking. It’s embarrassing and I was always fearful for how I would be perceived. Now that I know there is a term I am thinking more about discussing it with my therapist. I use CBT for other negative thinking and cognitive distortions so I plan on looking more into CBT and limerence. I am also currently learning about ACT so I will see how that helps as well. I have also read and researched different attachment styles and know I have anxious attachment. I want to re-read the book Attached: The New Science on Adult Attachment. That book has helpful tips and exercises on how to lessen your anxious attachment and I find myself engaging in cycles of activation when thinking about my LO (I’m not sure if this makes sense). Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for posting this blog.

    • Hi Meredith, Thank you for sharing and it sounds as if you are taking a lot of good steps to get the right help. I’m glad you found this post helpful and hope to hear from you again!

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Meredith, I would really love to talk to you privately because I am going through the exact same thing as you. I am a female who has had limerence for older females for my entire life. It was only until this year that I figured out I have been experiencing limerence. I would love to talk further about this with you because I’ve never came across anyone else who was experiencing what I am. Thank you!!

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