Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Exploring the Lived-Experience of Limerence: A Journey toward Authenticity

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Exploring the Lived-Experience of Limerence: A Journey toward Authenticity

Article excerpt


Limerence is an unexpected, overwhelming and debilitating experience that relates to the feeling of 'being in love' but in an intense form which is often, though not always, unreciprocated usually resulting in negative outcomes. The condition has been implicated as a major cause of relationship and family breakdown, as well as being related to anti-social behaviours, including stalking and self-harm (Tennov, 2005). The term was originally described by Tennov (1979), who noted that a Limerent individual becomes obsessed with securing emotional reciprocation, uses imagined reciprocation as temporary relief and has an intense fear of rejection from the focus of their attention (the Limerent Object/LO).

In Limerence the role of physiological states of excitement and fear, co-mingle with expressions of paranoia wherein attempts to hide interest in the increasingly idealised LO, are mixed with attempts at interpreting potential signs of desired emotional reciprocation (Tennov, 1979). These physiological states likely involve limbic brain activity, which are associated with the processing of "fright and flight" emotions as well as involuntary bodily functions required for survival (Tennov, 2005), yet also being impacted by the effects of neurochemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin noted for their role in bonding and positive affect (Fisher, 2004). This underlying physiological component to Limerence, may explain the ubiquity of the phenomenon across demographics and why it "defies control" (Tennov, 1979, p. 256) and can "[re-order] the motivational hierarchy, with consequent disruption or neglect of other interests, relationships, and responsibilities" (Tennov, 2005, p. 10).

Numerous conditions have been associated with Limerence including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD; Wakin & Vo, 2008) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Willmott & Bentley, 2012), both involving excessive rumination (Curci, Lanciano, Soleti, & Rime, 2013; Horowitz, 1986). Consistently, aspects of anxiety and depression, as well as addiction (Sack, 2012; Wakin & Vo, 2008; Willmott & Bentley, 2012) are noted in Limerent individuals. However, the extent and the relative expression of Limerence symptomology related to these conditions have not been assessed, with limited commentary on the subject warning of the potential error of oversimplification. For example, Wakin and Vo (2008) suggest that "defining Limerence as Obsession Compulsive Disorder or as Addictive OCD would be a failure to consider the nature of the interpersonal nuances between L [limerent Experiencer] and LO and how they compound to complicate the overall process of Limerence" (p. 7).

Limerence may also be associated with attachment disorders, as recognised by Sperling (1985) in his description of Desperate Love (akin to Limerence), with the potential role of early caregiver attachments highlighted regarding some positive, but mostly negative experiences (Willmott & Bentley, 2012). Thus the possibility is raised that insensitive (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978), or all but secure past infant-caregiver attachments (Ainsworth, 1967, 1973; Bowlby, 1980), may be highly represented amongst Limerents. Notably, Separation Anxiety Disorder (5th ed.; DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) could now be a useful concept for Limerence, since both share characteristics of recurrent excessive distress when anticipated or experienced separation regarding a major attachment figure occurs, which causes impairment to functioning. Indeed, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders now gives distinction to Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder (5th ed.; DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) as a parallel to Childhood Separation Anxiety Disorder (4 th ed.; DSM IV TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000), with the former occurring post 18 years of age for first onset.

Along with potential co-morbidities, it has been recognised that Limerent episodes are quick in onset and tend to range from 1-7 years on average, with rejection, consummation (i. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.