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Office crushes are fun, but coworker limerence can be excruciating. Here’s what to do about it.

A man and woman hugging, with the woman smiling at the camera

Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images

  • Limerence is more random, confusing, and obsessive than a crush.
  • People on TikTok have been sharing their limerence experiences and solutions.
  • A therapist said people with ADHD and autism are more prone to experiencing limerence.

You brush past a new coworker who shoots you a quick smile. Later that day, you learn their name when they’re introduced in your meeting. In their icebreaker, you like how adorably nervous they are, how they briefly glance at your eyes when they stutter.

Months later, you finally admit to yourself that you have a work crush, even though you’ve only talked to them twice. You’ve combed through their social media, and even though they don’t share any of the same interests, you can’t stop fantasizing about them. You feel more passion for this virtual stranger than you did for your first high school partner — and wonder if this relentless obsession is actually love.

Chances are, if you look up your symptoms, you’ll find the word “limerence,” the subject of many viral TikToks, from Venn diagrams to tips on overcoming it.

“Limerence is where you have this very intense desire, infatuation, or obsession with a person that is usually uncontrollable,” @keylimelanna said in a TikTok defining the sensation.

On the surface, limerence can look similar to having a huge crush on someone or being in the honeymoon phase of a relationship. But Dr. Louise Taylor, an Ireland-based therapist, told Business Insider that limerence “is a lot more intrusive and can be more harmful.”

@keylimelanna Replying to @lanna 🌻 physical symptoms to help anyone who struggles with alexithymia identify limerence better #autism #limerance #neurospicy #actuallyautistic #autisticwomen #audhd #autisticadult #neurodivergent ♬ original sound – lanna 🌻

While anyone can feel limerence, Taylor, who specializes in treating neurodivergent clients, told Business Insider that people with traits of ADHD and autism (or AuDHD, a combination of both disorders) are more prone to experiencing limerence. Some researchers believe that both ADHD and autism are linked to the dysregulation of dopamine, the neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and motivation. As a result, developing romantic feelings for someone can feel unpleasantly intense.

Taylor shared how the key differences between limerence and love — even if, on the surface, they might look identical.

Limerence is more obsessive than a regular crush

Crushes, even if ultimately unrequited, are usually at least somewhat fun, Taylor said. The person with the crush can enjoy their fantasies or learn more about themselves and who they like.

But limerence can be “confusing because it becomes almost obsessive, like an object of desire,” Taylor said.

Rather than considering “how realistic the relationship is or what you think of the person,” you feel consumed by every interaction with them, letting each one impact your sense of self-worth if you also have an insecure attachment style.

It’s a loss of control that can feel primarily agonizing and disruptive, rather than exciting.

It usually hits at the worst time

The cruel irony of desire is that you’re more likely to develop a more obsessive infatuation when you’re going through something difficult, Taylor said. Coworker limerence, for example, can act as an intense distraction from other issues at work (or outside of it).

“A lot of the people I work with are highly sensitive to that pain,” she said. “So they’ll not want to feel that deep grief.” If they get destabilized, “sometimes these maladaptive processes come in,” Taylor said. Limerence creates an escape in the form of another person.

That desire for stability may cause you to overlook huge red flags or incompatibilities. “If there’s a very anxious desire to connect, you may see the best in everything the person does,” Taylor said.

Limerence keeps you stuck

Patterns of limerence can keep you from finding stability and happiness, whether you’re single or in a relationship, Taylor said.

“Compulsively thinking about somebody to a distressing level is not healthy,” she said. She teaches her clients to better regulate their emotions, find alternative interests, and learn how to maintain sustainable, healthy relationships.

“Being in love made me realize I’ve only ever felt limerence,” reads the caption of one TikTok.

Ironically, recognizing that you might have a problem with limerence might be the first step to truly falling in love.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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