Infatuation can often be mistaken for love. It’s always been said that love can make you do crazy things, but what if infatuation is truly to blame?
Science nerds understand infatuation as a term that describes the way your brain chemistry is altered when you’re strongly attracted to someone. Some people call it a crush, some call it obsession, and some call it love.
If you’re not careful with managing your emotions, infatuation can make you do insane, impulsive things that can negatively affect your overall livelihood. Infatuation interacts with many of the same brain chemicals that control mood and behavior, and can make you feel euphoric and distracted to the point you may neglect other areas of your life just so you can get closer to that special someone.
But if you ARE careful with managing your emotions and staying in check, infatuation can be a lovely, beautiful thing that grows into real love. After all, infatuation is a prerequisite to every great love story, and can be a wonderful way to begin your life with someone you may truly end up falling in real love with.
Exploring the complex neuroscience of infatuation
Infatuation triggers a chemical reaction in your brain similar to that triggered by addictive drugs like heroin and methamphetamine. It can make you feel crazy, anxious, and exhilarated to the point you can’t sleep, you can’t eat, and you can’t stay focused. Sometimes, infatuation literally leaves you breathless.
Infatuation upsets your brain’s production of neurotransmitters cortisol, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin — all of which play roles in mood regulation and emotional well-being.
When you’re experiencing infatuation, your body produces higher amounts of stress hormone cortisol, and lower amounts of serotonin, which is responsible for regulating mood. As a result, you may experience obsessive-compulsive-like behaviors such as thinking about your crush 24/7 or creeping their social media accounts several times per day. This cortisol-serotonin upset is also responsible for feelings of nervousness, excitement, and high energy levels when interacting with your crush.
Infatuation causes your brain to produce more dopamine — the chemical responsible for pleasure and reward, arousal and desire, and addiction. Increased dopamine levels are the reason you feel euphoric whenever you’re around your crush. Higher dopamine levels also spur the production of norepinephrine, an adrenaline hormone that causes insomnia, cravings, and loss of appetite.
While infatuation can be fun, exciting, and exhilarating, this feeling is also short-lived. If you’re lucky enough to spend more time getting to know your crush, your brain chemistry will eventually re-balance, and the hormones involved with infatuation become stabilized. At this point, you may either realize you’ve made a major mistake where your love life is concerned, or that you’re ready to forge ahead with entering a genuine, lasting union with this person.
Understanding the difference between love and infatuation
Before making any drastic life decisions in an effort to get closer to your crush, take time to evaluate whether you’re experiencing love or infatuation.
Love develops gradually over time, is more than just physical attraction, and involves accepting the whole person just as they are, flaws and all. Love is selfless, unconditional, and allows you to be your true self in your relationship. Unconditional love means you love the person no matter what; there’s no such thing as “falling out of love” when you love someone unconditionally.
Infatuation, on the other hand, is selfish, short-lived, emotionally draining, and more about being in love with the idea of being in love with this person. Infatuation is when you only see perfection, and are blind to a person’s weaknesses and negative attributes. You cannot be in love with someone without fully acknowledging and understanding their faults, and without accepting them for who they are despite those faults.
When you’re falling in real, genuine love with someone, your brain produces love hormones oxytocin and vasopressin. It’s these chemicals that are responsible for strengthening the bond between you and your partner, and driving the desire to achieve a long-term commitment. Your body will start producing these love hormones after you’ve invested time in truly getting to know someone.
Healthy ways to manage infatuation
Infatuation can be a fun, wild ride, and harmless as long as you know how to manage your feelings. Here are tips that can help you prevent infatuation from taking over your life.
- Acknowledge that feelings of infatuation are hormone-driven, and that real love develops over time.
- Avoid rushing into serious romantic relationships or commitments until you’ve taken the time to get to know the whole person, flaws and all.
- Allow yourself to enjoy the feelings associated with infatuation without allowing them to consume you and negatively impact your life.
- Maintain your current lifestyle and daily activities without allowing infatuation to prevent you from meeting your goals.
- Take good care of yourself during the infatuation phase with regular exercise, good nutrition, and plenty of sleep. Your health and overall well-being should be your top priority — not the object of your affection. If things are truly meant to be, you may soon be spending plenty more time with your crush!
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