What it Means to be Love Sick and What You Can Do to ‘Cure’ It…
Love can feel pretty wonderful — when all goes well and there’s no reason to be love sick.
If your romance follows a rockier path, you might notice your inner compass needle swinging more toward abject misery than euphoric joy.
Maybe you haven’t yet found the courage to confess your love, or you have summoned the strength to share your feelings, only to face rejection.
Perhaps you’ve fallen for a person you know you can’t be with, like your boss or a friend’s partner, or someone you just know will never return your feelings.
An unexpected and unwanted breakup can also give rise to emotional turmoil and physical distress.
Any of these situations can leave you feeling somewhat unwell in mind and body. For example:
- You can’t eat or sleep.
- Your emotions show up way more intensely than usual.
- You just can’t concentrate on anything except the person you love, even if they don’t return your feelings or (worse yet) have absolutely no idea how you feel.
Sound familiar? Here’s a possible diagnosis: Lovesickness. It simply means you’re love sick.
Below, you’ll find more details on exactly what it means to be lovesick and what you can do to recover.
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What does ‘lovesick’ actually mean? How can a person be love sick?
People use the term lovesick in different ways. You might hear it used to describe the range of feelings that accompany the early stages of being in love, such as:
- irrational or impulsive urges
These effects of love usually go by another name, though — we’ll get into that in more detail below.
Lovesickness or to be love sick generally refers to the more unpleasant aspects of love.
When a person is love sick, such person experience all those unwanted feelings you might experience when your passion doesn’t play out as planned, without the enjoyable effects of a mutual attachment.
It’s natural to feel sad and disappointed when you like someone who doesn’t feel the same way. The pain and frustration of heartbreak or unrequited love affects everyone differently, but the sting often lessens within a few weeks or months.
Not everyone coping with rejection will become lovesick, but you can often recognize the condition by its more intense symptoms.
The effects of lovesickness might stick around until they begin to affect your day-to-day life, and these symptoms can have a very real impact on your health and wellness.
And then there’s limerence
Some people also use the term lovesickness to refer to a phenomenon known as limerence. Is limerence the same as being love sick?
Limerence though similar to lovesickness is not a state of being love sick. Psychologist and professor Dorothy Tennov pioneered the research on this condition, introducing the term in her book “Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love.”
Tennov defines limerence as an involuntary fixation on another person. This fixation can feel a lot like love, but it has more of an obsessive component.
In a state of limerence, you desperately long for the other person to return your feelings and feel terrified they’ll reject you. Your mood often depends on how they treat you.
If they smile or speak to you, you might feel on top of the world. If they ignore you or seem indifferent, you might feel distressed or physically pained.
Other key symptoms of limerence include:
#1. intrusive or obsessive thoughts
#2. shyness around the person
#3. a tendency to focus only on their positive traits
#4. physical symptoms like sweating, dizziness, a pounding heart, insomnia, and appetite changes
Where did this idea originate?
The state of being love sick (also known as Lovesickness) is nothing new. This malady dates back to some of the earliest writings, in fact, though it sometimes went by different names.
You’ll find descriptions of the condition in ancient medical texts and classical literature, from Greek philosophy to Shakespeare to Jane Austen.
Research traces the concept of lovesickness to Hippocrates, who believed that being love sick, like other illnesses, resulted from an excess or imbalance of certain bodily humors.
Galen, another notable ancient physician, was one of the first to diagnose lovesickness and other conditions where physical symptoms resulted from emotional causes.
How does lovesickness feel?
From culture to culture and era to era, the general symptoms of lovesickness remain much the same.
If you’re lovesick, you’ll probably notice some of the following signs:
- loss of appetite
- flushed or feverish skin
- racing pulse, pounding heart, or unusually rapid breathing when thinking about the person
- dizziness, shakiness, or weak knees when encountering them
- pain or tension in your head or chest
- nausea or stomach distress
- increased tearfulness, or the sense you’re constantly on the verge of tears
- You might also notice mood changes brought on by thoughts of the person you love.
Your emotions might range from a general sense of longing to frustration, anger, nervousness, and anxiety, and sometimes even hopelessness and despair.
Can you actually become ill?
Languishing over lost love can leave you feeling pretty rotten, to the point where you might begin to wonder whether you’re coming down with some type of flu.
Running a fever, which can sometimes happen with lovesickness, might only reinforce your concerns.
Love can’t give you the flu. But the hormone fluctuations associated with love and heartbreak — particularly the stress hormone cortisol — can prompt physical symptoms that affect your long-term health.
Lovesickness can also make you sick indirectly. A lack of sleep, good nutrition, or adequate hydration can absolutely worsen your health.
What’s more, changes in mood, such as irritability or a general sense of melancholy, can begin to affect your relationships with others or your performance at work and school.
Difficulties in these areas of life can eventually increase stress and affect your health, especially if your thoughts of love get in the way of regular self-care.
10+ signs that you’re love sick
The signs that you’re love sick include:
- love-struck bug
- love addiction
- Post-Breakup Heartbreak
- Broken Heart Syndrome
- post-sex blues
- infectious depression
- love-Hate Hypertension
- lack of concentration
#1. love-struck bug
You have no appetite, and you haven’t slept in days. You can’t concentrate at work, and you feel lightheaded and dizzy. Could it be a stomach bug? The flu? Nope — you are in love, my friend.
But those butterflies you’re feeling aren’t unfound. It is a clear sign that you’re love sick.
#2. Limerence: An Addiction to Love (love addiction)
For some people, lovesickness goes beyond butterflies. It may also induce physical effects, such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, stomach pain, loss of sleep, and depression, all which may persist and prevent you from functioning normally. Also known as limerence, this condition is marked by extreme attraction to another, as well as an obsessive need to have feelings returned. When one has limerence, it is a clear symptom that one is love sick.
#3. Post-Breakup Heartbreak
Anyone who’s been through a bad split can attest that breakups may take a powerful toll on health; One recent study in the journal Psychology showed that 58 percent of participants experienced serious breakup aftereffects, such as depression, insomnia, and distressing thoughts about the lost love.
It takes most people 6 to 24 months to get over the emotional heartbreak of a failed relationship — but if you’re having trouble functioning in your daily life, seek help to overcome lovesickness.
#4. Broken Heart Syndrome
Imagine this scenario: An elderly man passes away suddenly, and then a few days later his brokenhearted wife of 60 years has chest pain.
Known in the medical community as stress-induced cardiomyopathy, broken heart syndrome mimics symptoms of a heart attack, including shortness of breath, chest pain, heart failure, and a feeling of impending doom.
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which looked at 19 women without existing heart disease, the overwhelming stress of heartbreak can cause the body to release hormones that may be responsible for this palpable reaction.
#5. The Post-Sex Blues
Feeling “so-so” after a not-so-great sexual encounter is one thing — but according to a recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Health, one in three women has experienced feelings of sadness and depression right after a romp in the hay (even when that sex was satisfying).
Normally, sex produces feelings of happiness and elation. But for reasons that researchers have not yet pinpointed, some women experience just the opposite — a state called postcoital dysphoria. Also known as post-sex depression, the condition is marked by feelings of sadness, anxiety, regret, and irritability. This is one of the many symptoms of lovesickness.
#6. infectious depression
You know you can catch a cold from your partner, but did you realize you can also catch his depression? Though states of mind are not technically contagious, research shows that someone with a blue mood can negatively impact the spirits of those around him.
In fact, “folie à deux, which is French for ‘a madness shared by two,’ is a classic disorder in which two people in a relationship begin to mirror each other’s expressions and moods,”
Some unhealthy relationships may lead to this form of lovesickness. It is quite not uncommon to see partners who are in a relationship and yet, still love sick.
#7. Love-Hate Hypertension
You love him; you love him not? Beware of your blood pressure level.
A Brigham Young University study published in the journal Health Psychology revealed that being around people you have mixed feelings about can actually be worse for your physical and emotional health than being around people you flat out dislike.
Researchers evaluated 100 people after different social interactions and hypothesized that the unpredictability of being around people you have both positive and negative feelings about can stress you out, affecting your blood pressure as well as your anxiety levels.
Having love-hate hypertension is a sign that you’re love sick.
#8. obsession is a sign that you’re love sick
Serious cases of lovesickness can get intense. You might have trouble talking about anything besides the person you love and the relationship you want to develop.
#9. lack of concentration
Lovesickness can make it hard to concentrate and distract you from your responsibilities. You might forget important appointments, chores, errands, or plans with friends.
It’s also common to feel anxious about the outcome of your love.
Lovesickness can also involve difficulty getting over someone after they reject you.
Whether that’s an ex-partner who ended your relationship or someone you fell for who didn’t return your love, trouble moving on from the heartbreak could prompt feelings of melancholy or depression. Some people even have thoughts of suicide.
For those in the throes of limerence, persistent intrusive thoughts can fuel anxiety and rumination.
Some people attempt to resolve these thoughts with avoidance strategies or compulsive behaviors. These might seem to offer some temporary relief, but they generally won’t help long term.
Is being love sick the same thing as being lovestruck?
“Lovestruck” and “love sick” aren’t entirely unrelated concepts, but they do refer to separate states.
Falling in love prompts your brain to ramp up production of certain hormones, including dopamine, oxytocin, and norepinephrine.
So you’ll probably experience some level of surging emotions and temporary changes in mood and behavior as a natural consequence of falling head over heels.
When this happens, people might say you’re lovestruck or struck by Cupid’s arrow. (Cher and Nicolas Cage offer another name for this state of mind: “Moonstruck.”)
Lovesickness, on the other hand, tends to follow heartbreak, rejection, or unrequited love, so it carries more of a negative connotation. It might also involve mental health symptoms, including anxiety and depression.
Not everyone who falls in love will experience lovesickness, even after rejection, but some degree of lovestruck-ness is pretty universal — everyone has hormones, after all.
What about ‘the honeymoon phase’ in a relationship?
The early stages of a relationship usually involve some degree of infatuation. For example:
- You think about your partner nonstop and feel euphoric when you’re together.
- They seem like the most amazing person in the world — you even find their quirks endearing.
- When you have to take a break from each other to attend to the responsibilities of daily life, you think about them so intently you have very little brain space left for what you’re supposed to be doing.
- You might notice some forgetfulness, increased energy, and less of a need for sleep or food.
- Friends and loved ones might say you seem distracted or beg you to stop talking about them for “just 10 minutes, please.”
This fixation can show up in physical ways, too.
You might notice signs of arousal as soon as you see them or, let’s be honest, whenever you think about them or remember your last encounter. When together, you might find it impossible to keep your hands off each other (or make it out of bed).
All of these things usually feel pretty good, and most people enjoy being in the honeymoon phase.
This stage can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, but it usually passes once the relationship stabilizes and things become a little less rosy and a little more realistic.
What’s the point of all this?
If you think lovesickness sounds pretty awful, you might wonder whether pursuing love is really worth it.
Finding real, sustainable love can take time and effort, but romance isn’t all rejection and misery.
Each time you develop a crush or more intense liking for someone and follow up on those feelings by confessing your love, you’re making an attempt to find the romantic connection you desire.
You may not find this love without running the risk of potential rejection. For many people, the eventual outcome of lasting love is worth the risk of potential rejection or lovesickness.
Even if your crush doesn’t pan out, it may not necessarily feel bad. People who love the butterflies, energy boost, and euphoria that accompany their crushes might feel pretty fantastic in the thick of a crush.
Crushes can also teach you more about what you want (and don’t want) in a romantic partner. They can also lead to new friends.
Sometimes, the romance flops, but you find yourself connecting with your ex-crush in a completely platonic — but still rewarding — way.
How can I ‘cure’ my lovesickness?
In spite of lovesickness’ lengthy history, experts have yet to discover any real cure. Absent a vaccine or other quick fix, you’re left in the healing hands of time itself.
Lovesickness generally does ease eventually, much like the common cold. Here’s what you can do in the meantime to get some relief.
#1. Embrace your creativity
Turn your feelings into something tangible by getting in touch with your creative side.
Art, journaling, poetry or short-story writing, and making music are all great ways to experience and express difficult emotions.
#2. Listen to music
Cheery, energizing music might lift your spirits, but if you’d rather treat your senses to a favorite heartbreak playlist, go for it. ResearchTrusted Source suggests listening to sad music could also have a positive impact on your mood.
#3. Set boundaries for yourself and stick to them
Giving yourself time to heal involves creating some space. In other words, you’ll want to avoid texting, calling, and checking up on them — in person or on social media.
It’s also wise to wait on friendship until you’re feeling better.
#4. Take care of your needs
You might not feel much like eating but try to plan balanced meals and snacks to help maintain good health.
Going to bed at the same time every night can make it easier to get the sleep you need.
Meditation and sunshine are other simple, low-cost methods to help boost a low mood.
#5. Try positive distractions
Exercise, favorite hobbies, and time with friends can all help distract you from feelings of lovesickness and help improve your outlook.
A good book or favorite movie can also help you cope when you want to stay in and process your emotions alone.
What do I do if my “love sick” symptoms don’t go away?
We won’t lie. Heartbreak can take weeks, even months, to heal. This length of time varies from person to person, so there’s really no way to predict how long lovesickness will last.
If unwanted physical or emotional symptoms linger for more than a week or two, professional support can help.
Therapists are trained to help people navigate all the messy aspects of love, so your therapist won’t laugh at you or tell you it’s all in your head.
- help you explore any patterns or underlying factors that might contribute to or complicate your symptoms
- teach you coping skills to manage the most distressing moments
- offer support with building skills for healthy, fulfilling relationships
- help you address any mental health symptoms that accompany heartbreak
If you experience obsessive or intrusive thoughts, compulsions, or thoughts of suicide along with lovesickness, it’s best to seek support right away.
What’s the bottom line?
If you’re feeling a little lovesick lately, take heart. It won’t last forever.
To heal more quickly, treat yourself to some rest and relaxation, draw emotional support from friends, and remember to take care of your basic needs.