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OCD and Obsessive Thoughts About Another Person

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 obsessive-compulsive disorder 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, Professor Wakin confirms that there is currently no solid evidence that people with OCD (or substance addiction) are more likely to experience limerence. He 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. It is already known that during brain imaging, the brain lights up in a particular pattern for OCD, and in another pattern for people with addictions. Wakin believes that those with limerence will show their own unique pattern during brain imaging that will make it worthy of its own diagnosis.

Hopefully this research will be funded soon, as it has the potential to be helpful in understanding and treating limerence. In the meantime, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has shown some promise for those who are dealing with it.

OCD and Obsessive Thoughts About Another Person


Janet Singer

Janet Singer’s son Dan suffered from OCD so severe that he could not even eat. After navigating through a disorienting maze of treatments and programs, Dan made a triumphant recovery. Janet has become an advocate for OCD awareness and wants everyone to know that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. There is so much hope for those with this disorder. Janet, who uses a pseudonym to protect her son’s privacy, is the author of Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery, published in January 2015 by Rowman & Littlefield. Her own blog, www.ocdtalk.wordpress.com, has reached readers in 167 countries. She is married with three children and resides in New England.


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APA Reference
Singer, J. (2018). OCD and Obsessive Thoughts About Another Person. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 7, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/ocd-and-obsessive-thoughts-about-another-person/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 25 Jan 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.