When Does Infatuation Cross the Line?

When you think of the word infatuation, what visuals come to mind? Is it the heart eyes emoji? The big wistful sigh at the sight of the person you’ve been crushing on? Or is it those long, anxiety filled group texts with your best friends about said crush? However it looks to you, it probably feels the same to us all—butterflies and tingles all over.  And that all seems rom-com worthy, but when does the line of infatuation go from sweet to a little tart? 

photo credit: Luisa Azevedo (@heyluisa)

photo credit: Luisa Azevedo (@heyluisa)

The feeling of infatuation or love is similar to the feeling people get when it comes to addiction. According to an article published by the Harvard Medical School Department of Neurobiology, being love-struck produces high levels of a natural chemical called dopamine. Think of that rush you get from seeing the notification that your crush liked one of your photos on Instagram. “Dopamine activates the reward circuit, helping to make love a pleasurable experience similar to the euphoria associated with use of cocaine or alcohol,” say the Harvard researchers.

There have been many studies that show the similarity of love and addiction in relation to dopamine, even one with some drunken fruit flies. But I know you’re thinking to yourself: being infatuated with someone isn’t has harmful to your health as drugs. And in most cases, you’re right.

There’s a “broad view” and a “narrow view” when it comes to comparing infatuation or love with serious addiction. According to a paper published by researchers from The University Oxford, the consensus is out on what they would consider “addictive drug-related desires are (a) of an unnatural form that is not present in the non-addict (the narrow view); or (b) whether they are on a continuum with “regular” appetitive desires, and therefore simply a strong form of the same underlying phenomenon (the broad view)” that can be expressed in infatuation and love.

So checking on your crush’s Facebook page or watching their Snapchat story everyday isn’t much to cause concern over. It just shows you’re a human being. I know it seems like we try to run from feelings or dismiss them every time we notice an emotional flair up, but expressing those feelings is totally healthy.

However, there is such a thing as love addiction. And that can be more harmful to our behavioral and mental health when it starts to hinder how we form relationships ourselves and with new people. If you’re looking at your crush and seeing the could-be fairytale and telling yourself that falling in love with them is the solution to all your problems… that’s when it’s time to do some soul searching and reflection. Infatuation can blur those logical rationalizations out at times. Don’t let it.

All and all, if you get those emotional and physical responses such as a racing heart, sweaty palms, and feelings of passion and anxiety, it’s ok. And if you get that “can’t-wait-to-see-you-boo”-when-they-call feeling, that’s also ok. Infatuation is only the beginning of falling in love with someone, so don’t start planning the rest of your life with this person just yet. Keep calm and give yourself time. You’ll be just fine.