The Euphoric Difference Between Being Lovestruck And Lovesick

Descriptions of love can get pretty abstract in terms of human emotion, desire, and attachment. We can experience infatuation with someone, concern for their well-being, or admire a number of their personal qualities. Sometimes, we just develop a good old-fashioned crush — but how do we actually feel when that special person walks into a room? How do our bodies feel when they leave? Whether we're drawn to someone based on their looks, intelligence, or sense of humor, it's hard to deny the physiological components of love and attachment.

We only have estimates on how long it actually takes to fall in love, and despite an infinite array of TV shows, movies, books, and songs, we're still brainstorming how to collectively deal with the hurdles that accompany romantic entanglements. It's also important to recognize how self-care can change our relationships for the better — but before condemning dating and relationships as high-risk activities for our hearts and minds, it's important to look at the science behind just how someone might be making us feel. Furthermore, it can be beneficial to narrow down our vocabulary when it comes to love. As it turns out, being lovesick and lovestruck are very different, and hormones play a significant role in the differences.

Being lovestruck has biological effects

"There's good reason to suspect that romantic love is kept alive by something basic to our biological nature," explains Richard Schwartz, a Harvard Medical School associate professor of psychiatry. In 2005, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher used magnetic resonance imaging technology to examine the brains of 2,500 students, per the Harvard Medical School. The images showed the different areas of the brain where dopamine and other hormones related to love are activated. However, not all hormones associated with love are pleasant — when levels of the stress hormone cortisol rise during the infatuation phase, Schwartz noted that this can introduce the commonly recognized "maddeningly preoccupying thoughts, hopes, terrors of early love."

A 2016 study published in the ​Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism differentiated lust, attraction, and attachment by utilizing different physical and genetic motivations, and focused on different centers in the brain. Lust is centered in the amygdala and is associated with testosterone and estrogen, while attraction is motivated by dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and cortisol. Attachment develops via oxytocin and vasopressin, and these hormones are also associated with stress and reward. Oxytocin released during attachment is associated with increasing trust levels and can ease the negative effects of cortisol when a solid attachment is formed. Lovesickness, on the other hand, often lacks the positive experiences associated with love and attachment.

Lovesickness is a biological response

Clinical counselor Pareen Sehat explained to PsychCentral what she sees as the crucial distinction between being lovestruck and lovesick. "Lovestruck is a metaphor for falling in love with someone quickly," Sehat told the publication. "On the other hand, lovesickness is a condition in which you feel sad and unpleasant due to the absence of your significant other." She also shared that pre-existing conditions, like anxiety disorders and depression, can exacerbate the potential physical and emotional symptoms of lovesickness.

A 2017 study published in Cardiac Electrophysiology Clinics classified lovesickness as a certifiable disorder and analyzed its physiological ramifications. "Feeling lovesick means you miss or long for a loved one to the point of feeling emotionally or physically ill," marriage and family therapist Amber Trueblood told Verywell Mind. "Lovesick individuals are often so focused on the intensity of their connection to their partner, other areas of their life begin to suffer." Brokenheartedness also has its own definition, according to Trueblood — it's often defined as the physical effects linked to losing someone you love.

The therapist's advice for overcoming lovesickness was self-care and support. "Notice if you're avoiding friends or family, not eating or sleeping in a way that's healthy for your body," Trueblood told the publication. "Also take note of whether you're obsessively thinking about [the other person]."