Determining whether your feelings for someone are true attraction and liking or just an unhealthy obsession can be tricky. Intense infatuation and idealization in the early stages of a relationship can sometimes look similar to obsession on the surface. However, there are some key differences and warning signs you can look for.
What’s the difference between liking someone and being obsessed?
Liking and attraction when you first meet someone can feel all-consuming at times. You might think about them constantly, want to talk to them all the time, and look forward to your next date. This is often totally normal in a new romantic relationship! However, if your preoccupation with this person starts to negatively impact other areas of your life or leads to controlling or dangerous behaviors, it has likely crossed the line into obsession.
Here are some differences between healthy liking and unhealthy obsession:
|Healthy Liking||Unhealthy Obsession|
|You enjoy spending time together, but don’t need to be with the person 24/7||You feel like you need the person with you or accessible all the time|
|You respect if they want time alone or with friends/family||You get angry, jealous, or resentful if they spend time away from you|
|You’re interested in all parts of their personality and life||You’re mainly interested in their availability and commitment to you|
|Your mood isn’t solely dependent on them||Your entire emotional state depends on their actions towards you|
|You want the best for them, even if it doesn’t involve you||You only care about getting your own needs met in the relationship|
|You respect their boundaries||You frequently cross or ignore boundaries to get what you want|
As you can see, liking someone makes you want to spend quality time together, get to know them better, and build a partnership. Obsession drives compulsive behaviors to fulfill a need for external validation, power, or control in the relationship.
Why do some likes turn into obsessions?
Many factors can cause an attraction to morph into an unhealthy obsession, including:
- Insecurity – Having low self-esteem or abandonment issues may cause you to become overly attached as a way to fulfill emotional needs.
- Idealization – Putting someone on a pedestal and expecting perfection can lead to controlling behaviors.
- Impulsivity – Moving too quickly physically or emotionally can create false intimacy.
- Dependence – Relying on another person for your self-worth or happiness gives them unhealthy power.
- Past trauma – Obsessive attachment can sometimes be rooted in childhood emotional neglect or unstable caregiver relationships.
- Personality disorders – Conditions like narcissistic, dependent, or borderline personality disorder often involve obsessive relationship patterns.
If you had any unhealthy relationship role models growing up or have underlying mental health issues, it may make forming secure attachments more challenging. Being aware of these tendencies is important.
How can you tell if you’re obsessed with someone?
Here are some warning signs that your interest in someone may have crossed into obsession:
- You feel empty or distraught when apart from them.
- You believe you can’t live without them.
- You don’t think anyone else compares to them.
- You overlook red flags or warning signs about them.
- You feel constantly jealous regarding who they interact with.
- You attempt to control or manipulate them.
- You prioritize them over your own health, responsibilities, or values.
- Your mood depends entirely on their actions.
- You have intrusive thoughts or fantasies about them.
- You engage in compulsive calling, texting, driving by their house, or social media stalking.
Having one or two of these feelings periodically is normal. But if you have several that feel uncontrollable, it may indicate an unhealthy attachment. Listen to your gut when things feel off.
Obsessive attachment can also manifest physically in ways like:
- Loss of appetite
- Racing heart
- Muscle tension
You may experience some of these symptoms when apart from the person. Excessive physiological reactions signal that the relationship is negatively impacting your health.
Impact on other areas of life
Another clear sign of obsession is if your fixation starts to take over the rest of your life, including:
- Decline in work or school performance
- Neglecting your own needs
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Dropping hobbies and interests
- Reordering your schedule around the person
- Trouble focusing on anything else
- Taking extreme risks or acting recklessly
What should you do if you think you’re obsessed?
If you see signs you’ve become obsessively attached to someone, here are some tips:
- Acknowledge it – Admitting you have an unhealthy attachment is the first step.
- Figure out the root causes – Explore your mental health, attachment style, and relationship patterns to identify potential issues fueling the obsession.
- Create distance – Put space between you and the person physically and digitally to gain perspective.
- Talk to a professional – Seek counseling to help detach from the obsession in a healthy way.
- Build your self-worth – Make priorities that validate yourself outside of the relationship.
- Join a support group – Connect with others recovering from obsessive relationships.
- Set boundaries – Decide what interactions you can handle safely and stick to them.
- Make a safety plan – Have strategies to disengage from harmful impulses like calling repeatedly.
- Practice mindfulness – Stay present when you catch yourself obsessively thinking about the person.
With consistent effort using these strategies, you can break an unhealthy attachment and regain more balance. Be patient and get support.
How can you have healthier relationships moving forward?
If you’ve struggled with obsessive liking or love addiction in the past, you can take steps to form more secure attachments in new relationships:
- Reflect on past patterns – Identify your triggers, warning signs, and problematic behaviors you’re prone to.
- Set boundaries early – Don’t rush emotionally or physically. Stick to what you know is reasonable.
- Communicate your needs – Practice expressing your feelings and asking for what you want in healthy ways.
- Don’t expect perfection – Accept that all partners are human and flawed.
- Catch irrational thoughts – Notice when you idealize partners or assume their feelings.
- Build your self-esteem – Pursue goals unrelated to dating to grow confidence.
- Go slow with commitment – Give the relationship plenty of time to unfold before any long-term decisions.
- Stay close to friends/family – Keep other support systems present to stay balanced.
- Get professional support – Seek counseling to manage any underlying mental health issues.
With self-awareness and therapeutic skills, you can love in healthy ways. Stay vigilant about obsession warning signs. But also give yourself compassion -Secure attachment is a practice.
It’s natural to feel enthralled by someone new. But too much preoccupation can lead to losing yourself. Look for signs like possessiveness, extreme jealousy, infringing on boundaries, dangerous impulses, or complete emotional dependence. These all indicate obsession, not healthy liking. If you suspect you have an unhealthy attachment, be brave and step back to prioritize your mental health. You have the power to regain control and ultimately find the mutual love you deserve.