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What is it called when you yearn for someone?

Yearning for someone is an intense feeling of longing and desire to be with a person. It’s that persistent, often melancholy feeling of desperately missing someone who is emotionally and physically absent from your life. There are several words used to describe the powerful emotion of yearning for someone you care deeply about.


Longing is one of the most common words used to describe yearning for someone. It conveys an intense, persistent desire and craving for that person. When you long for someone, you desperately wish they were with you and it feels like an ache in your heart. There’s an emptiness and void without their presence. Longing suggests your heart is reaching out for that special person.


Pining is used to express a deep sense of yearning and longing for someone. When you pine for a person, you have an earnest desire to be with them again. Pining suggests an active grieving and longing. The word originates from pine trees, which were seen to “reach out” for light. Pining conveys heartfelt longing coupled with sadness and melancholy.


To hanker after someone is to have a strong, restless longing or craving for their presence. Hankering implies your desires and longings feel unfulfilled. You’re left craving the person you miss so much. It’s a feeling of being unfulfilled and incomplete without their companionship.


You can ache for a person, conveying a deep emotional longing and pining in their absence. It suggests feelings of grief, sorrow, and intense desire to be reunited with them again. The ache and anguish makes their absence feel unbearable. This word emphasizes the physical and emotional hurt you feel from the yearning.


Hungering for someone expresses an intense craving and ravenous desire to have that person in your life again. More dramatic than longing, hunger conveys your appetites and needs are going unmet. It’s an all-consuming drive and compulsion to be with that special person again to “feed” your emotional hunger.


If you thirst for someone, you have an urgent and desperate craving to be close to them again. Like hunger, thirst conveys intense longing that feels consuming and drives you to want that person. It’s a powerful word choice that expresses your yearning as a primal need, similar to needing food or water.


To languish for a person is to pine away in their absence, letting the deep longing overwhelm you. Languishing suggests you feel lifeless, weary, and mournful without that special someone. More dramatic and despairing than simple longing, languishing implies being completely overwhelmed by yearning.


Heartache expresses yearning as an emotional or physical pain from missing someone so much. This powerful word choice reflects your longing as a heavy sadness, grief, and feeling of loss. Heartache conveys that deep sense of pain, sorrow, and regret that comes from their absence.


If you feel desolate without someone, you have a severe loneliness and despair from the lack of their presence. This dramatic word reflects an all-consuming, wretched feeling of being deprived of someone who brought you joy and fulfillment. Desolate communicates the bleakness of life without them.


Yearning for someone special is a complex emotion that can be conveyed through many nuanced words. Longing, pining, languishing, aching, hungering and thirsting all express that persistent, intense inner drive and suffering that comes from deeply missing another person. Each word carries its own meaningful connotations to capture the profound heartache, grief, sadness, and pain of unfulfilled desire.

What causes you to yearn for someone?

There are several potential causes behind feeling such intense yearning for another person when they are absent:


Being deeply in love can create strong yearning when apart from the person you love. The profound connection and attachment fuels your longing to be reunited.


Feeling insecure in the relationship may drive fears of losing the person, triggering yearning when separated.

Unfulfilled needs

If the person fulfills important emotional needs, their absence leaves those needs unmet, causing longing and craving for them to return.


Loneliness and lack of social connection when a person is gone can exacerbate longing to fill the social void.


Positive memories shared together and associating the person with good times leads to nostalgic yearning when apart.


A tendency to idealize the person may fuel constant longing and desire for them to be present.

Attachment style

Having an anxious or insecure attachment style is associated with intense worries of abandonment and separation.


Biological factors like hormones and neurotransmitters associated with attraction, bonding, and craving can drive yearning.


Situational factors like distance, time apart, or lack of contact exacerbates longing and heightens craving for reunion.

How does yearning for someone feel physically and emotionally?

Yearning can have profound emotional and physical effects due to its intense desire and inner suffering:

Physical symptoms Emotional symptoms
– Fatigue – Longing
– Emptiness – Sadness
– Aches and pains – Irritability
– Tightness in chest – Despair
– Insomnia – Helplessness
– Loss of appetite – Anxiety
– Digestive issues – Jealousy
– Weakened immune system – Anger

When does yearning for someone become unhealthy?

While it’s normal to miss someone, yearning may become unhealthy if:

  • It persists for weeks or months without relief
  • It severely impacts your ability to function
  • It drives extreme behaviors like substance abuse, isolation, or stalking
  • You neglect other relationships and responsibilities
  • You have suicidal thoughts from the painful longing

In some cases, chronic and extreme yearning may require counseling support to address underlying issues driving the harmful attachment and obsession.

How can you cope with unhealthy yearning?

Some ways to healthfully manage intense yearning for an absent person include:

  • Talking to trusted friends and family for support
  • Channeling feelings into a creative outlet like writing or art
  • Staying active and busy with work, hobbies, exercise
  • Focusing on personal growth and self-care activities
  • Limiting social media contact with the person if it exacerbates the longing
  • Considering counseling if the yearning becomes disabling

With time, unhealthy yearning will often naturally diminish as the emotional attachment and idealization become more realistic and balanced again.

When to seek professional help

Seek help from a mental health professional if yearning for someone:

  • Persists without improvement for months
  • Causes severe depression, suicidal thoughts, or self-harm
  • Drives extreme, harmful behaviors like stalking
  • Impacts your ability to function at work, school, or in relationships
  • Involves limerence or obsessive infatuation

Counseling can help identify and address any underlying issues fueling chronic, unhealthy attachment and yearning. Medication may be warranted in some cases. Support groups can also provide coping strategies.

What’s the difference between yearning and limerence?

Yearning and limerence are often confused terms, but have some key differences:

Yearning Limerence
Healthy longing for an attachment figure’s return Obsessive and compulsive romantic infatuation
Sense of grief over their absence Idealization about the limerent object
May decrease over time apart Persists and intensifies despite rejection or absence
Doesn’t necessarily alter other relationships Damages ability to maintain other relationships
Doesn’t necessarily disrupt life activities Preoccupying thoughts disrupt normal functioning


Yearning is a profound and often bittersweet emotion experienced when missing someone who is emotionally and physically absent. While often used interchangeably with longing, yearning conveys a deep visceral craving and need for someone’s presence again. When temporary and balanced, yearning is a normal response to separation from an attachment figure. However, in some cases yearning becomes excessive, disruptive, and unhealthy – requiring interventions to address the underlying causes and symptoms.