The word “crush” may make you feel like you’re back in elementary school. But even in adulthood, men get crushes that can actually be quite debilitating. Many men have no idea how to deal with having a crush.

Isn’t it funny how we humans can think about someone we barely know – or don’t know at all – and get an overwhelmingly intense feeling? This is how powerful the primitive part of your brain can be. It can make snap decisions about people, and these decisions can be enduring and emotional, or completely wrong and misguided. There’s also a lot going on in your body when you have a crush.

As men, our attraction to women, or a specific woman, can be sparked by an almost infinite array of traits and characteristics: body shape, symmetry, genetic diversity, hair color, skin tone, height, leg length, breast size, ass size, dimples, freckles, or things you might have seen in porn.

Sometimes it’s personality.

Maybe you’re turned by cold, angry women. Or maybe you love the sweet, caring, innocent type. There are so many factors that it’s impossible to break them all down. Not to mention that they are mostly unconscious. Attraction just happens, and we often respond to it without question. 

That’s all well and good…

Unless it turns into a crush.

THE PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND HAVING A CRUSH

Before examining what goes on in the brain when you have a crush, let’s briefly touch on what happens in your body. Generally, this is called lust.

While you’ve certainly heard of lust, you may not know that lust does not come from your brain – it actually comes from your balls. (For women, it comes from the ovaries).

When you experience lust, you are releasing sex hormones. This isn’t necessarily true when you experience attraction – or have a deeper interest in someone. When you are attracted to someone, your brain is much more involved – specifically, your brain’s reward pathway and the release of dopamine.

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON A CRUSH

When you have a crush, your brain releases dopamine – a neurotransmitter known for its role in causing pleasure. The dopamine travels to the nucleus accumbens, which is located in the midbrain and plays a role in behaviors driven by motivation. These include stress-related and sexual behaviors.

After making a pitstop in the midbrain, dopamine then travels to the hypothalamus, which plays a role in homeostatic functions like hunger, thirst, sleep, and temperature regulation.

But having a crush does more than release dopamine. When you have a crush, there are several other chemicals at play:

  • Cortisol: A steroid released during times of stress.
  • Norepinephrine: A byproduct of dopamine that makes you excitable while increasing your ability to store new memories. Norepinephrine increases when you have a crush.
  • Serotonin: A chemical that stabilizes mood. Serotonin decreases when you have a crush.
  • Oxytocin: A chemical that plays a major role in forming attachments.

The interplay between these chemicals is largely why humans feel the way they do when dealing with a crush.

It’s not uncommon to see someone act irrationally when they have a crush. People often become jealous and angry. They may go to the extreme with their jealousy. They may act impulsively, giving in to their uncontrollable desires. This typically occurs with the release of too much dopamine or oxytocin.

A Crush by Definition

There’s actually a psychological term for having a crush: limerence.

By definition, limerence is the state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship.

For many men who experience limerence – or who have a crush – the thoughts can be all-consuming, causing them to neglect the other parts of their lives.

TWO TYPES OF CRUSHES

“Having a crush is quite common for men, especially those who have Nice Guy Syndrome,” explains Dr. Robert Glover, renown therapist and author of No More Mr. Nice Guy and Dating Essentials for Men. “instead of acting on their attraction by approaching a woman and testing for interest, Nice Guys typically don’t do anything at all – usually due to their fear of rejection, fear of looking foolish, social anxiety, insecurities, and low tolerance for risk.”

Dr. Glover has observed that men usually develop two kinds of crushes:

The first kind of crush is from afar. This involves a woman you’ve never met nor spoken to. Yet, you spend an exorbitant amount of time thinking about her. Maybe you stalk her on social media. But she has no idea that you even exist. Nothing is ever going to happen. 

“Suffice to say, lying around and thinking about a woman who doesn’t know you exist is a colossal waste of time,” asserts Dr. Glover. 

The second kind of crush is from the friend zone. This involves a woman with whom you actually do have a relationship, just not a romantic one. As Dr. Glover often says, you’re her “girlfriend with a penis.”

When you have crush but you’re in the friend zone, you listen to your crush’s problems, you do things together, maybe you even give her dating or relationship advice. But you want her. You’d do anything to have her. Except you don’t do anything.

You’re afraid of ruining the friendship. So, you hope she’ll suddenly realize what a catch you are and make the first move. Never going to happen. 

As you’ve already learned, there’s a significant amount of neurobiology taking place when you have a crush. Perhaps you’re familiar with the phrase neurons that fire together, wire together. This is especially applicable to crushes. 

“The more time you spend thinking about a woman, the more it creates strong neural pathways in your brain,” explains Dr. Glover. “You actually begin to feel as if you have a loving, bonded relationship, even when you don’t. And crushes can be so intense because of the longing and the anxiety, the constant back and forth. Your brain is flooded with chemicals as it goes through repeated swings of emotions.”

Your brain can’t effectively distinguish between fantasy and reality. The more you fantasize about a woman, the more your mind believes the connection is real. In many cases, losing a crush can be more painful than losing an actual relationship because a crush is a fantasy that you’ve built up so perfectly in your mind. A real person, however, can still be a pain in the ass. A real person can still hurt you. 

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU HAVE A CRUSH

Crushes don’t reflect reality. Your crush isn’t even a real person; it’s a one-dimensional object. When you have a crush on a woman, all you see are the parts about her that you think are amazing. Your mind is screwing with you. 

“A crush is often about you and your ego,” says Dr. Glover.

“You wonder how other people might look at you if your crush was your girlfriend. You think your status would go through the roof. You think women would want you and men would want to be you. In reality, if you ever actually got with your crush, you’d probably act like the quintessential Nice Guy and let her walk all over you. Then you’d be devastated when she left.”

If you find yourself crushing hard, you must consciously address the hope. As someone once said, “hope keeps all suffering in place.” Hoping a woman will fall for you will only keep you in a place of suffering.

You must also focus on the whole of who a person is. Turn your crush from an object in your mind into a real person. Your crush almost certainly has flaws, insecurities, and plenty of other issues.

Additionally, you must ask yourself: What will take me in the direction I most want to go? There’s only one way to find out if your crush might feel the same way as you. Take an action that will either lead to a connection or a rejection. Either one is better than the uncertainty that comes with having a crush.