Your throat dries, you struggle to find words just to greet, your stomach twists into knots and your palms grow sweaty, your heart palpitates so fast and hard that you think everyone can hear and you can hear it loud. Seeing them once for a fraction of a second adds freshness to your day or makes your entire day. A girl from Physics class or a boy gazing out of the window. A natural part of human experience is attraction which is quick and often subconscious in its process. Feeling sweat in your hands, a pounding heartbeat and butterflies in your stomach seems to be a teenager experience. But despite being frequently linked to adolescents, it’s a common emotion that can strike anyone at any age. It’s called “Crush”. What is a crush? Why do we have a crush on certain people and not on others?
What is a Crush?
Crush is a psychological phenomenon involving feelings, emotions, thoughts, and physiological responses. Crush is defined as a brief but powerful attraction for someone. As a result, a strong positive feeling is attached. Crushes can be differentiated from any other romantic attraction since they are one-sided attractions and the person experiencing them has no intention to act upon these feelings often. A crush may not alway lead to a romantic relationship, a crush may stay a crush or might develop into a deeper connection. The early stage of a love connection is also known as a crush. Idealizing the crush is solely focusing on their positive qualities and downplaying any negatives.
What is happening inside the brain when we experience a crush?
Although it might just take a fraction of second to develop a crush sometimes. You are blushing with a rise in the heartbeat and body temperature. Although these physiological responses are similar to flight or fight response when we confront a threat, it is caused by the sympathetic nervous system. Similarly, attraction involves the role of hormones and neurotransmitters. However, from the perspective of evolutionary both attraction and attachment increase the likelihood of survival and reproduction.
When we look at it through the lens of neuroscience the brain functioning is much more complex. The first spark releases the “Dopamine Neurotransmitter” also referred to as a “feel good” chemical. Dopamine can be used to explain the feeling of immense pleasure when we think about our crush. Dopamine is responsible for the “reward system” in mind which plays a crucial role in accomplishing tasks making us feel incredibly happy. That’s why people having a crush tend to smile and laugh more. Dopamine is not the only neurotransmitter at play. There is Serotonin, Cortisol and Norepinephrine which are also affected. The primary function of serotonin is to stabilize our mood, it decreases when we get attracted to someone. When under stress, cortisol is released, and norepinephrine makes you feel ecstatic, which makes it easier to remember new things.
How does a crush develop?
Even though we have gained some insights on how our brain works in terms of neurotransmitters and hormones. The question is if chemical responses are present for every human being then why do we have a crush on a specific person and not the others? Thus, for developing a crush there are five components:
- Physical Attraction: people whom we idealize who are influenced by media and social media in terms of how they look can be a reason for feeling attractive towards them. They might have similar physical attributes as your Bollywood crush.
- Proximity: People with whom we interact on a regular basis as these people make us feel safe.
- Similarity: According to research, we are more inclined to date someone with whom we share interests, experiences, or characteristics like race, education, socioeconomic status, values, etc. As a result, we are frequently drawn to persons with whom we have a common background and those who remind us of our loved ones, such as a parent, friend, or past partner.
- Reciprocity: there is always an emotion that your crush feels the same as you feel for
- Familiarity: A person we share attributes with and are able to associate with them.
Crushes might be traced down to fantasies thus these can be people whom we idealize and may not know personally. Additionally, our ideas of what a crush might be are subconsciously conceptualized by the media, our social circles, and social media. A crush develops when beliefs and ideals are projected onto a person of any age whom we feel we have commonalities with in terms of experiences, qualities, and attributes.
Two sides of Crush
Research has shown that having a crush increases self-confidence, reduces loneliness, and offers us insight into our needs and aspirations, which helps us understand what we want from a relationship. Additionally, it improves performance and makes us more engaged at work. Thus, having a favorable effect on our health and wellbeing.
Another side is a dark one where crushes may lead to obsessive thoughts resulting in dysfunctional relationships, such as neglecting one’s own life or maladaptive behavior such as stalking.
Are Crushes just for teenagers?
You might think that it is just an initial attempt to understand romantic relationships in teen years. However, having a crush is nowhere related to age. You can feel this emotion in your thirteenths as well as in your thirties. Adults who are in a committed relationship can also experience attraction even if they choose to stay with their partner whom they love. Having a crush can be considered as an early step in developing intimacy skills. For a teenager, it might be a feeling they don’t know how to act upon. Interestingly, research has found that more crushes are reported by people involved in a committed relationship. However, compared to singles, committed people are less likely to act on these feelings.
Cycle of having a crush
Although it shows a similar reaction, each person may have a different experience. The person goes through three generic stages:
- Denial: you might be daydreaming about the person and when your friend points out that you have zone-out you claim it to be causal thinking. Bringing them or mentioning them in your conversation. However, you continue to believe that you don’t like anyone at the moment.
- Accepting Emotion: you acknowledge that there is a possibility of a feeling thus falling into phase two. You encounter physiological changes as the person passes by you in the office hallway sits next to you in the classroom or waves hey! from the balcony. You think you are wearing it for college today so that they notice or compliment you. Looking through their social media profile.
- Hardcore Crush: the day becomes brighter with their glimpse and you become concerned about them. One eye contact can make you smile for the rest of the day. You start imagining being with them.
Having a crush is a common phenomenon experienced by any individual irrespective of their age. It is an intense feeling that involves a spectrum of positive emotions from pleasure to happiness. It is human nature to put up rosy glasses for people we admire. We are likely to have a crush on the people we feel physically attracted to, and share common beliefs, values, and backgrounds. Numerous neurotransmitters contribute to our feelings in different ways. We move through a cycle from denial to forming a hardcore Crush. However, it’s not a similar experience for everyone as a crush might remain a crush or we might stop having that intense feeling for them or it might convert into a romantic relationship.