Have you ever had a crush on someone? Were you embarrassed? And do you think it was healthy?

We’ve all played the lead role in a drama ladened with angst, sweaty palms, racing heart and the inability to concentrate on anything or anyone else except the object of our desire. Crushes can be extremely embarrassing, and can be difficult to imagine that all this cringe worthy behavior has a purpose and is actually good for us – at least most of the time.

Crushes have more to do with fantasy than reality. We can be taken unaware when Cupid strikes, suddenly becoming self conscious around someone you find attractive. Why it happens is a bit of a mystery. It tells more about the admirer than the admired.

So in its purest sense, a crush is a form of parasocial relationship; a one sided relationship where you have feelings for someone else but these feelings are not reciprocated.

So what goes on in our heads? The feeling of infatuation or love that crushes feel is real. It’s said that when we are in love that the stress and reward system in our brain works over time. The same could possibly be true when we have a crush. The feel good chemical is released making us excitable, chatty and probably explains why we blurt out unimaginable embarrassing things. This is exemplified by the mortifying line “I carried a watermelon” in Dirty Dancing.

It’s thought that when you’re in love or lust the stress and rewards system in our brain are working overtime and the same is possibly true when having a crush .

When your brain is examined by an MRI someone in Love tents to have a high activity in the limbic area (I asked a brain consultant) so perhaps this is the area we refer to if we trust our head over our hearts when it comes to finding a partner! The limbic system is associated with addiction, this might explain how getting over a crush can be tough, and some of us hold a torch for years.

Why do we have crushes anyway?

Is there a higher purpose to having a crush other than it makes us feel good. Parasocial relationships in adolescents can be important. This can allow the adolescent to explore who they are, sexually and understand what attracts them in a safe way. Plus they are not going to get hurt like in a relationship.

However it’s very important to distinguish between imagining what a relationship would be like, and having a crush with the intention of exploring a relationship.

Most of us have dated the wrong type of person, and had our heard broken as a result. Crushes can ensure this doesn’t happen. This person (the crush) is the right person because you idolize them, there going to be who you want them to be, it’s kinda like a training ground for a proper relationship in the future. Adolescent crushes are healthy in my opinion and teenagers shouldn’t feel embarrassed.

In adulthood things are a little more difficult. Our evolutionary history suggests we are not a monogamous species. So crushes could be a way to identify a future or additional partner to meet our needs, or could be that the adult is stuck in adolescent mode or it could be a getaway behavior that leads to cheating.

To finalize, I think crushes are harmless. It can help reduce loneliness and boost confidence. Crushes could help reinvigorate a stale relationship.

I’d encourage people to recognize that they are idealizing their crush. You can’t control who you have a crush on, just enjoy it.

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