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Maybe you have a crush on someone who feels out of reach or perhaps you’ve gone through a breakup and your ex is still constantly on your mind. It may even be someone you barely know or from your past that you can’t seem to stop thinking about.

Your brain can be your best friend and your worst enemy. If you can’t get someone out of your head, you’re probably trying to figure out ‘what does it mean when you can’t get someone off your mind?’

Whatever your situation, this comprehensive guide will run through all the possible reasons why you keep thinking about a certain someone, and what to do about it.

What does it mean when you can’t get someone off your mind?

1) You’re feeling a strong attraction

Attraction is both complex and intoxicating. It can hit you straight away, or totally sneak up on you.

But when it does, it creates a chemical reaction that makes a mark on our body and mind in the process. Attraction leads to the release of high levels of hormones like dopamine and norepinephrine.

It’s these that can quickly make us giddy whenever we think about the object of our affection.

As highlighted by Harvard University:

“Attraction involves the brain pathways that control “reward” behavior, which partly explains why the first few weeks or months of a relationship can be so exhilarating and even all-consuming. Dopamine, produced by the hypothalamus, is a particularly well-publicized player in the brain’s reward pathway – it’s released when we do things that feel good to us.

“Attraction seems to lead to a reduction in serotonin, a hormone that’s known to be involved in appetite and mood. Interestingly, people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder also have low levels of serotonin, leading scientists to speculate that this is what underlies the overpowering infatuation that characterizes the beginning stages of love.”

Why do I keep thinking about my crush? The truth is that when we’re feeling lust and attraction, nature conspires to keep them on our minds.

Thinking about someone could be something as simple as wanting to see or talk to them again because of this attraction.

Maybe you feel like they are the one for you and you want to see where things go with them.

Whatever the reason, if you find yourself thinking about them more than usual, chances are you’re feeling an intense attraction towards them.

2) We’re hard-wired for connection

Human beings are hardwired for connection. In fact, it’s even been argued that this need is as fundamental as our need for food and water.

Scientist Matthew Lieberman argued this case in his book ‘Social’. Speaking to Scientific American he says:

“Across many studies of mammals, from the smallest rodents all the way to us humans, the data suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed.

“Languages around the world use pain language to express social pain (“she broke my heart”, “he hurt my feelings”), but this could have all just have been a metaphor. As it turns out it is more than a metaphor – social pain is real pain.”

Finding yourself thinking about someone who you feel like you want but can’t have, someone who has broken your heart, someone who has left your life, etc. isn’t always something you can rationalize.

It is in part a natural and instinctive reaction that we have when someone significant either enters or exits our lives, based on our innate desire to connect.

3) You’re processing events and emotions

If you find yourself constantly thinking about someone who once played a significant role in your life, you may still be dealing with certain events or feelings that involve them.

This is often the case when you can’t stop thinking about an ex, even if it was a long time ago. Rather than being about them in particular, it is more about processing your own emotions.

For example, maybe you were dumped by someone you cared about or had a bad breakup. You may find yourself thinking about both the good and bad times you shared. This is normal.

The mixed feelings you are experiencing can cause you to dwell on this person. But it takes time for us to heal from painful events in life.

This process isn’t always linear. Particularly if there are many unresolved issues with this person, you may find that your mind returns to someone from your past as you continue to deal with your thoughts and feelings.

4) You’re feeling rejected

If you find yourself obsessively thinking about someone who you feel has treated you badly, it’s likely that you are feeling rejected. You may also find yourself thinking about someone because you feel like they don’t care about you anymore (for example, an ex).

Rejection is an incredibly strong emotion. As explained by Guy Winch in Ideas.Ted.Com, regardless of whether the rejection is large or small it can feel disproportionately painful. Why?

“The answer is — our brains are wired to respond that way. When scientists placed people in functional MRI machines and asked them to recall a recent rejection, they discovered something amazing. The same areas of our brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. That’s why even small rejections hurt more than we think they should, because they elicit literal (albeit, emotional) pain.”

There are many reasons why you might dwell on someone who you feel has snubbed you.

For example, if you’ve been trying to make plans with someone and they cancel at the last minute, you may think they don’t care. If you ask someone out and they say no, you may assume they aren’t interested in dating you. If a partner ends the relationship, you may feel unwanted.

Rejection damages not only our mood but also our self-esteem.

When you feel rejected, you may start thinking about the person who has rejected you and find it difficult to stop, spurred on by painful emotions.

5) You’re lonely

Sometimes you may find yourself thinking about someone, simply because you are feeling alone. This is especially true if you are single and haven’t found anyone special yet.

That’s because loneliness makes us crave connection. We want to connect with other people so that we can feel less isolated.

So when you’re feeling lonely, you may find yourself thinking back to the days when you felt connected to someone else.

Or you might project those perfectly natural desires to be close to someone now onto an acquaintance, crush, or even someone you barely know.

Rather than be about the person in question, your thoughts are being driven by a more general desire to have closer relationships in your life.

6) You have strong feelings for them

You might end up thinking about someone when you have feelings that are stronger than just attraction or lust. Perhaps you feel genuinely attached to this person.

Attachment is used to describe the strong emotional bond that we experience with people. It’s more commonly found amongst people you have spent a long time with. That might be a long-term relationship, marriage, or close friendship.

Breaking the bonds of attachment isn’t so easy and doesn’t happen overnight. That’s because the attachment phase is what helps couples grow bonds and feel connected to each other.

This means that’s you’ll probably continue to think about them, even when they are no longer in your day-to-day life. They feel familiar to you and thinking about them probably offers you a certain sense of comfort.

You may continue to think about them until the attachment that you feel has time to fade.

7) You’re reminiscing

But why do I keep thinking about someone from my past?

It can feel more confusing when the person who is constantly on your mind is a ghost from your past rather than your present.

We all find ourselves reminiscing about certain times in our lives. This usually involves a certain someone too. But whenever you end up thinking about times gone by, it’s easier to put on rose-tinted glasses.

Often when we find ourselves thinking about times that have passed or people we are no longer connected to, we feel that something is lacking in our present.

For example, you only end up thinking about your ex when you don’t have a current crush to focus your attention on. You may miss a past love when you don’t have a current love in your life.

A brief trip down memory lane usually doesn’t do any harm, but if you find yourself stuck thinking about someone from your past, you could be ruminating.

Rather than healthy emotional processing, rumination can be destructive. Dwelling on negative memories can make you feel worse and pull you back into the past.

8) You’re lost in fantasy.

Imagination is powerful. All of us use that power to create daydreams and fantasies in our heads.

These imaginary scenarios actually have several psychological purposes and are perfectly normal.

As highlighted in Psychology Today: “Indulging in fantasies may seem like a waste of time, but they are far from frivolous. Most fantasies serve a specific purpose: They can be entertaining, distracting, frightening, or, in the case of sexual fantasies, arousing.”

When you can’t stop thinking about someone who you have been daydreaming about, it’s down to the stories you are telling on loop within your mind.

If you don’t keep these fantasies in check, they could turn into obsessive thoughts. Usually, our fantasies represent our deep down desires. As explained in the New York Times:

“Fantasies have to do with future goals and dreams. They could be romantic, professional, even physical, like transforming yourself into an athlete or changing your appearance. That is why fantasy is so crucial to how we lead our lives.”

If you’re constantly thinking about what it would be like to be with someone, what your life would be like together, and imagining yourself being with them — it sounds like you might be getting lost in fantasy.

9) You’re looking for a distraction

Sometimes constantly thinking of someone is a way of distracting ourselves.

That might be from a task at hand, from more pressing issues, or from dealing with other painful emotions, etc.

The reason why this happens is that it feels good to think about something else (or in this case, someone else).

For example, when people go through a nasty breakup, you may prefer to spend time thinking about someone new. It’s more pleasant than what you are facing in life right now and the pain of losing your ex.

We all need to take breaks every now and then. So if you are doing something that isn’t particularly enjoyable, it makes sense that your mind wants to switch things up.

This is especially true if you are feeling sad, angry, anxious, or stressed out.

In this sense, it’s less about the person in question and more that thinking about them is providing you some distance from other aspects of your life that you don’t want to deal with.

Indulging in some daydreaming about someone gives you the distraction you are craving, and helps to lift your mood.

10) You admire them

It’s perhaps easier to understand why we end up thinking constantly about a love interest or former beau. But what about when you’re thinking about someone all the time who doesn’t fit into those categories?

Maybe it’s a friend, colleague, acquaintance, or even a celebrity. You could find that someone is on your mind a lot when you admire them.

You might feel as though you have a connection with them, or that you know them better than anyone else. Or maybe you just really like their work, style, personality, lifestyle, etc.

This has become even more pronounced thanks to social media. The glossy Instagram effect means that we can find ourselves looking into someone else’s lives and find our own wanting.

And while there’s nothing wrong with admiring someone, it can make it harder to focus on anything else if you end up comparing yourself to the image of them, rather than their real life.

So if you find yourself thinking about someone all the time in a non-romantic way, it’s probably because you admire or perhaps envy them in some way.

11) You’re projecting onto them

Have you ever found yourself thinking so much about someone you barely even know? Most of us have experienced this with a crush or someone we’ve had only a date or two with.

Even though you barely know them, you think about them all the time because it’s easy to project onto them a representation of what you want them to be.

You’re not really obsessing about this person, you are obsessing about what you want. That might be love, romance, connection, etc.

They are your desires, and you are hoping this person can help fulfill them for you.

The reality is that we’re all guilty of a bit of romantic projection. But the downside of getting too carried away is that if they aren’t able to provide these things, you’ll start to feel disappointed and frustrated. This can lead to feelings of sadness and anger.

You are looking at this person and situation and seeing the potential. This person becomes a physical representation of what you long for.

12) You have an anxious attachment style or obsessive thinking

If your thoughts about someone feel overwhelming and distressing you may be dealing with an anxious attachment or obsessive thoughts.

Anxious attachment refers to a person who tends to worry about being rejected or abandoned by others, which leads to anxiety.

When you are anxious, you tend to look for reassurance and validation from people around you. And if you don’t receive those reassurances, then you will begin to doubt yourself.

We can see this in relationships where one partner is needy and clingy, and the other is distant and unavailable.

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In this case, the needy person feels insecure and looks for reassurance from the other. When the other isn’t available, the needy person begins to dwell and wonder whether they did something wrong.

If you find yourself thinking about a person all the time, it could be because you have an anxious attachment style.

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Rather than focus on yourself, you are drawn into thinking about what your partner is doing, thinking, and feeling — leading to obsessive thoughts about them.

Similarly, obsessive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors towards someone may also be signs of anxiety and fear which has become uncontrollable.

In extreme circumstances, when thinking about someone a lot spills over into obsession, these intrusive thoughts could even be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

What to do when you can’t stop thinking about someone?

It’s normal to have intense thoughts about someone. It doesn’t mean you’re obsessed with them or even that you are fixated on them.

But if you find yourself thinking constantly about someone, it’s important to understand why. There may also be some important lessons you can learn to carry forward with you into the future.

Here are some tips to help you deal with these thoughts:

1) Work out why you’re thinking about someone

Try to take note of your thoughts when they arise and figure out what is at the bottom of them. Can you identify why you are thinking about this person all the time?

In many cases, the reason will probably be obvious to you. Maybe it’s a crush and you’re feeling a strong attraction that has you carried away. Perhaps it’s an ex you can’t seem to let go of. Or it could be someone you look up to and wish you were like.

Working out what’s behind your thoughts will help you know how to act for the best.

For example, if you’re interested in someone, you might decide to bite the bullet and just ask them out.

If you’re dwelling on the heartache from a former love, and you know it’s over, it’s time to try and move on.

If you’re putting someone on a pedestal, you may need to be more realistic and separate the truth from the fiction.

Deciding how realistic your thoughts are about someone can guide you. If you’ve been engaging in fantasy or projection, it’s time to gently help yourself move past it.

2) Don’t judge yourself or try to push thoughts away

Don’t beat yourself up over your thoughts. You aren’t alone. Most of us find ourselves thinking about someone a lot at some time or another, especially when it comes to romance. Many other people also struggle with intrusive thoughts.

Your thoughts are just thoughts. But trying to push your thoughts away and reject them can actually make you think about someone even more.

It’s a bit like trying not to think about a pink elephant. As soon as you try, that’s all that comes to mind.

Sometimes the more you try to fight it, the stronger it will persist.

Often thinking about someone a lot will naturally run its course, without you needing to do anything in particular.

3) Try not to feed intrusive thoughts

Certain things could be fuelling your thoughts about someone.

For example, if you can’t stop checking out the socials of your crush or an ex, it’s not exactly going to help get them off your mind. It’s likely that you’ll only end up feeding your obsession by doing this.

It might be time to try and take a bit of a break from this person. Particularly if it’s an ex you are still in frequent contact with or an unrequited crush that you can’t seem to get over. A bit of space can help you get some relief from thinking about them all the time.

Whilst you don’t want to chastise yourself for thinking about someone, that doesn’t mean you need to indulge those thoughts.

If it’s causing you distress or getting too much, when they pop into your head, try to focus on something else instead.

4) Find positive distractions and keep busy

The more idle time we have on our hands, the more likely we are to get lost in our thoughts. So, if you want to stop thinking about someone, you need to find something else to focus on.

This could be anything from reading a book, watching TV, listening to music, hanging out with friends, playing games, exercising, or getting stuck into a hobby.

You don’t necessarily have to spend hours and hours doing these things. Just pick something that keeps you occupied for a few minutes here and there.

By keeping busy, you won’t have time to dwell on someone, and you’ll be less likely to think about them.

5) Practice mindfulness

When we’re constantly thinking about someone we’re not really present in the moment. Generally, we drift off into thinking about the past or an imagined future.

Practicing mindfulness can help to keep you rooted more in the now. Mindfulness is simply paying attention to what’s happening right now.

It’s not easy to master and it takes a lot of practice. But it helps you to notice your thoughts and feelings and even learn to let go of those thoughts and feelings that are no longer useful.

Try meditating for 10-15 minutes every day. This could help you to stay grounded and focused on the present.

6) Start to think more about yourself

Generally speaking, whenever we are thinking about someone a lot, it’s far more of a reflection of us rather than the other person. Your hopes and desires, fears and anxieties.

Most of us are guilty of projecting our own experiences onto other people on a daily basis. We fall easily into daydreams about what we wish someone else would bring into our lives.

Better understanding your feelings, and what motivates you can help you to take back control of your own thoughts.

That’s why it could be a good opportunity to do some soul searching and get to know yourself better.

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You may discover that you were projecting onto the other person because you were hoping they would complete you in some way.

Whenever we find ourselves looking to others to validate us, the best antidote is usually working on our own self-love and self-esteem.

7) Understand the difference between thinking about someone a lot, and when it becomes an obsession and compulsion

Like I’ve said, there’s not a person on the planet who hasn’t found themselves love-struck and daydreaming of their crush. Or reminiscing about a former flame or ex.

Even though it can be incredibly distracting, frustrating, or even painful — it’s really normal.

But obsessive thoughts are unwanted thoughts that pop into your head uncontrollably. These thoughts can cause distress and interfere with your life.

Compulsions are rituals that you engage in to reduce anxiety and prevent obsessive thoughts.

Limerence is an unhealthy state of mind where our feelings for another person turn into obsessive thoughts and fantasies. It’s a bit like an involuntary state of intense desire.

If you feel like your thoughts are getting out of hand, then it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. You don’t have to deal with it alone.

If you can’t stop thinking about someone are they thinking about you?

In certain situations, it’s true that someone who you are thinking about is thinking of you too.

For example, if you’ve just gone through a break-up or you’ve just started an exciting love affair with someone, it’s logical that you may also be on their mind too.

But thinking about someone alone is not a guarantee that you are in their thoughts. It’s more a reflection of wishful thinking.

You may have heard that when you think about someone a lot, it means they were thinking about you first. But when you can’t stop thinking about someone, psychology dictates it says far more about what you are thinking and feeling than it does about them.

It’s can also be pretty harmful to your mental health if you start dwelling on whether this person is thinking about you too — which may only lead to more unhealthy obsessing.

How do you know if someone is thinking about you?

If someone has been on your mind a lot, then the chances are you are itching to know if they are thinking about you too.

This is especially the case when you’re interested in someone romantically and want to know if they feel the same. Or you have gone through a breakup and want to fix things with your ex.

So how can you tell if someone is thinking about you? Of course, the only sure-fire way of knowing is to ask. But there are other clues to look out for.

Here are some signs that show you that someone might be thinking about you too:

  • They reach out to you

Usually, when someone has been on our mind, we want to try and speak to them.

They may text or call you. Or they may constantly react to your social media, leaving lots of comments and likes or sending you DM’s.

If they are always the one to reach out, you’ve most likely been in their thoughts.

  • They talk about you a lot

You can tell that you’ve been on someone’s mind if you find out they have been talking about you to other people.

Maybe they mention you to mutual friends or ask after you in social situations when you’re not there.

Someone who thinks about you often will probably talk about you to others.

  • They are enthusiastic about seeing you

They may say something like “I’m so looking forward to seeing you” or tell you “I was thinking about you last night”.

They will also probably drop hints about meeting up or say things like “we should hang out” etc.

These types of comments, even when they try to sound casual, suggest that someone has been thinking about you because they clearly want to see you.

  • They seem really happy when you see them

When you see someone again, they could appear happier than usual.

This could be because they wanted to see you but didn’t expect to run into you at all. Or it could be because they were hoping to see you and now they have.

Either way, they are obviously pleased to see you, which would suggest you’ve probably been on their mind.

What if someone hasn’t been thinking about me?

Of course, sometimes you just won’t hear from someone. This doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t thinking about you.

People can always forget to text or phone you back from time to time. It’s possible they got caught up in their own lives and forgot to contact you.

Or maybe they haven’t had time to think about you, as they’ve been busy with work or family commitments.

If you still miss them and wonder what happened, it’s worth checking in with them. You never know, they might be missing you too.

Whilst we should always avoid jumping to conclusions, the reality is that sometimes someone who you have been thinking about a lot hasn’t been thinking about you too.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow but not every date is going to fall deeply in love with us, not every crush is going to be reciprocated, and not every ex wants to rekindle the flame.

If you feel like you’ve been left hanging, then it’s best to accept this fact and move on. I know it’s far from easy, but don’t take rejection personally. Every single one of us experiences it.

To conclude: Why am I suddenly thinking about someone so much?

The most common reason for having someone on your mind all the time is the strong feelings you hold towards them. Whether it’s lust, attraction, love, anger, envy, or sadness.

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The more powerful the emotion you feel, the more you may find yourself drifting off and thinking about them.

It might even be driving you slightly nuts, but most of the time it’s perfectly normal.

There are things you can do to stop yourself from thinking about them if it’s starting to become a problem.

But most of the time, these types of thoughts tend to fade with a little bit of time and patience.

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