Picture this: You meet someone and go on a few dates. You’re feeling it. Those elusive new relationship butterflies are percolating, but then something seemingly benign happens—the person cancels due to a work commitment. A totally valid excuse, and yet, you’re more distraught than you know you should be. You’re asking yourself, “Why did I catch feelings so fast?”
“Catching feelings” has a few current meanings. In some cases, the term is used when a person begins to have feelings for someone as a result of having a physical relationship with them—even if the agreement was to be “just friends.” In other cases, “catching feelings” can be used for unanticipated feelings of attraction that might arise outside a dating relationship, such as a work setting.
“These unexpected feelings might trigger a sense that the feelings had been ‘caught,’ similar to being caught by surprise with a cold or flu,” explained Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist.
What does it mean to catch feelings?
Essentially, catching feelings means suddenly feeling amorously attached to another person. Some people even manage to catch feelings before actually meeting the other person. They become infatuated with the idea of the person after seeing all their photos and information online.
“Having the ability to see and read about the person makes you feel connected even when you really aren’t,” said Jess McCann, relationship coach and author of “Cursed?”
“Catching feelings is different from the normal progression of affection for someone in that it happens very fast, and often within a short period of time,” McCann said. For instance, some people catch feelings for someone after only one date (and sometimes even before the date), becoming as infatuated as someone else might be after a few weeks and several meaningful conversations.
In general, “catching feelings” infers that the feelings you’re experiencing were an unexpected or uncontrollable outcome.
“When dating intentionally, the overt goal is to cultivate and foster feelings of love and attachment,” said Manly. “A healthy dating relationship ideally results in feelings of affection and connecting. As a result, there would likely not be a surprising sense of ‘catching feelings’ unexpectedly.”
Signs you’re catching feelings
Catching feelings is more than just taking a shine to someone—it’s doing so in an unexpected, possibly unhealthy way. Here are the telltale signs you’ve crept into feelings-catching territory.
- Daydreaming: Thinking about the person after only messaging on a dating app.
- Planning a future after only one date: Thinking about how you’ll spend their birthday or the holidays together.
- Stressing about texting: Or, asking others how to respond and sweating the other person’s response before a real relationship has been established.
- Missing their company: Spending your time counting down the hours or days until you see them again, even if you’ve only met a few times.
- Buying gifts: Picking up small items you think would bring them joy, even if you only know a few of their interests.
- Curiosity: Trying to find out more about the person by stalking their social media or running online people searches for them.
So why do I catch feelings so fast?
People catch feelings for a variety of reasons, and if you catch feelings for a friend or someone you’ve known for a long time, it could be a genuine love connection. However, according to McCann, if you often catch feelings for people after only knowing them a very short time, you likely derive your self-worth from your relationships.
“You may subconsciously believe that you are more worthy when you are part of a couple, and become excited and hopeful of the idea of becoming more worthy when you decide on the person who will do that for you,” explained McCann. “People who ruminate on their past and have a track record of unfulfilled relationships are often ones to catch feelings. They are looking to recreate or redo a past disappointment.”
“Catching feelings is absolutely normal and is a sign of feeling attracted to and connected to another person,” added Manly. “However, catching feelings can be problematic if a person chronically feels attracted to people but is unwilling to pursue a healthy relationship.”
Furthermore, people who tend to daydream about the future also have a tendency to catch feelings because they also believe in the promise of a brighter, happier tomorrow as a married man or woman, which drives them to attach their happiness to a potential partner very early on.
Catching feelings can be problematic if it becomes a habitual behavior (e.g., a person who “catches feelings” for a different person every month). According to Manly, such behaviors can be a sign of various underlying issues such as emotional immaturity, abandonment issues or a fear of genuine attachment.
How to stop catching feelings so soon
According to McCann, the way to stop catching feelings so quickly is to recognize that you believe another person makes you feel more worthy of happiness than you already are. Once you become more self-aware, you can change that habit.
“When you meet someone and feel yourself ‘catching feelings,’ you can pause and say to yourself, ‘Wait. I don’t know this person that well yet. Before I get too excited and start planning my wedding, let me be aware of the fact that we just met a few days ago and I need to know them better,’” explained McCann. “This way you don’t confuse the feeling of ‘becoming more worthy’ with the feeling of real love.”
However, if you find yourself chronically catching feelings in an inappropriate or unhealthy way, you may want to take a step back and see if there may be larger underlying issues or traumas going on.
“It can be helpful to consult with a psychologist to explore the underlying issues,” said Manly. “As well, it can be helpful to track the patterns by journaling and talking to friends. In general, it’s very helpful to take steps to increase self-awareness so that positive patterns are consciously created to replace any negative patterns.”
Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy
We’ve all been there at one point or another. That feeling of wanting to win over the other person and be in a relationship with them makes you feel as if you are in love already.
“You can be sure it is not real love if you have a constant fear of losing that person, obsess about him/her throughout your day, and are already planning a future in the first few weeks of getting to know him/her, instead of being present and continuing to assess if you mesh well romantically,” said McCann.
“Catching feelings is not a problem in itself though,” added Manly, “but if it is a pattern that creates intrapersonal or interpersonal issues, it’s important to figure out what’s going on behind the scenes.”