In 1992, a pair of anthropologists set out to survey 166 of the world’s societies about their particular experience with romantic love. They found that 147 expressed very similar feelings of associated with love (the remaining 19 were not counted because of discrepancies in the questioning, not because there was any negative feedback). Love is a universal human experience—and one for which the scientific community has found many psychological and physiological explanations.

The potent chemical cocktail that you feel when under the influence of romantic love is dominated by dopamine and is associated with certain areas of the brain, including the striatum, also known as the brain’s “pleasure center.” Dopamine release is causes some of the most wonderful feelings of the human experience, like enjoyment, contentment and satisfaction.

Romantic love also activates areas in the brain, primarily the insula, associated with motivation to acquire a reward, gives value to certain pleasurable, life-sustaining human activities. Essentially, the theory is that our brain creates this sense of euphoria (i.e. love) in order to ensure the continuation of our species.

But what about the earliest form of romantic love—the inevasible and indescribable crush. “Crushes,” as we think of them, are often associated with teenagers—and for good reason. The sweaty palms, racing heart and flushed cheeks are symptoms much associated with awkward cafeteria encounters and passed notes in study hall.

Romantic crushes often occur in the early teenage years, and they are an important (though sometimes insufferable) experience to go through. By this time, young people are leaving their childhood years and entering adolescence. They want to act more grown up, and puberty has sent them into a sexual maturity that differentiates them into acting in more manly or womanly ways.

Psychologically speaking, crushes occur when a person of any age projects their ideas and values onto another person whom they believe possesses certain attributes and with whom they want to be associated. Then, the person with the crush attaches strong positive feelings to this magical image that they have created. It is a powerful mixture of idealization and infatuation. The brain chemicals associated with crushes can wreak havoc (or pure bliss, depending on your point of view) on a person for up to two years.

If a powerful crush lasts longer than two years, it may actually be what psychologists call limerence. This condition can be defined as “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation; obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings and behaviors; and emotional dependence on another person.” Symptoms include uncontrollable thoughts, extreme nervousness and trouble breathing. If you experience any of these symptoms for a prolonged period of time, you should consult a doctor.

But for most of us, crushes don’t evolve into something that needs medical attention, so you don’t need to worry too much. Crushes are a very normal, healthy part of human experience. The next time you fall for someone and think, "I can't get them out of my head!" you have brain chemistry to thank for that!

The author is an Advanced Line Therapist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a science which works to increase and decrease targeted behaviors in people. Intensive ABA therapy is a method of treatment for children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). His job presents unique challenges, yet he knows that he is helping his clients lead more fulfilling lives. He finds the work infinitely interesting, though physically demanding and exhausting.

My job is going from house to house within the Milwaukee suburbs doing one-on-one ABA therapy with kids who are on various areas of the autism spectrum.

Each child has six to nine people working with them on a team. The people the child sees most frequently are the line therapists, of which there is an average of four per team. The line therapists are trained to be robotic with the children and use simple cause and effect techniques to determine how to manage the child’s challenging behaviors. For example, most of the programs that we do are administered at “table time”. To begin table time, you are instructed to say “come here” or “it’s table time”, one time only. If the child does not come, the therapist must silently stand up and manually guide them to the table, kicking and screaming as they may be. Consistency is key in this line of work.

Most (full time) line therapists average seven hours per week with four kids, give or take, approximately 40 total hours when you factor travel. When I talk to other line therapists and tell them I do upwards of thirty four one-on-one hours per week I usually get a look of amazement, because they understand the demanding nature of the job.

My usual day consists of three shifts of two to three hours, yet by the time the first shift is over I often feel like I’ve just spent a 10-hour day in the sun (which I know because I used to work 10-hour days in the sun). Following this, and travel time, I find myself arriving at a three-hour afternoon shift already beaten and battered (sometimes quite literally). Part of the challenge to my job is remaining positive, partially because some of the kids are so seriously challenged, and partially because by the time I’ve gotten to that last house chances are I’m on your third cup of coffee and my mind is placed solely on the comforts of your own room. Throughout my time with the company I have realized that the child learns best when they perceive you as fun, and enjoy spending time with you. I am a naturally animated person who unashamedly participated in theater in high school, so I know how to access the extra energy even when I’m already burnt out.

I am an advanced line therapist. Which means I’ve been on the child’s team for a while and have the ability to help train new staff. The longer I’ve worked with ABA therapy, the more I’ve learned about the business side of managing a  service like this one. Turnover is high. More frequently, the position of advanced line therapist is merely relied on by management to complete time consuming paperwork such as data sheets and progress notes in an efficient manner. My position is overseen by seniors, supervisors, and leads. These people make up the members of the child’s team. I’m a recent college graduate, so I don’t have specialty training in therapy or in working with kids on the autism spectrum. While I did have to go through training before beginning my work, the company I work for employs somewhere around 500 people and I am completely replaceable. If I commit to this positi0n long term, there are opportunities for advancement, and I find the work rewarding enough that I may stick around. Despite the exhausting nature of the daily work, it’s rewarding to see kids improve in the way they’re able to interact and express themselves.

Every child has different needs. The rules can be bent or broken depending of the circumstances surrounding each child. For example, I am on the team of one child where we do programs on the floor (as opposed to the table) in context with our play. With this child, there is no determined beginning or end to “work time” as we might call it. With each house you need to go through a mental tally chart in your mind of all the conflicting needs of the child as well as the expectations of family. The day becomes a mental game of whack-a-mole regarding which technique to use while managing a particular behavior.

The work is endlessly interesting. One of the kids I work with engages in a screeching and wandering behavior when undesired things take place. An example of such an event is the internet going out, or the loss of a toy animal. He will put his hands on his ears, protrude an under bite, and stomp his feet widely as he paces around the living room screeching at a tight wavelength. I assume the wavelength of the sound is tight because it is high pitched and rattles the eardrums when done properly by the child. His goal during this bout seems to be hitting this particular wavelength, and using his imagination to escape the situation. Our senior therapist’s behavior plan includes us blocking the wandering behavior so that the child literally cannot wander. The screeching, on the other hand, seems to be a deeper seeded issue. We usually try to give the screeching child incompatible behaviors, like telling the child to say things (such as “I don’t like that”), because you cannot screech when you are talking. We also have many teaching programs in place regarding the use of language.

Overall, my work is challenging, and deeply rewarding. I see the kids make great strides each day. O.K., sometimes it’s just baby steps, but progress is progress and every step counts. I’m working on adjusting my expectations and I’m looking forward to where this experience takes me.

If you are interested in meeting with a behavioral health care provider to support mental health and wellness, try online videoconferencing through Inpathy

If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a free, 24-hour hotline at 1.800.273.8255. If your issue is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.