Thursday, September 06, 2007

Caveat Amore

Love sickness has historically been viewed as a mental illness brought on by the intense changes associated with falling in love. Ibn Sena, the 10th century physician considered to be "the father of modern medicine," viewed obsession as the principal symptom and cause of love sickness. This diagnosis has been out of favor since the collapse of the humoral model and advent of modern scientific psychiatry.

However the concept of being "madly" in love is not simply a poetic notion. For some, the ups and downs of love sickness may actually have diagnostic similarities with mental illness. People who find the feeling of love too intense may experience "love sickness," with feelings of anxiety and can have symptoms of mania, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), inflated self esteem and depression.

A study in The Psychologist, the official publication for the British Psychological Society, concluded that love sickness should be taken more seriously by professionals. According to the author of the study, Frank Tallis, "Many people are referred for help who cannot cope with the intensity of love, have been destabilised by falling in love, or suffer on account of their love being unrequited."

Some of the symptom clusters shared with love sickness include:

  • mania – abnormally elevated mood, inflated self esteem, extravagant gift giving
  • depression – tearfulness, insomnia, loss of concentration
  • OCD – preoccupation, checking (e.g. text messages/emails, etc.), and hoarding valueless but superstitiously resonant items
  • psychologically created physical symptoms, such as upset stomach, change in appetite, insomnia, dizziness, and confusion.

More substantively, the estimated serotonin levels of people falling in love were observed to drop to levels found in patients with OCD (Marazitti et al., 1999). Further, in brain scan investigations, individuals who professed to be ‘truly, deeply and madly’ in love showed activity in several structures in common with in the neuroanatomy of OCD, for example the anterior cingulate cortex and caudate nucleus (Bartels & Zeki, 2000).



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I "Love Sick" or "Mentally Ill"? A little of both?

Love captured in any form is worth experiencing. Mania is a beautiful mess.

8:22 AM  

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