Love as a mental illness  

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Socrates: You should rather say "madly"; and madness was the argument of them, for, as I said, "love is a madness". --The Phaedrus, tr. Jowett


“LOVE, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease, like _caries_ and many other ailments, is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.”--The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce


“The language of Valentine's Day cards and love songs-‘crazy for you,’ ‘madly in love,’ et cetera-may reveal an important truth. Sometimes, love looks like a mental disorder, says British clinical psychologist Frank Tallis, the author of Love Sick: Love as a Mental Illness" --Thomas Szasz[1]

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Love as a mental illness is a view on romantic love. It is reflected in common parlance in expressions such as "I love you madly" and "I'm crazy about you."

Literature and poetry has always described love as a kind of madness, and the medical profession takes a similar approach. According to the Hippocratic Medicine view, passionate love will almost always fade or turn into 'love melancholy’- this is a form of depression or sadness. Passionate love is the love in the "honeymoon phase", the beginning of new love, but it burns itself out after a year or two, compassionate love is what occurs after passionate love fades, it is a stronger bond of companionship. In both cases, lovesickness can be experienced if love is lost or unrequited.

As early as 1915, Freud asked rhetorically, "Isn't what we mean by 'falling in love' a kind of sickness and craziness, an illusion, a blindness to what the loved person is really like." ("Observations on Transference-Love") Even before that, in 360 B.C.E Plato once said, “Love is a serious mental disease,” (usually said to be found in The Phaedrus) and Socrates added that “Love is a madness” (The Phaedrus), and how true are these wise words. Love sickness isn’t just a form of expression for those head-over-heels, but has been studied as an actual illness.

Scientific study on the topic of lovesickness has found that those in love experience a kind of high similar to that cause by illicit drugs such as cocaine. In the brain, certain neurotransmitters– phenethylamine, dopamine, norepinephrine and oxytocin – elicit the feeling of high from “love” or “falling in love” using twelve different regions of the brain. These neurotransmitters mimic the feeling of amphetamines.

On average a psychologist does not get referrals from general practitioners mentioning "lovesickness", although this can be prevalent through the language of what the patient feels. With the common symptoms of lovesickness being related to other mental diseases, it is often misdiagnosed or it is found that with all the illnesses one could be facing, love is the underlying problem. This is incredibly dangerous when one does not seek help or cannot cope because love has been known to be fatal (a consequence of which might be attempted suicide, thus dramatising the ancient contention that love can be fatal).

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Love as a mental illness" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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