Bitching Brew

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Love as a mental illness?

"The principal symptom of lovesickness is obsession with the beloved"

Indeed. I stumbled across an interesting short article by Frank Tallis, arguing that psychologists should take 'lovesickness' more seriously as an explanation. It's a quick, decent read. A lot of the author's points sound intuitively right. Needless to say, that's because much of what he says ought to be classed as the bleeding obvious, though I suspect he's aware of that:

It is difficult to experience passionate love in the absence of at least some psychological pain. When unrequited (or frustrated), passionate love will reliably engender a sense of emptiness – and even despair.

But I love (shoot me...) this one:

We are not always rational in love, particularly in the early stages – do any of these look familiar?

mania– abnormally elevated mood, inflated self-esteem, extravagant gift giving

– tearfulness, insomnia, loss of concentration

obsessive compulsive disorder
– preoccupation, checking (e.g. text messages) hygiene rituals (prior to dating), and hoarding valueless but superstitiously resonant items

Do any of these look familiar? Eh... (shuffles in seat awkwardly)
I can't believe no one told me I was irrational when in love. Worse still, none* of my friends had the guts to point out my obvious psychological disorder. I'm disappointed in them: what's a diagnosis between friends?

To be truthful, I think that's a pretty broad definition of love. It's arguable whether crushes are in fact a form of love; they surely are, but they're not what I mean when I use the L-word. Of course, the symptoms above are all present in the hardcore varieties too.

What I demand next from the psychological establishment is:
(a) a neurological explanation for the coincidence of love and hate
(b) an explanation for the fragility of 'love' - the evolutionary hypothesis is weak here
(c) new and better pills :P

* - I may have lied...

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