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Lovesickness refers to an informal affliction that describes negative feelings associated with ongoing relationships, or the absence of a loved one. It can manifest as physical as well as mental symptoms. It is not to be confused with the condition of being in love, which refers to the physical and mental symptoms associated with falling in love. The term lovesickness is rarely used in medical or psychological fields.
Many people believe lovesickness was created as an explanation for longings, but it can be associated with depression and various mental health problems.
The "honeymoon effect"
This section is too long to read comfortably, and needs subsections. (January 2019)
The "honeymoon effect" is the initially high but rapidly decreasing relationship satisfaction in newlywed couples, but it is mainly defined and studied by the decline in the frequency of sexual intercourse from early in the marriage or relationship compared to later in the relationship. This decline occurs because of habituation. Emotional stimuli lose their ability to evoke emotions when the stimuli become too familiar, which happens in relationships. This honeymoon phenomenon is familiar to many who have committed themselves to a significant other for a period longer than six to twelve months, which is the typical length of the honeymoon phase.
When studying the honeymoon effect, sexual intercourse is the stimulus measured. Sexual interaction is a vital component in a romantic relationship.[original research?] It is related to health, relationship quality, and relationship stability.[original research?] At the beginning of a relationship, the persons involved are so infatuated with one another that everything seems and feels so new. The ability to arouse another by a simple touch, intrude on their thoughts and provoke an urge to touch drives each partner at the beginning of a relationship. However, this urge declines with familiarity. In one study, of a sample of four hundred married couples found that their frequency of sexual intercourse declined by thirty-two percent in a four-year period, and for average newlyweds, the first month of marriage is accompanied with about eighteen accounts of sexual intercourse and about nine accounts of sexual intercourse in the second month. The high amount of sexual interaction in the first month of marriage is credited to the law of emotional momentum. This law studies how a stimulus can repeatedly evoke the same emotions in a person until the person habituates for that stimulus. Before habituation occurs, when a person is reminded of a portion of the initial stimulus, they experience a portion of the emotion all over again. The intensity and duration of an emotion depend on the strength of the emotion the stimulus elicits and if reminders of the stimulus intrude into consciousness which forces the individual to experience the emotional response all over again. The stronger the change this stimulus brings, the greater the emotion the individual will experience.
The honeymoon effect has become so popular among the scientific, literary, and public realm that people are attempting to develop ways to hinder the ending effects the honeymoon phase has on a relationship. Studies are often performed to assess couples' relationship and marital satisfaction, and further studies are done to aid individuals in pinpointing why they might be feeling unsatisfied or less satisfied as their relationship continues. While some couples may find these studies and programs beneficial, this obsession with the honeymoon effect has led people to believe they are at a higher risk to experience dissatisfaction in their relationship than they actually are. Believing oneself to be more at risk for negative effects after the honeymoon phase ends can be just as harmful, if not more harmful, to the relationship than the negative effects of the ending of the honeymoon phase can be.
Love as mental illness
Literature and poetry have often 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.
Love sickness is not just an expression but has been studied as an actual illness. In 1915, Sigmund 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".
Scientific study on the topic of lovesickness has found that those in love experience a kind of high similar to that caused 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).
In his book The Social Nature of Mental Illness, Professor Len Bowers brings up the fact that although physiological differences exist in the brain of those that are deemed "mentally ill," there are several other criteria that must be met before the differences can be called a malfunction. It is possible, therefore, that many mental illnesses, such as lovesickness, will never have strong enough evidence to officially be considered a legitimate affliction.
Frank Tallis, a researcher in the topic of love and lovesickness, suggests in his 2005 article that lovesickness occurs when one is "truly, madly, deeply" in love and should be taken more seriously by medical professionals. Similarly, health experts agree that lovesickness has been known to kill and the diagnosis process should be taken more seriously. Symptoms of lovesickness are usually misdiagnosed for various other diseases or mental health issues such as OCD, this is because love sickness is less commonly recognized as a mental health issue in itself even though lovesickness is an extremely common, widespread disease.
Tallis includes a list of common symptoms of love sickness:
- Mania - an abnormally elevated mood or inflated self-esteem
- Depression, hopelessness, or helplessness
- Insomnia, which may lead to fatigue
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Stress - high blood pressure, pain in chest and heart, acute insomnia; sometimes brought on by a "crush"
- Obsessive-Compulsive disorder - Preoccupation and hoarding valueless but superstitiously resonant items
- Psychologically created physical symptoms, such as upset stomach, change in appetite, insomnia, dizziness, and confusion
- Chronic neck pain, body tremors, intrusive thoughts, frequent flashbacks.
- Rapid mood swings
According to Tallis, many symptoms of being lovesick can be categorized under the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and the ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases). Obsessive-Compulsive disorder (OCD) is a symptom of lovesickness because it includes a preoccupation, this would include constantly checking one's cellphone, Facebook, the hoarding of valueless items, etc. A further study conducted by Italian Psychiatrist Donatella Marazitti found that when people fall in love their estimated serotonin levels drop to levels found in patients with OCD, this level is significantly lower than that of an average or healthy person.
William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet portrays the true madness of "love" and the grief that the two young, infatuated lovers feel. When Romeo finds his love dead (or so he believes), with the thought of living without his "true love", the grief and depression overcomes him and he takes his own life. Juliet, after awaking and upon seeing his dead body is also overcome with despair and takes her own life.
- Deckers et al., 2018
- Deckers et al., 2018
- Deckers et al., 2018
- Lorber, Erlanger, Heyman, O’Leary et. al, 2015
- Tallis, Frank. "Is Love a Mental Illness?". Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- Whitbourne, Susan K. "What is the Passion in Passionate Love?". Psychology Today. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
- Janet Malcolm, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (1988) p. 9
- Vaughn, Tricia. "Love sickness is real, and the high it provides looks a lot like cocaine usage". Article. The Crimson White. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
- Tallis, Frank (2004). Love Sick: Love as a Mental Illness (Second ed.). Da Capo Press.
- Tallis, F (2005). "Truly, madly deeply in love" (PDF). The Psychologist. 18 (2): 72–4.
- "British study say: Unrequited love can be a 'killer'". BBC. 2 April 2014. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
- Marazziti D, Akiskal HS, Rossi A, Cassano GB (May 1999). "Alteration of the platelet serotonin transporter in romantic love". Psychol Med. 29 (3): 741–5. doi:10.1017/S0033291798007946. PMID 10405096.
- Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet.
- Tallis, Frank (2005). Love Sick: Love as a Mental Illness.
- Vaughn, Tricia (2013). "Love sickness is real, and the high it provides looks a lot like cocaine usage".
- Bowers, Len (2000). The social nature of mental illness. London: Routledge. ISBN 0415227771.
- King, Helen (2008). "The Secret Wound: Love, Melancholy and Early Modern Romance (review)". Bulletin of the History of Medicine. 82 (2): 445–446. doi:10.1353/bhm.0.0009.