Could Love Be a Mental Illness?!

“I had noticed that both in the very poor and very rich extremes of society the mad were often allowed to mingle freely” said Charles Bukowski in his novel Ham on Rye.

Everybody experiences insanity at a point in time. They experience a common mental illness regardless of their ethnicity, race or gender. The illness is so common that we mingle with one another with no discrimination. This mental illness is love.

How could love be a mental illness?

There are different perspectives to how one can analyze love; the psychological and the chemical. If we look back at the poetry and prose of famous artists that describe their experience with love, we will find that, based on their description, the symptoms of love include obsessive thoughts, loss of appetite, inability to concentrate, mood swings and insomnia.

Looking at love from a chemical perspective, Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at New Jersey’s Rutgers University, says “The brain system involved in romantic love is so powerful. Everything that is going on in the brain, everything that happens with romantic love has a chemical basis.” A study that Dr. Fisher conducted proves that love triggers the dopamine system of the brain. This is the same system that is involved with addiction and pleasure. On the other hand, people who undergo break up showed activity in a part of the brain that represents physical pain or trauma. Other studies that compared love to mental illnesses such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression proved that both the patients and love struck individuals had a similar drop in crucial hormones such as serotonin.

It seems that the individuals in love are somewhat addicted to their partner in such a way that the presence of any argument immediately alters the hormone levels and activates areas in the brain that are not supposed to be activated. Even couples who are in love show symptoms that represent mental instability.

How can this help us?

Looking at love from two different perspectives gives us a wider view of what love really is and in return help us solve problems that are associated with love and marriage. In other words studying the chemical and psychological anatomy of love gives us hints on how we improve relationships and bring back separated couples. Putting the latter in practical terms, Arthur Aron, a social psychologist, discusses that the dopamine system being engaged when new experiences take place. Aron believes we can use this piece of information by associating new experiences with one’s ex. This shifts the attribution of new experiences and the activation of the dopamine system to the presence of the loved one/ ex. In this way, the dopamine system will be activated in the presence on the person even without a new experience. This triggers and develops romantic love.

Mai Elsayed

A Mass Communication alumna from the American University of Sharjah. Loves writing about human related stories and factors that affect our psychological well being such as relationships, love and family.

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