3 Ways in Which Love Resembles an Illness

When love hits, it can resemble the kind of malady we'd probably seek treatment for ... if it didn't (in most cases) feel so good.

Old sports:

The other day, I read a philosophy blog in which the author argued that love is like a personality disorder, because it isn't an underlying condition made manifest by certain "symptoms"--attraction, admiration, reliance--but a condition created by the symptoms themselves.

I thought she was going to take things in a different direction--the way Gabriel Garcia Marquez does in his novel,

Love in the Time of Cholera--

and talk about how much love resembles an actual malady, both physical and psychological; the kind of thing we'd probably get treatment for if it wasn't ... love! Since she didn't, I'm going to go in that direction myself.


One of the characters in Love in the Time of Cholera is so weakened by unrequited love--he is pale, weak, sick to his stomach--that his mother worries that he has the dread disease cholera. But sorry Ma: It's just love. And like illness, love can disrupt us physically--it can exhaust us, affect our appetite, make us dizzy. The problems are particularly bad when the love we feel is not returned.


When we are falling in love with someone, we think about the love object incessantly. Like lab rats, we return again and again to the corner of the cage where the memory-dispenser is hung; we tap, tap, tap it with our noses, and greedily drink in thoughts of the beloved like so much morphine. Sometimes, it's hard to tell if the love object inspires the obsessive thinking OR if the simple fact that we allow ourselves to think obsessively inspires the love.

For instance, recently, someone was putting the moves on me, and just thinking about all the nice things he was saying + doing was so pleasurable that I replayed them in my mind again and again and again ... even while knowing I was being dangerously self-indulgent by getting high on those thoughts repeatedly. But I couldn't control myself--in part because I was so sleep-deprived (see Section 2, on physical symptoms) that I had no will power. The obsessive thinking made me more into him than maybe I would've been if I'd manage to remain more rational. (Then again, maybe letting go of rationality is part and parcel of love.)

(Pictured, above: Me, a few weeks ago.)


I've already begun to make the case for how love resembles an addiction, above. But allow me to take things one step further by saying that brains on love look very similar to brains on drugs. That is to say, the neurochemicals released when we taking pleasurable drugs are similar to those released when we have sex and begin to fall in love; and the areas of our brain that respond to drugs are the same ones as those that respond to love--and they respond in similar ways. As an article in The Economist put it: "The brains of people deeply in love do not look like those of people experiencing strong emotions, but instead like those of people snorting coke. Love, in other words, uses the neural mechanisms that are activated during the process of addiction."

Lovelies ... what do you think of all this? Am I taking all the fun out of love? Or is it interesting to think about all this? Is love like an illness only its early stages? Or should I have been using the word "lust" or "infatuation" instead of "love"?

love, love, love--