- Falling madly in love may really make you mentally ill,
according to Italian scientists.
- Their research found emotional and biological similarities
between people in love and those suffering from a psychiatric disorder,
says a report in New Scientist magazine.
- Psychiatrist Donatella Marazziti, of the University of
Pisa, noticed how lovesick youngsters' one-track thoughts mirrored those
of people with a mental illness called obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
- OCD sufferers experience nagging, anxious thoughts and
feel compelled to repeat tasks such as washing their hands and tidying
- In 1990, Dr Marazziti found OCD was linked to lower levels
of the brain chemical serotonin, which affects people's moods.
- But she was struck by how sufferers' obsessive emotions
recalled those of people newly in love, who often praise their loved ones
wit and beauty for hours on end.
- When she and her team compared serotonin levels between
20 lovesick Italian students and 20 people with OCD, they discovered both
groups had similarly low levels of the brain chemical.
- Obsession aids evolution
- "It is often said that when you're in love, you're
a little bit crazy," said Dr Marazziti. "That may be true."
- University of California psychiatrist Hagop Akiskal,
one of the research team, suggested this obsessive behaviour may be linked
- Without intense emotion, he said no-one in their "right"
mind would fall in love and have children.
- But the study found the first flush of love does not
last as emotions settle down.
- When the researchers tested the students a year later,
they found their serotonin levels had returned to normal and their obsession
with their partners had died down.
- The search for love
- Lucy Selleck, a counsellor for marriage guidance group
Relate, said people can become blinded by love and make unwise decisions.
- "It seems for some people the feeling of falling
in love is quite addictive," she said.
- "When it levels off it's a bit of a let down so
they go off seeking it again and again."
- But Vicki Carr, a consultant with dating agency Drawing
Down the Moon, said some find the search for love frustrating.
- "The people we deal with want to experience the
madness of falling in love but it is not really happening."