Whether it is better “to have loved and lost then not to have loved at all” is a matter for serious debate. What is a fact beyond all doubt is that love is a serious affliction and that the state of being in love is a mind altering situation. Romantic love has the same affect on the brain as a drug and therefore is love not a drug?
In 1999, a study in England, using sophisticated brain scanning equipment, found that the sites in the brain most active when a person falls in love are the same as those stimulated by cocaine. The study concluded that love is a form of compulsive, obsessive, unpredictable behaviour. Does living like that sound right to you, dear sensible reader? In any words, love is a drug, even if given to us by nature. The victim receives a flood of chemicals to the brain, creating feelings of euphoria.
A man can be stricken quicker than a woman – a bit like the common cold! He can fall in love through eye contact across a crowded room, although the scientists claim he looks for wide hips and is drawn to her breathing. Well actually they said “chest heaving up and down”, but I thought “breathing” more polite. The sisters may deny this, but the same scientist says that women first carry out a subconscious evaluation of reliability and future father of family material.
Mankind is the only animal which suffers from this love thing. Furthermore, it is said that the condition evolved as a mechanism for keeping a man and a woman together long enough to raise a child to three or four years. I can hear shrieks of horror and disagreements from a majority of you – but it gets worse – and remember please that I am only the messenger: Researchers find that the love drug rarely lasts longer than six years – so there! Maybe this is where the “seven year itch” comes from?
Men and women have given up everything for love; family, fortunes, status, titles and even kingdoms – proving that love is indeed a mind altering drug and that sufferers may not “be of sound mind”. People from all over the world, from every culture, all describe falling in love in similar terms; euphoria, exhilaration and elation. We are talking here about a drug-like craving and obsession for the person they desire. But how does this romantic love affect the brain?
Helen Fisher, author of “Why we love” says that the brain sees romantic love as a reward, stimulating activity in the same areas that light up when a person seeks any kind of reward, whether it is chocolate, money or drugs. “It became apparent to me that love was a drive – a drive as strong as thirst or hunger. People live for love, they die for love, they kill for love, they sing about love”, Ms Fisher wrote. It affects all ages – so no more singling out us “dirty old men”! An eight year old girl took part in a study and had the same reaction as men and women in their eighties. We are not talking here about family love or platonic love – we are talking about the love-drug.
In romantic love, our neurons, hormones, brain, blood-pressure, heart and stomach are all in a state of turmoil. Most of us have been attacked by this bug. As well, we see family members, friends and work colleagues get it real bad – you will always know them; they cannot concentrate on work, don’t eat, can’t sleep and fail to function in a rational manner.
A name dropped, a song on the radio, a whiff of perfume or after-shave or a harmless joke can transform the sufferer into a trance like state. You never know how to give first-aid in an emergency, because the attack can take the form of deliriously jumping up and down, or alternatively bursting into tears. Oh, and God protect innocent bystanders from the jilted and the jealous. In drug terms this might be known as love addiction with severe side effects.
Psychiatrists liken people suffering from love withdrawals to the acutely depressed. Look at all the depressing songs there are about lost love, honky-tonk angels and the likes. “Love makes the world go round” it is claimed, but is this true and in this day and age is it not time to rid ourselves of this mill-stone? In parts of England divorce now runs at more than 50% which of course does not include the failed relationships which never make it to the altar
Here in Ireland, the loss of production and man-hours due to this drug is costing the country billions. Love causes fights, break-ups of friendships, families and even murder. It is time to deal effectively with the problem. Pharmaceutical drug companies are coming up with a remedy for just about every affliction; Is it too much to expect that they might discover a little tablet to cure this love yoke? At least the ministers for health and justice should commission a white paper on the crises – too many people are suffering!
Love may be blind – but it still finds its was around.