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Does love make you sick

Does love make you sick?

Sarah Vine and Tania Kindersley

1.Of the various loves, romantic love is the most complicated and inexplicable. It can come on when you least expect it (and with the most unsuitable person), it can cast you from the heights of ecstasy to the abyss of despair, it can roar in you one moment then dissipate as quickly as breath on glass. It is what drives you to offer yourself to another human for the rest of your natural life, but only a few years later you may look back and have no memory at all of that initial ecstasy. Romantic love can be so confusing that sometimes you simply want to give up on the whole thing and concentrate on the nature of dark matter, or macroeconomics, or something else less tiring.

2. A little biology can be helpful here. In the first throes of romantic love you are under the influence of a powerful chemical cocktail: dopamine (which makes opiates look like aspirin) is rushing through your veins. As if that were not enough, a perfect mixture of vasopressin and oxytocin, the attachment hormones, are raging around your body. Much of this was discovered through extensive study of prairie voles, who mate for life, spend a great deal of time tenderly grooming each other and nesting together, and studiously avoid meeting other potential partners.

3.If only all men were just like prairie voles, we say, but if wishes were horses we would all be Lady Godiva.

4.Aside from the chemical cosh, you also have the small-brain problem. MRI scans have shown that falling in love involves only a very tiny part of the brain, a much smaller part than is used when, say, operating heavy machinery. Researchers at University College London have remarked wryly that it was fascinating to reflect that Helen of Troy could have launched a thousand ships through the agency of such a limited expanse of cortex.

5.It is vital, therefore, to bear in mind that when falling in love and choosing your mate you may be making a decision about the rest of your life based on only a fraction of your cognitive function. This limited section of the brain is also the exact same part that responds to cocaine, which means that you may select a partner for life, move to Anchorage and decide to make many babies, all based on the same area of the cortex that enjoys an illegal substance that makes you talk accelerated gibberish all night long.

6.Plato said that love is a mental disease. Modern researchers agree enthusiastically, categorizing love as a form of madness and echoing what psychologists have been telling tearful patients for years. (There are certain shrinks who refuse to treat people in the early throes of love because they are too insane to do a thing with.) Currently, scientists are having a genteel academic squabble over whether love most closely resembles the manic phase of bipolar disorder or the characteristics seen in obsessive compulsive disorder.

7.It is only when the insane chemical phase of love dies down that you can tell whether it is the real thing. If it is, it will shift into the deep steady love that gets you through rainy days and financial crises and the small quotidian tasks that make up a life. This is why couples who have been together for 50 years always talk about marrying their best friend.

8.The mysterious thing about this proper love is that it contains no trace of the early lunacy. It does not make you want to rip the beloved's clothes off at inappropriate moments; it is nothing to do with the wild urge to create a universe with only the two of you in it. Instead, it is the kind of profound affection that makes you smile at idiosyncrasies that anyone else would find pointless, or

Does love make you sick

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