Sunday, February 06, 2005

Sick of Sicknesses

From drug addiction to road rage, medical organizations love calling various human behaviors diseases. And why shouldn’t they? It’s great rhetoric for drawing attention to their respective organizations and it makes it a lot easier to get funding for various studies. And the best part is if something’s a disease, people don’t commit it, they suffer from it. The irresponsible become victims.

The possibilities and benefits of disease labeling are so alluring, I’m sadly not surprised that a British psychological group now claims there is real sickness to being lovesick. Psychologist Frank Tallis wrote in the Psychologist magazine, “Many people are referred for help who cannot cope with the intensity of love, have been destabilised by falling in love, or who suffer on account of their love being unrequited.”

Having your heart broken is painful, no doubt. We’ve all been there. But saying there are people who literally “cannot cope,” are “destablised” and “suffer” cheapens the pain of real victims with real diseases. It also bids dollars away from finding a cure to legitimate illnesses in order to study and “treat” these scares. If I had something to gain from this chronic mislabeling, I’d call it a disease. Instead, I’ll just term it cruel.


Chris said...

David, undoubtedly "lovesickness" is not a real disease in and of itself. But, then again, I don't think you should discount the concept of being lovesick so easily. I think what the real problem here is people who have underlying psychological problems and thus are unable to cope with the "lovesickness" sydromes when an if they do occur. Besides, I don't know how much lovesickness will take away from the study of Alzheimer's, but I'm sure it wouldn't be much.

David said...

Chris, I considered the same thing--that lovesickness could be a problem if the person in question had a mental illness--but quickly dismissed it. If we accept being lovesick as a genuine illness under those circumstances, then nothing stops us from calling frustration, stress, impatience, hyper-sensitivity or even zeal, diseases. All of these debilitate an insane person, too. But in each case, the problem isn't the emotion, it's the underlying psychological problem. Trying to "fix" these "problems" is akin to obesessing over a cure for the common cold afflicting someone with HIV.

By focusing on underlying problems, we can concentrate our resources to real medical problems instead of being bid away by dozens of concerns people think "won't take away much" by themselves.

Anonymous said...

I am a 47 year old happily married (for 23 years)man with 2 kids who has never cheated on his wife in anyway. I was absolutely not looking for love when I fell deeply into unrequited love with someone I had known casually for more than a year. I had never felt this way before about anyone, it was a mixture of elation and deep sadness for what could never be. The most bizarre thing about it was that I had no lust for this woman...I just wanted to spend every moment with her for the rest of my life. The conflict that this represented resulted in obsessions that I couldn't control. After about 9 months of this, my life and interests began to disappear, my job was in jeopardy and I feared constantly about what would happen if my wife and family found out how I felt. Depression and suicidal thoughts and gesturing (seeing what a razor blade looked like sunk into the skin of my wrist) ensued and I finally sought psychiatric help. The diagnosis was Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder with co-morbid Clinical Depression. After 3 months of Seratonin boosting Celexa and cognitive therapy, I have my life back. I never stalked this woman, I never felt jealous of her boyfriend (who is also a casual friend) I just couldnt get beyond the conflict that being in love with her presented. In short, 3 cheers for Dr. Tallis. He isn't talking about men who get turned down and the singles bars, he is talking about people like me.

Anonymous said...

...more on the above post. While I was going through this, until I saw psychiatrists, the prevailing feeling that people, even close friends, would have toward me and my love for this woman was one completely devoid of emotional support. There seems to be a natural resentment of people who are in love with someone who doesn't love them back. I felt I was being led to self-destruction because of the apparent "uselessness" of a love that I felt so strongly. So I can see where people like me could go to a very bad place in terms of self-preservation and end up in need of medical intervention. There is so little support in society for people who feel this way hence compounding thier feelings of inadequecy and abanbonment.