The concept of curing lovesickness is one which is universally acknowledged. We are all aware of the pain associated with heartbreak and that the process of moving on can take a long time. The idea of a ‘cure’ for this heartbreak has been portrayed in the media by films such as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. This film depicts a heartbroken man literally removing all memories he has of his ex lover in order to move on. Similarly, scientists believe that if given the right hormones, love is curable.
In scientific terms, love is broken down into three components comprising of lust, attraction and attachment. Studies have shown that the characteristics and brain chemistry of those who have recently fallen in love are very similar to those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This is thought to be a result of the lust associated with love. These groups are found to have lower serotonin levels due to a decrease in the protein that transports this hormone. Serotonin is a hormone which regulates mood. OCD sufferers are often treated with drugs that increase serotonin such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (a form of anti-depressants). Therefore, these SSRIs would dampen or even take away feelings of lust.
However, this does not remove the attraction and attachment felt by those who are in love. Attachment to others is associated with chemicals such as oxytocin (the love hormone) and dopamine. By being given drugs which block the production of said hormones, love can theoretically be cured. Such a hormone was used on prairie voles – who only have one life partner – which resulted in those treated having sex with multiple partners. Though the use of this drug on humans would most likely prove effective, it would also most likely remove feelings of love altogether. This means relationships with family members and other loved ones would be affected. Similarly, the act of blocking the Corticotropin-releasing factor hormone prevented the voles displaying behaviour associated with depression when their partners died. This could theoretically have the same effect on humans going through a bereavement or breakup.
Ultimately, this is a very controversial concept. Though heartbreak can be very emotionally damaging, it is generally a state which will eventually pass when the feelings of attachment fade. Therefore, as it is an eventually self-curing disposition, the use of long-term medication could seem drastic. The encouragement and advertising of the public consumption of these drugs could also be potentially unethical. It would be likely that the pharmaceutical industry would begin to label love as an ailment which needs to be treated for economic gain.
One scenario where such treatment could be seen to be appropriate would be when people are so affected by heartbreak that they become depressed and suicidal. However, therapy and antidepressants are already used as indirect cures which allow the lovesickness to fade naturally. The process of moving on from unrequited love can also be seen as beneficial in the long term as it allows people to grow emotionally from the experience and prepare for future encounters.
Though the concept of curing lovesickness is a good idea in theory, in practice it seems unethical and unnecessary. It seems that the old fashioned method of allowing time to heal all wounds seems a more therapeutic approach to curing lovesickness.
Date: MARCH 3, 2015