Lovesickness

Tennov’s concept of limerence has caught on in popular culture. Even grown glamorous.

But Tennov observes that most “limerent subjects” don’t receive from their “limerent object” any reciprocal limerence. And the result of that unrequited feeling is that “They have a horrible time.[1]”

The obsessive, destructive side of romantic love is sharply described in a latinate term — “hysteroid dysphoria”[2] coined by Drs. Donald Klein and Michael R. Liebowitz at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

The fancy language refers to the emotional experience of the person suffering this condition: recurrent alternating elation and depression, that Liebowitz describes as “living on a roller-coaster.”[3]

Klein and Liebowitz proposed that this condition be included in the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual.[4] (It did not get in.)

The subjects whom they studied were women who experienced setbacks in love. [Why no men?]


[1] Valerie Frankel, The Love Drug, Oprah.com August 25, 2010.
[2] Dysphoria (from Greek) means “pain hard to be borne, anguish.” Hysteroid, derived from the Greek word hystera, uterus, refers to a condition of uncontrollable emotion. The condition used to be called hysteria because the accepted medical opinion said it was caused by a defect in the womb, and thus that it’s a woman’s problem to experience uncontrollable emotion. The diagnosis hysteria is no longer used; let’s get rid of the adjectival form too!
[3] Leggett, Eighteen Stages, 92.
[4] Spitzer and Williams, “Hysteroid dysphoria,” Am J Psychiatry. 1982 Oct;139(10):1286-91 (on PubMed).

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