A Case of Love Sickness

Madame--, aet. 26, of great mental and physical sensibility, was the mother of three children. Her health was good, until the persevering attentions of a visiting acquaintance completely gained her affections. Filled with ideas of her duty, she resisted the seducing influence, and kept the secret of violent passion buried in her heart. This constraint gradually affected her health; she began to suffer from palpation, sensation of fullness at the chest, and indescribable morbid symptoms. The appetite failed, the gastric region felt painful, and stitches were felt in the side. To these actual sensations were associated the most peculiar and sad ideas concerning her health. She believed sometimes that she suffered from aneurysm, sometimes from cancer of the stomach, sometimes and most frequently from consumption. Indeed, a feeling of tenseness, cough and abundant expectoration, feverishness and nocturnal perspirations, had established themselves. The doctor suspected phthisis, and sent the patient to the South of Europe. On her journey she consulted me. I found her mental condition much affected, and her imagination seriously involved. Her sufferings were, according to her own testimony, actually fearful; sharp, red hot irons were forced through her flesh, the fibres of which were torn as if by pincers. She did not, however, complain much of the pulmonary organs. After six months' residence in the South of France she was neither bodily nor mentally improved. The pulmonary affection seemed not to have extended , but her imagination was far more disordered she exhibited a greater tendency to view everything its worst light; and on her return to Paris her state became still worse.
Follow-up:
There she again saw the object of her passion, succumbed, abandoned her husband and family and fled with her seducer. Six months afterwards I saw her again. I could scarcely recognize her. Beauty, freshness, and fulness were in the place of a condition bordering on marasmus. There was no longer cough, expectoration, palpitation, gastric affection, pain or any disease. The gratification of her passion had reestablished her health and disipated the dark ideas of hypochondriasis.

On Love Sickness:
The relationships of disturbed mental states to love have been conceived of in many different ways and have been given many different names. Love-melancholy came into prominence with Robert Burton's [1577-1640] use of the term in his lengthy section on such matters [in the Anatomy of Melancholia]. But over the centuries there have been terms such as love-sickness, love-madness, amor hereos, amor heroicus, heroical love, the malady of heroes, the lover's malady, erotomania, and others. Sometimes apparently synonyms and sometimes clearly not, these different names have often been a source of confusion in themselves. But then what they referred to has also varied a great deal-- from relatively unproblematic states of love to the sad, pining distress of unrequited love, to the agitated furor and derangemrnt of an erotically aroused lover who finds no satisfaction, to the erotically insatiable conditions. At times some of these various conditions have been considered to be forms of melancholia or to be interwoven with melancholia in some way, but this has not been the case for all mental disturbances associated with love and has not always been the case for any particular type of such disturbance [Jackson, Stanley. Melancholia and Depression: From Hippocritic Times to Modern Times, [New Haven Ct., Yale University Press, 1986, p. 352].
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