Love or Mania?
(Column: Sex and Relationships)
Trying to figure out what love is supposed to feel like
Michelle Bruenn & Jenny Chan
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Question: How do you know when you're in love and not in some kind of ‘manic infatuation’ with somebody?
Michelle: This is such a complicated question I’m afraid I’m not certain where to begin. I suppose first we should examine what it means to be in love. Recent neurological research has found that people who are in love show brain activity in the emotional areas of the brain but not in the logical, cognitive areas. This implies that people in love are literally acting based exclusively on emotions, utterly without logical input. In many ways this is similar to a manic state. Mania can heighten feelings of connections to others and may make the person suffering from it feel a sense of the interconnectivity of the universe. Someone who is manic may feel a sense of euphoria; they may be hypersexual or exaggerate expansively. All of these elements of mania are at least vaguely related to what is generally associated with the behavior of people who are in love. However, mania also comes with other symptoms that are not consistent with those of falling in love. When someone is manic they tend to be irrational, easily distracted, more active and talkative than they normally are, have less need for sleep and be prone to flights of ideas and grandiose statements.
In analyzing your own behavior it is the latter symptoms that you should pay particular attention to. If you find that your thoughts are going faster than usual, that you’re sleeping less and exercising more, or if you find yourself switching rapidly from one task to another, you may be verging on a manic state. If you’ve experienced mania in the past watch out for the symptoms that you experienced on that occasion. When you fall in love you may find yourself more emotional than usual but the symptoms I just mentioned should not be present.
Finally I want to briefly tackle the idea of ‘infatuation.’ The difference between infatuation and love is fairly vague. I for one will define infatuation as a somewhat exaggerated view of a person who you don’t know very well, and the adoration of that person as a result of this view. Love has never been satisfactorily defined by anyone but I feel that it can exist only between people who know each other well and must be accompanied by trust. Give yourself time to build a relationship before you think of yourself as being in love and keep an eye out for symptoms of mania regardless of the state of your love life. Good luck!
Jenny: You know you’re in love when you can’t stop thinking of someone. When I was in love I wasn’t able to think of anything else but my partner. To me, this meant love. It takes two to be in love. Mania is not as real as real love. Mania can drive you crazy. But love is more relaxing. Love also depends on how long you’ve known someone. Love can take the test of time. For example, I knew a couple who knew each other for 10 years and they are still going strong. When you get married, you really will get to know your partner in bed and out of bed. If it is mania then it is just an infatuation. Mania can turn into obsession and it can become unhealthy. I suggest that you write down what you love about your partner. Then you will know why you’re in love and you can tell your partner why you are in love. Love is love and mania is mania.
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