Lovesickness has gone underground

Cupid's arrow can wound and, if you are feeling unwell today, you could be suffering from lovesickness.

The Otago Daily Times investigates if Valentine's Day is a catalyst for the disease and discovers how florists are helping sufferers.

In the Massey University thesis ''Crazy in Love: Concepts of morbid love in Western medicine from 1951 to the present'', John Berks said the lovesickness ''disease'' had been referred to in medicine, the arts and popular culture for thousands of years, but then disappeared in the late 19th century.

The thesis concluded that lovesickness was not gone but ''lurks in the various disguised and attenuated forms in the periphery of psychiatry''.

In Jacques Ferrand's encyclopedic work A Treatise On Lovesickness, symptoms included ''a desire for solitariness, sighing, hollow eyes, sleeplessness, loss of appetite'', the agitation of the eye lids, a greenish-yellow tint of the skin and sudden tears.

To determine the spread of the disease in Dunedin, figures were requested under the Official Information Act to reveal if Valentine's Day was a catalyst for lovesickness.

Southern District Health Board figures revealed 108 staff took sick leave on Valentine's Day last year and 92 staff were sick the day after.

More SDHB staff took sick leave on February 25, when 127 staff were sick.

University of Otago figures revealed 46 staff were sick on Valentine's Day last year and 48 staff were sick the day after.

More staff were sick on February 20 last year, when 72 university staff were sick.

Dunedin City Council figures revealed that 17 council staff were sick on February 14 and 15 last year.

More council staff were sick on eight other work days in February.

Although lovesickness does not appear to be rife, many Dunedin florists yesterday talked about Valentine's Day orders they had taken from clients who could have been sufferers.

Amaryllis For Flowers owner Susan Broadley said one client asked for an ''ugliest possible'' flower bouquet after a falling out with their partner.

A bouquet with wilted flowers of ''garish colours'' was sent, she said.

Bunches and Bows For Flowers owner Nicole Daniels said a client paid for her to send a rose bouquet ''of stems with no heads''.

Absolutely Fabulous Flowers owner Lorna Burgess said someone who had been ''dumped'' sent a bouquet of thistle and dandelions to their former partner.

The Royal Society of New Zealand published an article on lovesickness in which London clinical psychologist Dr Frank Tallis said many people referred to psychologists could not cope with the intensity of love and had suffered from unrequited love.

Dr Tallis said the symptoms included mania, with elevated moods and inflated self-esteem; depression; or obsessive compulsive disorder, such as repeatedly checking text messages and emails.

''Although there is much modern research into the treatment of relationship and psychosexual problems, there is little dealing with the specific problem of lovesickness,'' Dr Tallis said.



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