Highlighting the striking parallels between our least understood and most exalted states of mind, Nietzsche commented that “there is always some madness in love”.
Perhaps the reason love has such a good reputation when compared to other forms of madness, is its effect on mood.
Euphoria, arousal, elation, talkativeness and flights of fancy can fill the mind in the most pleasurable way and it’s interesting that these are also core symptoms of mania – one end of the manic-depressive spectrum.
The defining feature of madness is delusion, however, where the affected person holds a fixed, unrealistic belief despite persuasive contrary evidence.
People in love are notorious for their unusual beliefs and, indeed, research has shown that we tend to hold unlikely and overly positive beliefs about our lovers.
Romance doesn’t even need a willing partner in some cases, as people who are diagnosed with de Clerambault’s syndrome hold the delusional belief that another person is in love with them, even if they’ve never met.
The original subject of de Clerambault’s seminal case study was a 53 year old woman who believed that King George V was in love with her and signalled his desires by moving the curtains of Buckingham Palace.
It seems madness and love are, in many ways, soul mates, and perhaps we should be grateful for their shared history.
Indeed, madness is at its most spectacular when shared, and the prospect of falling sanely in love with someone surely seems to miss the point.