LOVE'S first rush is a private madness between two people, all-consuming and, if mutually felt, endlessly wonderful.
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Couples think about the other obsessively -- on a roller coaster of euphoria when together, longing when apart.
"It's temporary insanity," says Helen Fisher, an evolutionary anthropologist at Rutgers University.
Now, from her studies of the brains of lovers in the throes of the initial tumble, Fisher has developed a controversial theory. She and her collaborator, psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson of the University of Virginia, believe that Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and other antidepressants alter brain chemistry so as to blunt the intense cutting edge of new love.
Fisher and Thomson, who describe their theory in a chapter in the book, "Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience," aren't talking just about the notorious ability of the drugs to damp sexual desire and performance, although that, they believe, plays its part. They think the drugs also sap the craving for a mate -- perhaps even the brain's very ability to fall in love.
And that would be bad news, given the widespread use of antidepressants in this country -- about 10% of adult women and 4% of adult men take the drugs, according to a 2004 report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.
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We are first amazed that 10% of women are on antidepressants. That means in every game of women’s basketball that there is one woman on the court with a prescription for Prozac. That’s a whole lotta medication. Furthermore, while this study is useful, it’s not very surprising. The point of anti-depressants (like a nice Valium + glass of red wine combo) is to take the edge off. They’re not just a hedge against the low side. It’s not Brain Candy. They alleviate mood flux, both up and down. If anti-depressants made you happy some ad wizard would come up with a sweet name like ‘Allrightzen’ or –‘A-Okaycil’. At any rate, it’s a bummer that the best way out of the blues may make the thing that makes us happiest much harder to get.