A woman becomes so obsessed with her dentist that her incessant stalking forces him to leave the country; over the space of several years a happily-married businessman destroys his massive fortune through secret trysts with over 3 000 prostitutes because his ego requires them to fall in love with him.
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and although these stories make for suspenseful Hollywood scripts, they are all accurate recollections in a new book by British psychologist Frank Tallis.
In The Incurable Romantic: And Other Tales of Madness and Desire, Tallis gives some insight into how otherwise reasonable people can go crazy because of one common denominator - love. The book delves a great deal into the history of psychiatry and the role of neuroscience in addressing disordered love.
"In the modern world, we've lost faith in God and spirituality, but we still have faith in love and particularly romance," Tallis said during an interview with The Washington Post.
"It has, for many people, a kind of redeeming quality. I think that often love and sex are surrogates for the kind of things that spirituality provided."
During his eight years studying to become a clinical psychologist, Tallis points out that only one hour was devoted to the subject of love, hypothesizing that it is still a neglected field in modern psychology.
His thoughts are that love, which often involves delusions and obsessions, can sometimes seem a form of psychopathology. And he bases his findings on facts, quoting estimates that sexual jealousy and rejection often motivate up to 10 percent of murders and a significant number of suicides.
"The idea of possession, of having and controlling another to the point of, almost delirium, confirms this notion of how people can go crazy over love," concurs intimacy coach Tracy Ziman Jacobs.
"People have caused wars over love, lost their lives, and women who have driven themselves to the point of suicide over broken hearts. Women crazed by jealousy and rage who will stop at nothing to get what they want."
So then, what leads an otherwise normal person to act irrationally when it comes to overwhelming feelings of love?
Kas Naidoo has been a specialist matchmaker for over 12 years, and admittedly, she's seen many rational people behave in unexpected ways, especially when a relationship breaks down or if the other person does not feel the same way.
And yes, she also believes that love, or the illusion thereof, can distort a relationship. “When two people genuinely love, respect and acknowledge each other, that relationship will thrive as a partnership. It is only when one partner is insecure or has a very low self esteem that they may choose to control their partner in an attempt to keep them in the relationship,” says the Durban-based relationship coach.
Naidoo warns that this has the makings of a dysfunctional relationship, and “unfortunately the control is disguised as caring in the beginning and then escalates over time”.
Ziman Jacobs has another take, adding that "the moment we love, we become vulnerable to pain".
"The willingness to show ourselves to someone completely takes guts to become vulnerable to pain. The soul yearns to give and receive love. It yearns for the chance to be vulnerable so that it might find love. For that the heart must take a big leap of faith. Once it has done that, it has tasted desire for love and the craziness begins"