Serotonin and Love: Supporting Evidence From a Patient Suffering From Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common psychiatric condition characterized by the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions, with a prevalence of approximately 2% and no sex-related difference (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition). In the last decades, the treatment of OCD has been revolutionized by the evidence of the specific effectiveness of drugs enhancing the functionality of the serotonin (5-HT) system, such as clomipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant, and selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitors. In this way, the clinical management of OCD, for too long considered unresponsive to pharmacological treatments, has improved significantly, with a rate of responders reaching 60% and a positive impact on individual adjustment and quality of life, which are generally very low.1 At the same time, biological studies in OCD confirmed a crucial involvement of 5-HT in OCD, although, obviously, it is not the only neurotransmitter involved in its pathophysiology.2
The role of 5-HT within brain physiology is wide, probably exerted through its different receptors, and encompasses several functions and behaviors and even emotions and feelings, such as romantic love.3,4 It has been reported that a decreased function of 5-HT might be related to romantic love and, particularly, to what is considered its main feature, that is to say a sort of transient obsessional thoughts related to the partner.5 Such a physiological form of OCD is considered essential to maintain the focus on the partner and not to shift attention (and therefore resources) toward others.6,7
The present article reports the case of a young healthy adult who, every time that he falls in love, suffers from a full-blown OCD.