Here's Why You Lose Your Appetite When You Have a Crush On Somebody

Many pop songs rely on the trope of being unable to eat when you're in love, but what's the actual medical science behind that?

Conversations about loss of appetite due to "lovesickness" go way back.

Before we could pinpoint our bodies' chemical reactions to science, we had to find other ways of explaining lovesickness and its effect on our bodies and minds. Helen King, Professor Emerita of Classical Studies at The Open University, wrote about ancient Romans reactions to love. Her course, Health and Wellbeing in the Ancient World, chronicles their perceptions.

As Caroline Lawrence of The History Girls, who took the course noted, "the Romans considered unrequited love to be a kind of sickness. [Poets] Catullus and Martial, among others, describe some of the symptoms: blushing, sweating, shivering, loss of appetite, stuttering and a buzzing in the ears."

Even physicians were noting the effects of lovesickness.

As Maria Popova of brainpickings notes, a French physician named Jacques Ferrand published a study in 1610 titled "A Treatise on Lovesickness," which explored some of the common side effects of being in love. Ferrand wrote:

"[Lovesickness] gives rise to a pale and wan complexion, joined by a slow fever that modern practitioners call amorous fever, to palpitations of the heart, swelling of the face, depraved appetite, a sense of grief, sighing, causeless tears, insatiable hunger, raging thirst, fainting, oppressions, suffocations, insomnia, headaches, melancholy, epilepsy, madness, uterine fury, satyriasis, and other pernicious symptoms that are, for the most part, without mitigation or cure other than through the established medical remedies for love and erotic melancholy…"

He referred to these as "symptoms of disease" and referred to love as "a kind of poison that is generated within the body itself."

So the loss of appetite is nothing new—but do we now know why it happens?

Kat Van Kirk, PhD, a sex therapist, told CNN a theory: "Lovesickness may actually be the stress hormone cortisol contracting the blood vessels in your stomach, making you feel sick," she explains.

In a 2013 article titled "Cortisol: Why “The Stress Hormone” Is Public Enemy No. 1," Psychology Today explained that "Cortisol is released in response to fear or stress by the adrenal glands as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism." Too much of it can definitely be a bad thing. The article notes that an over-abundance of cortisol can "interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease," and more.

So too much lovesickness might actually lead to real sickness.

Is there any cure?

As CNN notes, "[lovesickness] usually fades over time as you become more comfortable with your boyfriend or girlfriend—but could also partially explain why many brides and grooms feel like they can't eat at their wedding."