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Comprehensive Psychoneuroendocrinology
Volume 6, 2021, 100032

Love and fear in the times of sickness

Robert Dantzer

Department of Symptom Research, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Sickness induced by gastrointestinal malaise or by microbial pathogens is more than a private experience. Sick individuals share their illness within their social environment by communicating their sickness to others. In turn, recipients of the communication respond with appropriate behavioral adaptations. Avoidance of sick individuals and the events associated with their sickness is advantageous for members of the group. However, these responses can conflict with the need for comfort or social support expressed by sick individuals. There is evidence that the relationship between the sick individual and its social environment involves neurobiological mechanisms that are similar to those that mediate social bonding. Despite their commonality the feelings of love and fear/disgust that are associated with the sociality of sickness have thus far been neglected by mainstream affective neuroscience.

Keywords: Sickness, Behavior, Inflammation, Conditioned taste aversion, Fitness, Parasites, Infection, Love, Fear.

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