Erotomania

Close up of red roseErotomania is a delusion that occurs when a person strongly believes—despite evidence to the contrary—that a person is in love with him or her. The target is often a celebrity, politician, or other high-status person, but people with erotomania may also develop fixations on random strangers and acquaintances. Erotomania has also been termed de Clerambault’s syndrome, after the French psychiatrist who identified the behavior.

Erotomania is not a stand-alone psychiatric diagnosis. In some cases, people with erotomania may be diagnosed with a delusional disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), in order to be diagnosed with a delusional disorder the delusions cannot be due to the effects of a drug or other medical condition, and the person cannot be previously diagnosed with schizophrenia. The person cannot demonstrate strange/bizarre behavior except for the delusions. Erotomania may also be a symptom of other psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia.

What are the Symptoms of Erotomania?

The primary symptom of erotomania is an unassailable belief that another person is in love with you. Common behaviors associated with erotomania include:

  • The belief that the target is sending secret messages to you. A person with erotomania, for example, might believe that a television news anchor uses a secret code to communicate with him or her.
  • Obsession with the perceived “secret admirer” that may include stalking, letter-writing, and other attempts to make contact—even if this contact is unwanted by the target.
  • The belief that the target is in love with the person despite all evidence to the contrary. If the target takes out a restraining order, the person with erotomania might believe this is a secret message encouraging him or her to pursue even more forcefully.

Is There Treatment for Erotomania?

Antipsychotic medication can effectively treat erotomania in some cases. Medication is usually combined with psychotherapy. In some instances, people with erotomania may stalk or otherwise threaten the person of their affection and hospitalization may be warranted.

Erotomania in Popular Culture

Many celebrities have been victims of erotomaniac fantasies. For example, David Letterman and the astronaut Story Musgrave were both stalked by the same person with erotomanic delusions. John Hinckley, Jr., the man who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan is reported to have had erotomanic delusions toward Jodie Foster, and may have attempted the assassination out of misguided desire to communicate with or impress the actress. A minority of people with erotomania may attempt to injure or kill people who they perceive as standing in the way of their relationship with the object of their affection—this has been sensationalized in films such as Fatal Attraction.

Reference:

American Psychological Association. APA concise dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2009. Print.

Last Updated: 08-7-2015

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  • John

    July 3rd, 2015 at 11:58 PM

    This disorder is very disabling at times. It fringes on O.C.D., but it can drive a person to utter and complete frustration because one believes that the thoughts’ they’re having are realistic when their is no basis in reality that such fantasies’ are or can become true. There are people with this disorder that exhibit the qualities’ and primary symptoms’ of erotonomia, but don’t act on these thoughts’. Rather they isolate, like someone with other disorders’ instead of acting on the thoughts’ as to avoid behaving irresponsibly.

  • Sherrill

    August 24th, 2015 at 4:23 PM

    I’m pretty sure a very good friend of mine has this delusional disorder. Her live in boyfriend broke up with her at least 5 years ago or more and even tho he has been living with someone else for quite some time now and shows no intetest in my friend, she insists he is coming back to her and even thinks he will propose. Even tho some of her friends and family have told her he is not coming back she will not beleive us. We have tried to get her to seek professional help but it doesnt appear that she has. We are thinking of doing an intervention. Would that help at all?

    Any advice you have will be appreciated.

  • Robert

    February 6th, 2016 at 8:34 AM

    My wife left me last year because she was sure a national rock star was going to propose marriage to her. When that did not happen, she used the episode as a sign that some ‘perfect’ love as she HAS for him exists out there for her.

  • Gwyneth

    April 7th, 2016 at 10:10 AM

    Omygat. I think I have Erotomania. O_O I knew something was wrong with me.
    Fangirls usually suffer from erotomania right? Or is it just me?

  • Erotomaniac

    July 31st, 2016 at 7:59 PM

    No I have it too!!🤔😫

  • Jane l

    July 15th, 2017 at 6:34 AM

    Hi I knew there was something not quiet right with me, half an hour ago my son shouting out for the world to listen omg !!! Now the calm is here,,, bang looked it up EROTOMANIA gutted, doctors defo Monday early doors., what next can go wrong in my little life I lost my sisters ,,,1 my twin. End I’m a recovering alcoholic of 8 years not had a easy ride ,,, gutted I wouldn’t hurt a fly ,,give you my last then i m without.

  • Molly

    April 17th, 2016 at 7:15 AM

    @Gwyneth I’m also a fangirl. And yes, I’m afraid that I have it too, that’s why I came here searching for delusional and eromaniac disorders. The delusion happens to me quite often, but after that I was like “wtf i was thinking”. And now I’d like to find treatments for not having any delusional thoughts again. *sorry for the bad english*

  • Sherri

    September 28th, 2016 at 8:35 PM

    It took me a long time to find a therapist that knew about this she specializes in trauma and does EMDR. She told me the treatment is the same as treating the other trauma issues I have such as refraining my thoughts. She also said there is a whole spectrum of this disorder and not to be freaked out by some of these celebrity stocker stories.

  • Shivohn

    April 27th, 2016 at 3:50 AM

    @Gwyneth @Molly same as me lol

  • Dick

    May 15th, 2016 at 8:32 AM

    This is a really sad disease, I have a ruined relationship with my sons mom. Be cause she believes a Seattle Rock legend is in love with her. And they play games at night online. And he sends her secret messages. About going to leave his wife. And marry her, she’s his true love and next time his concert comes to town. He’s going to wisk her away, but will take care of our son and I financially. It’s crazy! And breaks my heart. The love of my life tells me she’s sorry, but her and this singer Are in love, and she can’t be with me anymore. She really needs help. :(

  • Jim

    October 25th, 2016 at 9:40 PM

    I have a similar situation. Which guy is it?

  • Dick

    October 27th, 2016 at 6:17 PM

    Chris Cornell, since writing my comment. She was contacted by the FBI, and told she was scaring him and his family. And to please stop. She still thinks he’s testing her. I gave up. She hasn’t been with us in 9 months. Life goes on. Good luck to you

  • R wallace

    April 16th, 2017 at 8:16 AM

    Dear Dick, can you please describe these online games and secret codes she says they are sending at night? What specifically is this guy doing that leads her to believe it is a message for her? Please get back to me on this it is very important, I would like to discuss this.

  • Jim

    May 27th, 2017 at 12:21 AM

    Well, since he passed away, hopefully they will break this delusion and come back to reality

  • Smile

    September 13th, 2016 at 1:20 AM

    What happens if after a while the object of affection reciprocates some feelings to the patient?
    Can these delusions be termed as love then?
    And can the patient lead a normal life with his/her object of fascination?

  • Matty

    October 12th, 2016 at 2:27 PM

    I have this, and it freaks the hell out of me. it’s a completely different feeling to just being attracted to someone. I can never have spoken to them, just shared a glance, then that’s it, they are clearly crazy about me, in my head. I know as i am thinking these things in the back of my head that it’s rediculous and how completely f****** crazy this is and i just try to ignore it, which is nie impossible sometimes. I am a good looking guy and i think that makes it worse, in the past i have actually been able to hook up or go out with these people but then so quickly i get to know them and the infatuation passes and i am left thinking, why the hell was i so obsessed with making yo like me…? i don’t even really find you attractive anymore and it’s been like three days or a week. I try to reflect on that and try not to let it affect my behavior to the point of avoiding people i feel like this for. It sucks and i want it to stop. Does anyone know how to gt this under more control at least? i am guessing acting on these impulses is just feeding the flames right?

  • Shea

    November 6th, 2016 at 9:20 PM

    I want to die. I’ve been suffering from erotomania for years since I hit puberty and I cannot make a life because I’m so obsessed and focus on love.

    It didn’t help that I don’t have a job, no friends, hate where I live.
    I just want to die

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    November 7th, 2016 at 11:52 AM

    Thank you so much for reaching out and leaving a comment, Shea. First, if you are ever in danger of harming yourself or are in crisis, it is very important you seek help immediately. You can dial 911 in the United States, visit your local emergency room, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY). We also wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you and additional information about what to do in a crisis at http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html

    We are thinking of you and wishing you the very best!

    Warm regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • R wallace

    April 16th, 2017 at 8:19 AM

    Shea, me too, I can’t take it anymore. I need to die, I know how you feel.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    April 16th, 2017 at 10:12 AM

    Thank you for your comment, R. Wallace. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html

    Warm regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Saurabh

    November 26th, 2016 at 10:08 PM

    I have also been sufferd by this dilusional disorder, but now then she (victim) has leave me completely… And im aware about this dicese… Im trying to move on in my life…
    When she got engaged with a other man. i was a huge shock…. I was unable to sleep for 72 hours, its very hard to move on in these conditions….
    I have join a religious institution and I am practicing some yoga practices to get out of this dilusional disorder……

  • Lien Sun

    December 12th, 2016 at 2:46 AM

    I am in love with a man who is a victim of an erotomanic stalker. She is destroying his life, his sanity, his family and our relationship. She is threatening to kill him and his child. This is a terrible illness and apparently the delusions can go on for years and years.

  • Erotomaniac

    December 16th, 2016 at 9:06 PM

    I had this problem too, I became obsessed with someone (a stranger) and I thought he loved me even though he did not. It almost ruined my relationship with my actual real boyfriend, thank god I was put on the right medication in time and I came to my senses.

  • Is

    December 21st, 2016 at 8:46 AM

    I often times feel like certain celebrities I admire and genuinely like can see me and I have great feelings of superiority when I have this feeling. Like, they actually like me and think I’m cool. I could be outside and I feel them “watching” me from somewhere else. Idk if this all falls into the erotomaniac spectrum ,but I feel like they all love me. Sometimes when I think of myself not having this disorder anymore, I feel terrified that my self importance and worth would be no more. My life is based around “impressing” these people who in reality don’t really know me or would even actually care. When I feel down on myself, I feel like they all hate me. If someone could reply who understands this feeling or knows what it might be, that would be much appreciated. I have searched far and wide for answers to these delusions and have been trying to name it for years , but it’s like I’m the only one with it.

  • Tiya

    January 27th, 2017 at 11:21 AM

    I feel the same exact way! This has been happening to me since I was a kid! Ive been doing things thinking that a certain celeb is watching me. It really affects my self esteem! According to me they are watching me through cameras, and I do stupid things to impress them. Everyday I scream at myself saying that it’s not true and everyday I go through the same thing. I have no idea what to do! But at least I am not alone in this. Did you find a solution?

  • Noname37woman

    January 2nd, 2017 at 6:33 PM

    Im aware I have this, I’m on my 3th love for a total stranger.

  • Me

    January 27th, 2017 at 9:07 AM

    It really sucks. I’ve been like this for a while and I don’t know what to do. I develop these huge crushes on classmates I have never even talked to before and become completely obsessed over them. The more I like them, the more I keep my distance from them. For two years in highschool I had a crush on this guy who I now feel so sick for liking. I remember when he got a girlfriend and I would just stare at them and think about how much cuter I was and that I could have him if I wanted him. When my thoughts became threatening, I immediately pulled myself back. I couldn’t believe those type of thoughts were running through my mind. Now in college and im on to another one. I’ll most likely like anf fantasize about being with him for another year ad usual.Why these wierd crushes always happen towards outgoing people is a mystery to me.
    Should I really see someone about this?

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    January 27th, 2017 at 12:26 PM

    Dear Me,

    Thank you for your comment. We at GoodTherapy.org are not qualified to offer professional advice, but we believe that the services of a qualified and compassionate counselor can be beneficial to anyone, even if you are not sure therapy is right for you. We encourage you to reach out and talk to someone, especially if it any time your thoughts cause you distress.

    You can locate a therapist in your area through our website. To see a list of practicing mental health professionals in your area, simply enter your ZIP code here:

    http://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html

    Please know you are not alone, and we wish the best to you.

    Kind regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Pania

    February 8th, 2017 at 1:31 AM

    A man whom I met many years ago believes that I am his partner and that my daughter is his. Even though we have had any type of relationship other than hello and goodbye. He is mentally unwell as he has been in mental institutions and now claims that he is coming to see me so he can pick up his daughter??? (My daughter!!!) I’m literally scared I don’t even know what to do! Any help please I don’t want us to end up dead like those ppl on Stalked programmes 😱

  • Liinu

    February 8th, 2017 at 4:53 PM

    HI, it sounds like it might be a good idea to calmly get the police involved, or at least as for their advice on the best way to deal with the situation. Perhaps someone could go and have a calm friendly chat with the guy (not in any way that would aggravate him towards you). This must be very stressful to you, but at least it sounds like the man has no intention of harming you or your daughter (as he believes he is your partner & her father). Please check back in here to let us know you and your daughter are ok. All the best, sending you peace and angel protection, may the situation resolve itself in the best way possible. Hugs xxx

  • Country girl

    April 4th, 2017 at 10:32 AM

    I am afraid I have a girlfriend with this disorder . A former classmate of hers recently befriended her on social media . In a short time she was convinced they were going to be a couple . When he wouldn’t succumb , she slandered him. I don’t know him at all but since I’ve read this I worry that she may have ruined a good guy. She’s a good girl and I love her, wish she would get some help with this

  • Suffering Wife

    May 21st, 2017 at 3:22 PM

    Can this go the other way round? My husband thinks he is in love with a woman who he doesn’t even know who she is or where she is for 17 years. He said he has been searching for her and his love to her has been just growing despite how hard he tries to turn it off. Is this Erotomania delusion disorder?

  • Mark

    June 10th, 2017 at 6:50 PM

    I think so. My (ex?) girlfriend has the same problem as your husband, but she also suffers from a lot of other delusions and paranoia too, and I think is either Schizophrenia or Bipolar. Probably Bipolar. It is quite sad. She was hospitalized and forced to take an anti-psychotic pill for a while. During that time, she was more rational and realized that the guy had not returned any of her feelings and was not interested in her, but she still could not explain why she had such strong feelings for him. She also did not think she needed medication, so unfortunately she stopped taking the pill and the delusions came back full-force. If your husband is anything like my girlfriend, I would say this “irrational love” is just the tip of the iceberg. He likely has a deeper psychological problem that is only beginning to manifest itself. Strictly speaking, it’s not considered erotomania unless he actually believes this woman is secretly in love with him too, but seeing how my girlfriend’s illness developed, I think you are just witnessing an early stage. The root causes are both biological and early childhood. The biological part is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes a really strong addictive feeling to be produced that in a normal person would just be a mild crush. The person considers this feeling to be love, because love is romanticized that way in Western culture. The early childhood part explains the subconscious reason for why he chooses this woman. In my girlfriend’s case, her dad abandoned her, so I believe she is unconsciously trying to repeat that trauma by stalking and harassing guys who are guaranteed to reject her. Freud noticed this phenomenon a long time ago. You keep reliving the same trauma until your unconscious has figured out how to deal with it. If you love your husband, try to get him help before it’s too late. It sounds like he’s trying to fight this, but without help, he will eventually lose and your relationship will deteriorate to the point you don’t recognize it anymore.

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