This article is a detailed overview of ‘Erotomania’ and discusses some pertinent aspects related to this disorder. Also, this article reveals possible symptoms, diagnostic aspects and possible treatments that offer insight into this problem.
What is Erotomania?
Erotomania is a rare mental disorder where an individual goes through paranoid delusions. The individual becomes paranoid that another individual is in love with him. And this leads to delusions in the affected individual.
The delusions last a long time and hence, the symptoms of the disorder stay for longer. It should be noted that in all of these cases, there is clear evidence present that the affected individual is only being paranoid. This is because the other individual is usually never found to be interested in the affected individual, making this into a completely one-sided relationship. Females are more prone to suffer from Erotomania compared to males.
Erotomania can occur at any time and the symptoms can be long lasting. The object of affection is usually an older and inaccessible individual and this individual has a higher status in society. Additionally, this individual may be completely unaware of the existence of the affected individual.
Erotomania is also known as De Clerambault’s Syndrome. This name was given to the disorder after it was discovered by a French psychiatrist as a rare mental illness in 1921. Erotomania is frequently associated with other mental illnesses, but it can also occur on its own.
Case Examples of Erotomania
A 1980 Case:
A woman was diagnosed with Erotomania as she complained about having a large number of different men following her at different places during different times of the day. None of these men were actually following her or stalking her, disproving the delusional beliefs of the woman. Her Erotomania or symptoms continued for at least 8 years before she fully recovered.
He continuously pursued the famous singer Madonna in 1995. He had the belief that she was destined to be his wife. Owing to his Erotomania, he even tried to break into her house and also threatened her on many accounts. Considering his wrongful activities, he was tried in court and charged with a sentence of 10 years.
Erotomania is a rare mental illness, with a lifetime prevalence of about 0.2%. Many psychologists and psychiatrists often fail to recognize Erotomania at clinics. The incidence of Erotomania is unknown.
The exact occurrence of Erotomania is unknown. But in general, the delusional disorder affects about 15 individuals in every 100,000 individuals of the total population. And this record is based off one year data.
The female to male ratio is 3:1, indicating that mostly females are affected by Erotomania. According to reports, both types of Erotomania have been discovered, primary and secondary. The secondary type of Erotomania is related with an etiologically significant organic or psychiatric condition.
Causes or Contributing Factors
Erotomania may itself be a symptom of mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or Alzheimer’s disease.
Erotomania is considered as a delusional disorder. According to reported cases, social media platforms can also play a role in triggering delusions in an individual. Use of social media networks may result in false beliefs which lead to delusions and paranoia.
Social media makes it possible to get in contact with people you may not know and may have never encountered before. Hence, social media bridges the gap between people of different origins and helps them meet. In this way, it allows all kinds of people to look into your personal life or activities and gives them a chance to stalk, contact or observe you.
Social media of the modern world has changed a lot over the past years and now allows more access to different people and different places, while providing reduced privacy. In this case, different individuals of different origins are able to go through your private details. This type of situation often results in paranoid delusions and may trigger Erotomania, which happens to be more common among females.
Furthermore, social and cultural traditions are often responsible for uncertain relationship regulations. Male dominance is frequently practiced throughout society in the world. This may lead to false beliefs in an individual that he is liable to implement his beliefs and opinions on every individual in the society. While these beliefs may apply to some individuals of the society, others may disagree. Knowing the difference between different individuals belonging to different backgrounds can help create a sense of awareness. And this may help avoid various types of unwanted and potentially harmful behaviors of individuals towards others.
An individual on social media may get assaulted by another individual completely unknown to him. Furthermore, social media networks have reduced privacy which can make wrongful activities like stalking easier.
Major symptom in Erotomania is the false belief of the affected individual that another individual is in love with them or obsessed with them. Usually no such evidence is present to justify the statement or belief of the affected individual. In most of these cases, the other individual might not even be aware that the affected individual exists.
The affected individual will continuously talk about the other individual. He will try to meet them or contact them, so they can get together.
Common symptoms include:
• Continuously stalking the other individual’s social media, if the individual is a celebrity or a famous person.
• Regularly sending out messages, mails and gifts to the individual.
• Constantly making phone calls to the other individual.
• Having a firm belief that the other individual is trying to contact the affected individual through coded messages in the form of glances or gestures, on television screen or in person.
• Making up fake, but elaborate and believable situations where the other individual is trying to stalk or contact the affected individual to get their attention.
• Getting jealous if the the other individual is in a relationship with someone else. According to the affected individual, this relationship would be seen as a ‘cheating’ attempt.
• Assaulting or harassing the other individual even in public, which may lead to arrest by law authorities.
• Losing interest in all activities except talking about the other individual or performing activities associated with them.
Erotomania is treated with the use of both medications and psychotherapy. The treatment mainly focuses on the delusional symptoms or the psychosis. The doctor may perform a counseling psychotherapy on the individual before arriving at a diagnosis.
Typical antipsychotic medications are often prescribed to treat Erotomania, for example pimozide. Atypical antipsychotic medications like olanzapine, risperidone, and clozapine, are also used along with therapy.
If Erotomania in an individual is the result of an underlying mental condition, like bipolar disorder, then treatment for bipolar disorder will be prescribed. Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, is usually treated with mood stabilizers, for example lithium (Lithonia) or valproic acid (Depakene).
Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy
This therapy is useful especially to determine the problematic personal issues of the individual and to find efficient ways to overcome these issues. The affected individual gets to talk to the doctor about his personal issues and beliefs.
Two major strategies are proposed by the doctor in order to overcome the symptoms of obsessive disorder. First strategy is to get rid of any attention received from general public towards delusions. Second strategy is to introduce the individual to more people in society. This helps to increase social awareness of the individual.
The cognitive behavioral psychotherapy along with community support service can lead to a successful treatment of delusional disorder. In many cases, the individuals fully recovered from the symptoms after this treatment continued for at least about three years or so.
Some Useful Resources
- I Know You Really Love Me: A Psychiatrist’s Journal of Erotomania, Stalking, and Obsessive Love
- Erotomania: A Romance
- Pure erotomania / Vinyl Maxi Single [Vinyl 12”]
- Erotomania, Infatuation And Moral Perversion – Pamphlet
According to case studies, an individual dealing with or going through extreme stressful situations or trauma has a higher chance of developing paranoid delusions. More research needs to be done, but it is suggested that genes might play a role in the development of Erotomania.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What causes Erotomania?
Erotomania can either be a symptom of another mental illness in an individual, or it can occur on its own. The exact physical cause is unknown and more research is needed. Often times doctors fail to recognize or diagnose Erotomania at clinics.
Q2. How do you treat Erotomania?
Treatment is done using medications and psychotherapy. For the delusions, the doctor performs counseling through psychotherapy and the diagnosis is confirmed using this technique. Medications, for example typical and atypical antipsychotics are prescribed. If Erotomania occurs as a symptom of another mental illness, then treatment is done for the other mental illness. Often doctors use cognitive behavioral psychotherapy along with community support service to successfully treat delusional disorders in individuals.
Q3. Is Erotomania a mental illness?
Erotomania is a recognized, rare type of mental illness. It is also known as De Clerambault’s Syndrome as it was discovered by a French psychiatrist. An individual suffering from Erotomania develops paranoia and comes up with delusions, having no evidence to prove the delusional beliefs.
For the treatment of Erotomania, both medications and psychotherapy are used. And the symptoms can be long lasting, although they can be fully treated and recovery is there, but often slow.
Q4. How can you tell if someone is delusional?
If an individual starts making up fake, but believable and detailed situations on their own about another individual while having zero evidence to prove the events, then it is highly likely that the individual suffers from paranoid delusions.
The delusional individual will continue to support his self-made beliefs despite clear evidence against them. In this case, the individual is going through paranoid delusions.
The doctors use psychotherapy to confirm if an individual suffers from paranoid delusions and then arrives at a diagnosis.
Q5. How common is Erotomania?
Erotomania is more common among females compared to males in general. But according to reported cases, it is a rare form of mental illness. It affects about 15 individuals per 100,000 individuals every year. Prevalence for Erotomania is about 0.2% in an individual’s whole life.
Erotomania can also occur as a symptom of some other mental disorders, like bipolar disorder for example. The symptoms of Erotomania are usually long lasting due to their intense effects on an individual’s mental capacity. But full recovery is possible with regular treatment using medications or psychotherapy as suggested by the doctor.
Q6. What are the symptoms of obsessive love disorder?
The symptoms of obsessive love disorder are different in different individuals based on their mental condition and their situation. For example, an individual with depression or anxiety may suffer from symptoms of low self-esteem or suicidal thoughts. Similarly, an individual with a delusional disorder like Erotomania, is more likely to suffer from symptoms of paranoia or altered reality.
Some common symptoms of obsessive love disorder are listed below:
• Instantly falling in ‘love’ with strangers or new partners.
• Attempts to take control of the other individual’s life and activities.
• Threatening the other individual if they try to leave.
• Refusal to accept any limitations or restrictions set up by the other individual.
• Demanding unreasonable favors from the other individual.