Erotomania is a rare mental health condition that happens when someone is fixated on the idea that another person is intensely in love with them. The other person may be a celebrity, wealthy, or of a high social position. The condition is also known as De Clérambault’s syndrome.
This fixation on being loved by the other person is considered delusional because it’s not based in reality. In most cases, the person hasn’t even met the person they’re fixated on. Some people with this syndrome may believe that a stranger they’ve just met is in love with them.
A person with this condition may believe that the other person is attempting to send them secret messages. They can believe this is happening through the news or thoughts (also called telepathy).
They may find it impossible to give up their belief that the other person loves them, despite a lack of evidence that this is true. Erotomania can be associated with other mental health conditions that involve delusions or manic behaviors.
The main symptom is a person’s false belief that someone is deeply or obsessively in love with them. There’s often no evidence of the other person’s love. The other person may not even be aware of the existence of the person with erotomania.
A person with this condition might talk about the other person constantly. They may also be obsessed with trying to meet with or communicate with this person so that they can be together.
Common symptoms include:
- obsessively consuming media related to the other person if they are a celebrity or public figure
- constantly sending letters, emails, or gifts to the other person
- persistently making phone calls to the other person
- being convinced that the other person is trying to secretly communicate through glances, gestures, or coded messages in the news, television shows, movies, or social media
- creating elaborate but false situations in which the other person is pursuing them, stalking them, or trying to get in touch with them
- feeling jealous due to a belief that the other person may be in contact with other “lovers” or may not be faithful
- harassing the other person in public, sometimes to the point of being reprimanded or arrested by law enforcement
- losing interest in activities other than talking about the other person or doing activities related to them
Erotomania may happen over a long period of time or only in short episodes known as psychotic breaks. Psychotic breaks are a common symptom of other mental health conditions. They involve an abrupt worsening of delusions or other psychotic features. They may occur in disorders such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder.
Other manic symptoms of bipolar disorder include:
- having an unusual amount of energy
- not being able to sleep
- becoming involved in more activities than are typical for that person
- speaking quickly about many different topics in a short amount of time
- having a lot of thoughts in a short amount of time (known as racing thoughts)
- displaying risky behaviors, such as spending a lot of money at one time or driving recklessly
A case study from 1980 describes a woman who mistakenly believed that several different men at different times were obsessively in love with her and pursuing her. This woman’s case of erotomania lasted for eight years before being successfully treated.
A 2012 story in Psychology Today discusses the case of Robert Hoskins. In 1995, Hoskins obsessively pursued the famous singer Madonna. He believed that she was destined to be his wife. He climbed a wall outside of her home several times. He also violently threatened her before he was tried in court and sent to prison for ten years.
In 2016, a married woman in her 50s was checked into a psychiatric clinic because she believed her former boss was in love with her. She also believed that her husband was preventing her from getting together with her boss.
Treatment for erotomania usually addresses the psychosis or delusional symptoms. This often involves a combination of therapy and medication. Your doctor or therapist may guide you through counseling or psychotherapy before a diagnosis.
Classic (or typical) antipsychotic medications, such as pimozide, are often used successfully. Nontraditional (or atypical) antipsychotics, such as olanzapine, risperidone, and clozapine, have also been used alongside therapy or counseling.
If erotomania results from an underlying condition, such as bipolar disorder, treatments for this condition may be used. Bipolar disorder is often treated with mood stabilizers, such as lithium (Lithonia) or valproic acid (Depakene).
Erotomania can cause someone to show risky or aggressive behavior. In some cases, this behavior can cause the person to be arrested for stalking or harassment. In rare cases, erotomania can result in the death of either person.
Erotomania is often associated with bipolar disorder. It’s also associated with other conditions that include:
- anxiety disorder
- drug or alcohol dependence
- eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Erotomania may only last for a few hours or days, but it can continue for months or years if it’s a result of an underlying mental health condition.
If you notice symptoms of erotomania, seek medical help or see a therapist right away. Getting treated for erotomania before showing risky or aggressive behavior towards another person is crucial in preventing this condition from disrupting both their life and your life.