Erotomania is a mental illness that was described in a systematic form by the French psychiatrist Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault at the beginning of the 20th century. The disease, which is also known as de Clérambault syndrome or love-madness, predominantly affects women. Although it is sometimes equated with stalking, it should be noted that stalking can only occur as a result of the illness.
What is erotomania?
Erotomania is a delusional disorder. Affected people do not allow themselves to be dissuaded from the compulsive idea that they are loved by a certain person. They interpret their gestures and actions as declarations of love and as hidden tokens of love. They assume that the person they feel loved by is intentionally hiding their feelings.
The mania for love can also break out if there has been no personal contact between the two people beforehand. Often the people with whom this obsessive relationship is developed are celebrities or people of higher social rank.
These can be singers and actors, but also doctors, professors or lawyers from the local area. It is crucial that they are significant and difficult to inaccessible personalities.
The de Clérambault syndrome usually breaks out as a result of an existing mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder). The isolated occurrence of the disease, ie not related to other diseases, is rather rare. In this regard, De-Clérambault differentiated between the two basic types “Erotomanie symptomatique” and “Erotomanie pure”.
People who suffer from delusions of love are very likely to have experienced too little love and attention during their childhood. Now they try to make up for this deficiency and strive for recognition. The majority of single women between the ages of 40 and 60 suffer from the disease. The fact that their obsessive thoughts are often directed towards older and well-off men suggests that the father-daughter relationship was inadequate.
More often than men, women after a certain age struggle with the worry that they will no longer be able to experience a happy relationship. In addition, not only frustrating and failed couple relationships, but also loneliness and a pronounced imagination have a favorable effect on the disease.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
Symptoms manifest as misinterpretation or overestimation of the actions or gestures of the person whom the person is mistakenly loved. The person’s life is being followed. If the loved one is not already known and there is sporadic or regular contact, in most cases contact will also be made.
Random encounters are arranged, visits are made, gifts and hints made. Stalking can be an effect of delusional love. This leads to long-term observations or unauthorized entry into other people’s homes. In some cases it is claimed to be married to the victim. It cannot be ruled out that violence may be inflicted on the victim and their relatives.
Erotomania is when people talk about romantic relationships that don’t exist. They act as if they were real, or as if they would become real after certain relationship barriers were removed. In his description, De Clérambault differentiated between three alternating phases.
First of all, the patient is of good cheer that the imagined relationship can be translated into reality. The second phase is characterized by the fact that the optimism in this regard is shaken. The widespread disappointment turns into hatred as well as into strange and auto-aggressive behavior in the final third phase.
Violent fantasies are developed and also realized. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to minimize the risk of harm to others and to self-harm.
Usually women are mainly affected by the erotomania, but the symptom also occurs in men. There are no health complications that could affect the patient’s health. However, erotomania has strong negative psychological effects.
In most cases, this leads to a misinterpretation or misinterpretation of signs or feelings, so that these are overrated. The patient feels loved by another person, even if he or she is not known to the patient. This can lead to stalking. However, those affected often come into direct contact with the target person.
This can lead to severe psychological problems. Erotomania also has criminal consequences for the patient. Due to the erotomania, the patient mostly only concentrates on his target person and forgets other important things that happen in life. Friends and the social environment are severely neglected. This can lead to social exclusion.
Patients also often break into the target’s home or arrange casual meetings. Those affected can also become aggressive, which can lead to injuries. Treatment takes place primarily on the psychological level and can be supervised with medication. It often takes several months for the treatment to work and for the patient to admit that he is suffering from the erotomania.
When should you go to the doctor?
A doctor’s visit is necessary as soon as the person concerned shows up due to conspicuous social behavior. Since it is a mental illness, it is very unlikely that the person concerned will notice the abnormalities of his behavior and classify it as worrying. Therefore, the cooperation of close relatives is particularly important. In the love affair, closeness to a chosen person is increasingly sought without their consent.
A doctor or therapist should be consulted as soon as the sick person approaches the person repeatedly in an intrusive manner and is unreasonable when rejected. If the person concerned is very preoccupied with the life and activities of another person, this is considered unusual and should be questioned. If the person concerned does everything possible to get the chosen person’s attention, this should be discussed with a doctor or therapist. If one’s own needs are no longer central in one’s own life, thoughts and life planning, the person concerned needs help.
In his condition, it is not possible for him to change his behavioral patterns without medical support. The pursuit of recognition by the other person is the focus of erotomania and creates a level of suffering that a doctor should intervene. If delusional behavior increases, treatment options must be sought.
Treatment & Therapy
In isolated occurrences, diagnosis is made more difficult by the fact that the delusion is often acted out in secret. It is not uncommon for the imaginary relationship to be portrayed very convincingly. For this reason, relatives do not sometimes feel compelled to doubt the truthfulness of the descriptions and the state of health of the person concerned.
The affected person becomes delusional and usually does not feel the need to give up. Often there is a lack of insight into being sick, just imagining everything and needing professional help. That makes treatment difficult. If the disease is diagnosed, psychotherapy is recommended, in the course of which the causes are exposed and appropriate behavioral therapeutic measures are taken.
The administration of antipsychotic drugs used to control the disease. If erotomania is a side effect of an existing mental disorder, the success of the treatment also depends on its severity. Spontaneous healing can occur when the person concerned gets to know someone and enters into a fulfilling and real relationship. However, this rarely happens.
Outlook & forecast
Erotomania is a mental illness that often increases in intensity without treatment. In addition, there is vulnerability for the development of other mental disorders. This diminishes the chances of a cure and extends the path of recovery immensely. Nevertheless, with erotomania there is the possibility that spontaneous healing occurs at any time. Often times, cognitive processes or life changes lead to a sudden change and an improvement in health.
With the use of therapeutic or medical care, the causes of erotomania can be clarified and treated in a targeted manner. This increases the likelihood that the symptoms will be relieved over the long term and that the underlying problems will be dealt with. The healing process often takes several months to years. During this time, constant changes in wellbeing can be expected. The patient may relapse at any time despite symptom relief. This is independent of the form of treatment or the choice of self-healing.
If the mental disorder recurs, the prognosis still depends on the individual circumstances. With increasing age there are more diseases that contribute to a weakening of the well-being and have a negative influence. The longer the erotomania persists and the more often it occurs in the course of life, the more likely it is that the disease will develop into a chronic condition.
The love affair is fueled these days by the fact that the media are constantly reporting about celebrities. Social media gives vulnerable users the impression that they are de facto inaccessible people. Particularly socially isolated people tend to create fantasy worlds in which they are recognized and happy.
When those (potentially) affected by erotomania talk about a new relationship, relatives should listen carefully and remain attentive. If a related hazard is perceived, it is advisable to contact the responsible health department or counseling facilities.
In the case of erotomania, the options for follow-up care are severely limited in most cases. Since it cannot heal independently, the person affected is primarily dependent on medical treatment and examination by a doctor. Since this is also a serious mental illness, it should be treated early to prevent further complications.
Even after successful treatment, regular examinations should be carried out by a doctor in order to prevent the recurrence of erotomania. The treatment of erotomania takes place with the help of medication and psychological treatment. The medication must be taken regularly, although taking it should be continued even after the end of the treatment.
In the case of illness, the support of one’s own family and friends is often very important. The relatives must understand the illness and must not judge the person affected negatively. If the relatives or friends notice that the patient shows symptoms of erotomania, they must persuade him to seek treatment. As a rule, the disease does not reduce the life expectancy of those affected.
You can do that yourself
A delusion is a pathological misjudgment of reality. This misjudgment is often adhered to with absolute certainty and contradictions to reality are ignored or rationalized away. In the love affair, a person increases in the belief that another person (secretly) loves him or that he is in a relationship. Very often there is no understanding that the disease is in need of treatment. As long as the patient does not realize that he is sick, he is also unable to help himself. In some cases, however, the social environment can intervene.
If an affected person has already been diagnosed with a case of erotomania, family members and friends should listen carefully as soon as the person concerned reports of a new relationship. This is especially true if the new partner does not introduce himself personally, never shows up for a family celebration and is never seen together with the person concerned.
If the suspicion is confirmed that the new relationship is just a delusion, the patient should be confronted with this fact sensitively but consistently. The goal must be that the delusional patient seeks professional help. The first point of contact is the family doctor, who may call in a specialist doctor or psychotherapist.
Patients who realize they are delusional should see a doctor quickly and begin therapy.