What Is Erotomania?

Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella on January 10, 2020

Erotomania is when you think someone is in love with you but they’re not. It may be a person you’ve never met. They might even be famous, like a politician or an actor. You can be so sure of this love that you think you’re in a relationship with this person. You may not be able to accept facts that prove otherwise.

Also called de Clérambault syndrome, erotomania is rare. It can happen on its own. But it’s usually linked to another mental health condition, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It can last for weeks or years.

It’s important to get help if you have these symptoms. If you don’t, you might do things that aren’t safe for you or the other person. A doctor can help you figure out the best treatment.

Who’s at Risk?

Erotomania seems to be a little more common in women. But some studies show men are just as likely to get it. The condition can show up after puberty, but it usually happens around midlife or later.

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Your genes may have something to do with erotomania -- delusions could run in your family. But your environment, lifestyle, and overall mental health also play a role. Common traits of people with erotomania include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • A feeling of rejection or loneliness
  • Social isolation
  • Trouble seeing other people’s point of view

Erotomania may be a symptom of a condition that affects how you think. These include:

What Causes It?

When you have a delusional disorder, you may not process social cues the right way. You might misread someone’s face or body language. You may think they’re flirting with you when they’re not. This makes you think they’re interested in you. This idea can grow over time, especially if you spend a lot of time alone.

Experts aren’t exactly sure why it happens. But if you have low self-esteem, you may tell yourself these stories to make yourself feel better. Research shows social media can worsen delusional beliefs in some people. That’s because it’s easy to watch someone online without them knowing.

Stress can trigger erotomania. If you’ve lost someone you were attached to, like a relative or close friend, you might search for a sense of safety in a powerful person. You may think they’re “watching over” you.

Symptoms

The most obvious sign of erotomania is the wrong belief that someone has intense feelings for you. This might help your mood and self-esteem at first. But you may get upset when someone tells you it’s not true.

You might act normal in most parts of your life. But as the delusion grows, it may seem like your lover is sending you nonverbal clues. You may see messages in everyday things, like the numbers on license plates or lights on planes.

Is Erotomania Dangerous?

It can be. You might try to see or talk to this person, even though they don’t want anything to do with you. This could scare them. In serious cases, it could lead to stalking or harassment charges. You might try to hurt yourself when someone tells you what you believe isn’t true.

Diagnosis

There’s no test for erotomania. But your doctor will ask about past mental or physical illnesses. They’ll rule out other medical conditions. They may send you to a psychiatrist or a psychologist. These are people who specialize in mental health conditions.

Treatment

A doctor can help manage your symptoms. But you may not ask for help. That’s because it all seems real and can make you feel good. If you do see a doctor, it might just be because your friends and family want you to. The doctor may suggest one or more of these:

  • Therapy. Talk therapy is the main treatment. This may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other types.
  • Prescription medication. Your doctor may give you an antipsychotic, antidepressant, or other mood stabilizer. These can help your underlying mental illness.
  • Involuntary treatment. If you’re a danger to yourself or others, you might have to go to a hospital to get better. State laws say when and how someone can force you to get help.
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Case Reports in Psychiatry: Delusional Disorder, Erotomanic Type, Exacerbated by Social Media Use.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Delusional Disorder.”

Journal of the National Medical Association: “Erotomania Revisited: Thirty-Four Years Later.”

CNS Drugs: “Erotomania.”

Indian Journal of Psychiatry: “An adolescent crush or delusion of erotomania? Dissecting the normal from the pathological.”

Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry: “Delusional disorder: no gender differences in age at onset, suicidal ideation, or suicidal behavior.”

Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine: “Gender Differences in Persistent Delusional Disorder.”

Psychiatric Quarterly: “Erotomania and Recommendations for Treatment.”

BMJ Journals: “Love as delusion, delusions of love: erotomania, narcissism and shame.”

European Psychiatry: “A Case of erotomanic delusion in dementia.”

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: “Civil Commitment and the Mental Health Care Continuum: Historical Trends and Principles for Law and Practice.” 

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