Erotomania (or de Clérambault's Syndrome)

In the DSM, Erotomania is classified as a subtype of Delusional Disorder:

This subtype applies when the central theme of the delusions is that another person is in love with the individual. The delusion often concerns idealized romantic love and spiritual union rather than sexual attraction. The person about whom this conviction is held is usually of higher status (e.g., a famous person or a superior at work), but can be a complete stranger. Efforts to contact the object of the delusion (through telephone calls, letters, gifts, visits, and even surveillance and stalking) are common, although occasionally the person keeps the delusion secret. Most individuals with this subtype in clinical examples are female; most individuals with this subtype in forensic samples are male. Some individuals with this subtype, particularly males, come into conflict with the law in their efforts to pursue the object of their delusion or in a misguided effort to "rescue" him or her from some imagined danger.

Delusional Disorder is diagnosed: if mood episodes have occurred concurrently with delusions, their total duration has been brief relative to the duration of the delusional periods. Basically, what this means is that if you have a mood disorder, like Major Depressive Disorder, the delusions are secondary to the mood disorder. In Delusional Disorder, the delusions are more prominent than depression. Hence my self-diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder (Atypical, With Psychotic Features).

My delusions were nonbizarre (involving situations that occur in real life), and my functioning was not markedly impaired, obviously odd or bizarre.

The term erotomania is often confused with "obsessive love", or hypersexuality. Obsessive love is not by definition erotomania.

My style or pattern often, but not always, seems to be one of unrequited eros.

I like the term erotomania, and was originally curious about it due to the name, almost wanting that to be my diagnosis for the name alone. I haven't thought of my obsessions as 'love' - except in the cases where I actually eventually had personal contact with the object of my obsession and we got to know each other, and in a couple of cases shared the obsession to some extent for a while. Also, my obsessions haven't really fit the description I read about obsessive love. I haven't believed that a person was in love with me, except in the cases where they told me directly that they did. Also, once I have undeniable information that the person does not have feelings for me, the obsession wanes, whereas I have heard that in erotomania these fixations go on and on, despite any rejection.

I can understand the need to believe that someone important or famous is in love with you. There are biological reasons - it would actually improve your status and your lot in life to have a high status mate. If you are particularly low on the pecking order, as I am, in a way it makes sense to become fixated on those with considerably more power, money, and respect. Interestingly, I have been obsessed with 3 different unemployed people.

The image most often called to mind when it comes to erotomania is that of a middle-aged woman who is lonely, alone, without much of a life who somewhat understandably may as a result lose touch with reality as a compensation, creating a desperately wished-for love affair and the self-esteem involved with being important enough that someone important falls in love with you. If you look at some of the outward aspects of my life, I might seem to fall into this category. However, to see me as this type of person is another example of ego-dystonic assessment. It doesn't fit how I see myself, and it is distressing for me that people can't see how I approach relationships and love.

It is worth pointing out that I have ultimately had real relationships with at least 5 of the people I have had fixations on, two of which became long-term relationships in which I actually lived with the person for many years. I have had crushes on famous people, but over time it became obvious to me that this is natural for everyone, for biological issues related to status. It becomes more extreme perhaps in those who are socially isolated, neglected or forgotten. I think I was able to understand enough about life and the nature of attraction, and that perhaps my survival instinct was strong enough that I was able to become 'realistically' fixated on real people I could have relationships with.

Sometimes my interest has created another's interest in me, and a relationship has developed. Sometimes my interest triggers a small amount of interest that was already present. Also, when dealing with men who have low self-esteem, it is important to point out that many of them do not initiate contact with others because they fear rejection. When someone demonstrates interest in them, they sometimes can't help becoming interested in a person who appears to see something good in them, and is able to take the risk of expressing what they see.

Erotomania is also called de Clérambault's syndrome, after the French psychiatrist Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault (1872–1934), who published a comprehensive review paper on the subject (Les Psychoses Passionelles) in 1921.


The core symptom of the disorder is that the sufferer holds an unshakable belief that another person is secretly in love with him or her. In some cases, the sufferer may believe several people at once are "secret admirers." The sufferer may also experience other types of delusions concurrently with erotomania, such as delusions of reference, wherein the perceived admirer secretly communicates his or her love by subtle methods such as body posture, arrangement of household objects, and other seemingly innocuous acts (or, if the person is a public figure, through clues in the media). Erotomanic delusions are typically found as the primary symptom of a delusional disorder or in the context of schizophrenia and may be treated with atypical antipsychotics.


I have never had an unshakable belief that another person is secretly in love with me, and never jump to such a conclusion without someone actually expressing such feelings in a direct manner. Some of my delusional 'messages' have been hostile, or critical, or I perceived that the person involved did not want to meet or leave a current relationship, or that the person wanted to maintain a kind of control over the relationship by keeping it as it was. I made persistent efforts to 'break up'. In other words, delusional relationships that I have created in my head tend to be based on at least semi-accurate information as to how the person would probably act in the circumstances, not according to how I'd wish a person would act.

For elaboration, see also observation-communication delusion, and atypical depression with psychotic features.

...Strange, that some of us, with quick alternate vision, see beyond our infatuations, and even while we rave on the heights, behold the wide plain where our persistent self pauses and awaits us...

George Eliot, Middlemarch

The DSM states that erotomania is often a spiritual and idealized romantic love, with sexual attraction not being an essential. In all of my personal obsessions, sexual attraction is an essential component, although it could probably be argued that I consider sexual attraction to be an essential component of ideal love. Yet, in my attractions/obsessions, I can recognize that a particular person represents a particular aspect of 'love' rather than a possibility for a more complete love, that I am drawn to exploring further, and often I cannot just let go, even if I do not think this is an 'ideal' relationship for me, until the situation has played itself out.

I call my fixations 'obsession', rather than 'love' because I understand very well that I don't really know the person involved. The obsession is partly about a wish to gain knowledge. Through linking and looping associations and sensations, I can create a feeling that is like a 'high'. This feeling can give me the energy to accomplish more than I normally can, and is a contrast to my normal state of mostly unrelieved depression. I think also that the mental focus involved with obsession helps to transform feelings of anxiety into something more enjoyable.















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