Erotomania is a rare disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that another person, usually of a higher social status, is in love with him or her.
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 term erotomania is also sometimes used in a less specific clinical sense meaning excessive pursuit of or preoccupation with love or sex.
Early references to the condition can be found in the work of Hippocrates, Erasistratus, Plutarch and Galen. In the psychiatric literature it was first referred to in 1623 in a treatise by Jacques Ferrand (Maladie d'amour ou Mélancolie érotique) and has been variously called "old maid's psychosis", "erotic paranoia" and "erotic self-referent delusions" until the common usage of the terms erotomania and de Clérambault's syndrome.
Berrios and Kennedy have outlined several periods of history through which the concept of erotomania has changed considerably:
- Classical times - early eighteenth century: General disease caused by unrequited love
- Early eighteenth - beginning nineteenth century: Practice of excess physical love (akin to nymphomania or satyriasis)
- Early nineteenth century - beginning twentieth century: Unrequited love as a form of mental disease
- Early twentieth century - present: Delusional belief of "being loved by someone else"
The core of the syndrome is that the affected person has a delusional belief that another person, usually of higher social status, is secretly in love with them. The sufferer may also believe that the subject of their delusion secretly communicates their 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). The object of the delusion usually has little or no contact with the delusional person, who often believes that the object initiated the fictional relationship. Erotomanic delusions are typically found as the primary symptom of delusional disorder, or in the context of schizophrenia.
Occasionally the subject of the delusion may not actually exist, although more commonly, the subjects are media figures such as popular singers, actors and politicians. Erotomania has been cited as one cause for stalking or harassment campaigns.
The assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley, Jr. was reported to have been driven by an erotomanic delusion that the death of the president would cause actress Jodie Foster to publicly declare her love for Hinckley.
Late night comedian David Letterman and retired astronaut Story Musgrave were the targets of delusional Margaret Mary Ray. Other reported celebrity targets of erotomania include Madonna, Steven Spielberg, Barbara Mandrell, and Linda Ronstadt.
Erotomania in fiction
- Featured in the biographical "I Know You Really Love Me".
- "Erotomania" is the title of an instrumental track on progressive metal band Dream Theater's third album, Awake, released in 1994, and it forms the first part of their suite "A Mind Beside Itself".
- Erotomania is a prevalent theme in courtly love lyric from the Middle Ages.
- Erotomania is the name of a short story by Joshua Ostrander in which the main character stalks a young woman he is obsessed with.
- In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, the downfall of the butler Malvolio is achieved through playing on his secret belief that his mistress Olivia is in love with him.
- The Booker Prize winning author Ian McEwan based the novel Enduring Love around the theme of a science writer who is harassed by an erotomanically deluded person, after the two characters are indirectly involved with a hot air balloon accident.
- In the story "Diary of a Madman" by Nikolai Gogol, the main character suffers from erotomania.
- In the Mel Brooks film "," an old woman displays symptoms of erotomania towards the sheriff of Rottingham.
- In the 1987 novel Misery, and the 1990 film based on the book, nurse Annie Wilkes saves famous author Paul Sheldon from a car accident, and takes him to her home to care for him. She is intend on keeping him in her home though, which is the start of a psychological game.
- In the episode The Legend of Old Gregg of British comedy show The Mighty Boosh the character Old Gregg appears to be delusional about the nature of his relationship with Howard, asking on numerous occasions "do you love me?" and later actually tells Howard that he is in love with him.
- In Neil LaBute's 2000 film Nurse Betty, Renee Zellweger's delusional title character pursues her erotomania for a fictional soap opera surgeon.
- In Obsessed, Jenna Elfman plays a medical writer who delusionally believes herself to have had an affair with a married doctor, and the movie occurs during her trial for stalking.
- Erotomania was the cause of Angélique's (portrayed by Audrey Tautou) institutionalization in the 2002 French film He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not (À la folie... pas du tout).
- The episodes "Broken Mirror" and "Somebody's Watching" of the television show Criminal Minds deals with erotomania. It is also a tangential point in the Wire in the Blood episode "Nothing but the Night."
- The main protagonist of the 2007 film Anna M. by Michel Spinosa is a woman who convinces herself that her orthopedic surgeon is fervently in love with her.
- A strip in Mad Magazine told the story of an erotomanic nerd, as he became increasingly obsessed with Lara Croft from the video game Tomb Raider. The subject believed Lara to be leaving him hints towards meeting times and places within the game itself, such as the number of bricks forming a date. He was eventually seen being removed to an asylum. MAD also made another reference to erotomania with "The Ballad of Pamela Lee", spoofing Edgar Allan Poe's "The Ballad of Annabelle Lee" in which a man convinces himself he is destined to marry Pamela Anderson. Being rather educated, he rationalizes that since her then-husband Tommy Lee is nothing but a troublemaker, a divorce is soon final (which actually happened one year after the issue was published). The narrator ends by saying he was arrested for voyeurism, and is remanded to a county jail where his cellmate is none other than "her psychotic ex, Tommy Lee!"
- Erotomania is researched and explained in the murder mystery thriller Final Jeopardy, by Linda Fairstein.
- In his book Whispers: The Voices of Paranoia, Ronald K. Siegel describes the story of a ballerina named Vicki suffering from erotomania towards a young waiter named Michael. In it, Siegel describes the way certain utensil arrangements Michael lays out leaves "secret messages" to her.
- The book "Eves' Story" is rumored to deal with a teenage case of erotomania in the form of the main (unnamed) female narrator.
- In the Law & Order episode "Animal Instinct," Frances Fisher plays an erotomaniac who kills her would-be lover's wife.
- In the tenth episode of Murder One's first season, Holly Gerges believes that she is in a relationship with Neal Avedon, when actually he has had to take a restraining order out against her.
- In the third Silent Hill game, the main character Heather is stalked temporarily by a mental institution patient named Stanley who has Erotomania.
- In Wayne's World, Wayne's old girlfriend, Stacy, shows her erotomania when she reminds Wayne about their anniversary two months after they had already broken up.
- Unrequited love
- Cognitive dissonance
- Delusional disorder
- Enduring Love is a book/movie about a sufferer of erotomania.
- Berrios, G.E. & Kennedy, N. (2003) Erotomania: A conceptual history. History of Psychiatry, 13, 381-400.
- Fitzgerald, P. & Seeman, M.V. (2002) Erotomania in women. In J. Boon and L. Sheridan (eds) Stalking and sexual obsession: Psychological perspectives for prevention, policing and treatment. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. ISBN 0-471-49459-3
- Kennedy, N., McDonough, M., & Berrios, G.E. (2002) Erotomania revisited: Clinical course and treatment. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 43 (1), 1-6
- Munro, A. (1999) Delusional disorder: Paranoia and related illnesses. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-58180-X
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