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Date of last update: 8/24/2017.

Forum Name: Psychiatric Topics

Question: Erotomania or Normal Love Interest?

 troubledstudent - Tue Jan 06, 2009 3:54 pm


I'm a young female in her twenties, who has never been in a formal relationship. I first recognized the problem a few days ago when reading an article on romantic obsessive compulsive behavior.

This problem began 3 years ago when I fell "madly in love" with a total stranger who is an older senior of high social standing in the college community when he was giving a public lecture to hundreds of people. I strongly felt that he was staring intensely into my eyes throughout the 2 hour talk and that it was a silent way of communicating the profound romantic attraction he felt towards me. He left the stage to occupy the front row seat where he subsequently kept turning back to look in the general direction of where I was sitting, after which he came over to sit a few rows behind me. On my way out of the hall, I felt that he was following me with his gaze. He subsequently left the hall and crossed my path, and said a brief hi to me. I started becoming convinced that he was secretly very smitten, but was prevented from expressing his deep inner emotions due to shyness. During the cocktail, he was busy interacting with his wide social circle and I did not manage to catch a glimpse of him thereafter for about 2 years. Having no contact during that period helped ameliorate the delusion, and my love objects transferred to a series of people whom I had no meaningful contact with at all.

I ran into the same senior again 2 years later at a workplace. Being a small environment, I saw him everyday and every seemingly innocuous motion of his seemed brimming with romantic meaning. I felt his eyes on me the moment I entered the same space where he was, his gaze following wherever I went, and that wherever I went he would follow shortly after. Several times he would stop in the middle of his tracks while talking to someone else and turn to face me. Not a word was ever exchanged, though I believed he was always turning up right in front of or beside me. I connected the dots of all these little motions and felt it all made sense that he was truly in love with me too. I was convinced for the first time in my life that he was the one, the perfect emotional and spiritual partner meant for me. Without witnessing his actual behavior, I found him to have all the ideal qualities I have been searching for so many years. This created an anxiety in me and my delusions reached a feverish pitch. I was utterly unable to function, concentrate or do anything. I lost sleep and appetite for weeks on end. Every second of my day was filled with thoughts of anticipating his appearance when he was not around, or emotional inebriation when he was around till the point I was unable to respond to other people. I felt by his very presence, he was constantly trying to communicate his love to me through small secret gestures, and that he was unable to do so in the form of actual words or actions. None of my co-workers noticed anything remotely like what I felt. I believed that my intense romantic obsession with this man was reciprocated in kind, if not more. After being in the same environment for 2 weeks, he was transferred to another office and it was no longer possible to physically see him. In his absence, I began to fantasize about his emotional longing and the intensity of my faith did not diminish.

The article above made me discover a lot of hidden concerns. I realized that his bold, intense prolonged stares at me which continued even after I found out was rather inconsistent with my excuses for him not having said a single word to me because he was too shy. Against common sense, I persisted in my belief that he is as intensely drawn to me as I to him. Moreover, I realized that he was a very attractive man with an abundance of female friends; thus it was not possible for him to be in love with me when he does not do anything to show it. I struggled within myself to resolve my emotional beliefs with my logic, but fail to do so, resulting in further despair and distress and I would cry. 6 months on, I continue to check my email and online social account several times a day, awaiting any of his attempts to establish contact with me.

All through the years, at no point in time did I pass without believing someone was secretly attracted to me, just that I have never responded so intensely to anyone before. These usually include people I regularly see at my school or workplace that I have no meaningful interactions with. It just happens and I feel strong emotions of which I have no control over. I’ve had boys around my age or slightly older who were attracted to me, but I’d abort it every time by totally cutting them off, refusing to believe that they could truly feel affection for me. Deep inside, I have nagging doubts about whether it is possible for any man to truly love me. I grew up having problems feeling loved by my father who was either absent or emotionally unavailable to the family and since young (8 years old), I have anxiety problems regarding older attractive men (at least 5-20 years older). This has resulted in a background anxiety level which I felt all along in most social situations, though I have been actively suppressing it or keeping it private. However, all these years I have been able to function normally and it is only now that I find my situation with this senior particularly frustrating, robbing me of my lifestyle as I could do nothing else but think of him.

I'm really worried if this is a medical problem or is it just an unusually strong instance of romantic attraction?
 Dr. E. Seigle - Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:19 pm

Hi troubledstudent,

Your account of your feelings of love, meaning, anguish, and finally, your insight into how these feelings weren't really supported by the realities about the relationship(s) in question, is both poignant and insightful. It does appear from your description that you have experienced a probably neurobiologically caused, erotomanic delusions regarding the men in question. The fact that you have found psychological explanations associated with the delusions suggests only that these may influence how the delusions are colored and experienced, and the type of person who is the object of them.

Erotomanic delusions are generally very circumscribed in someone such as you, and when treated do not cause the serious and pervasive problems in functioning that people with severe mental illness have. This is not to say that you have not suffered significantly. I would strongly suggest that you consult with a psychiatrist who can provide an evaluation, and recommendations and treatment for both psychotherapy and medication. It is likely that you would need and benefit from both types of treatment together.

Good luck! -E. Seigle MD
 lippy - Tue Jun 15, 2010 5:31 pm

Hi, I have a similar problem Id like answered. In college I would think that scores of men were attracted to me but didnt approach out of shyness- my therapist wrote this off as delusions of grandeur but I guess erotomania/narcissism would be more precise. Most recently there was a boy who would look at me wherever I was in the classroom- like literally crane his neck to the corner of the room and stare at me so it became obvious. I had a crush on him- and assumed he was too shy to approach me- so I would jump into little conversations with him- we had shared interests and views. the last day of class he was especially "starey" and I finally stared back- I walked up to him and made comments about his work- walked away when i didnt know what else to say- he followed me (but he had something to pick up in that part of the room)- he stood by me and said- he wished there was a follow up course to take- we talked a bit and he told me about an art class held in a bar- I invited myself(he hadnt taken the initiative) and he asked for my number and walked away. Its been 2 weeks and I havent heard from him- is it safe to say I projected a mutual desire that wasnt there and he took my number out of pity with no intention to call? things always end up this way- my paranoia always gets the best of me (oscillating between possible auditory hallucinations of many people having crushes on me and paranoia of people putting me down/rejecting me) I need a perspective on this, especially when the reality of the situation seemed so promising- but the result was the same (no consummation). it literally drives me into obsessive circles- how do I break the cycle? I am overweight and not beautiful- but I feel that my talent and personality attract people- but maybe not to the extent I think it does.
 Faye Lang, RN, MSW - Sun Jul 04, 2010 4:28 pm

Hello, lippy,

Since you have a therapist, discussing this in depth with him/her would be the best first step. If you don't believe that attributing your issues to delusions of grandeur is helpful, then by all means tell your therapist and ask for further evaluation. Perhaps a referral to a psychologist for evaluation or second opinion would be helpful to you. The nature of your feelings can be quite normal - it's the intensity and obsessiveness that could be problematic. Since I don't know your entire history, I can't determine if delusions of grandeur is the most reasonable conclusion, but it is not the only possible diagnosis based on what you have described. Please discuss this with your therapist at your next contact, or make an appointment specifically to discuss your concerns. I hope this is helpful to you.

Good luck.

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