Erotomania is a type of delusion
A delusion is a false belief held with absolute conviction despite superior evidence. Unlike hallucinations, delusions are always pathological...

 in which the affected person believes that another person, usually a stranger or famous person, is in love with him or her. The illness often occurs during psychosis
Psychosis means abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a "loss of contact with reality"...

, especially in patients with schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a disintegration of thought processes and of emotional responsiveness. It most commonly manifests itself as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking, and it is accompanied by significant social...

 or bipolar mania
Mania, the presence of which is a criterion for certain psychiatric diagnoses, is a state of abnormally elevated or irritable mood, arousal, and/ or energy levels. In a sense, it is the opposite of depression...

. During an erotomanic episode, the patient believes that a
"secret admirer" is declaring his or her affection to the patient, often by special glances, signals, telepathy
Telepathy , is the induction of mental states from one mind to another. The term was coined in 1882 by the classical scholar Fredric W. H. Myers, a founder of the Society for Psychical Research, and has remained more popular than the more-correct expression thought-transference...

, or messages through the media. Usually the patient then returns the perceived affection by means of letters, phone calls, gifts, and visits to the unwitting recipient. Even though these advances are unexpected and unwanted, any denial of affection by the object of this delusional love is dismissed by the patient as a ploy to conceal the forbidden love from the rest of the world.

The term erotomania is often confused with "obsessive love
Obsessive love
Obsessive love is a state in which one person feels an overwhelming obsessive desire to possess another person toward whom they feel a strong sexual attraction, with an inability to accept failure or rejection...

", obsession with unrequited love
Unrequited love
Unrequited love is love that is not openly reciprocated or understood as such, even though reciprocation is usually deeply desired. The beloved may or may not be aware of the admirer's deep affections...

, or hypersexuality (see nymphomania). Obsessive love is not erotomania by definition.

Erotomania is also called de Clérambault's syndrome, after the French psychiatrist Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault
Gaëtan Gatian de Clerambault
Gaëtan Henri Alfred Edouard Léon Marie Gatian de Clérambault was a French psychiatrist.De Clérambault gained his thesis in 1899. In 1905 he became assistant physician at the special infirmary for the insane, Prefecture de Police. From 1920 he was head of this institution...

 (1872–1934), who published a comprehensive review paper on the subject (Les Psychoses Passionelles) in 1921.


Early references to the condition can be found in the work of Hippocrates
Hippocrates of Cos or Hippokrates of Kos was an ancient Greek physician of the Age of Pericles , and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine...

, Erasistratus
Erasistratus was a Greek anatomist and royal physician under Seleucus I Nicator of Syria. Along with fellow physician Herophilus, he founded a school of anatomy in Alexandria, where they carried out anatomical research...

, Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 and Galen
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

 . 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, "erotic paranoia
Paranoia [] is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself...

" and "erotic self-referent delusions" until the common usage of the terms erotomania and de Clérambault's syndrome.

G.E. Berrios and N. Kennedy outlined in 'Erotomania: a conceptual history' (2002) several periods of history through which the concept of erotomania has changed considerably:
  • Classical times – early eighteenth century: General disease caused by unrequited love
    Unrequited love
    Unrequited love is love that is not openly reciprocated or understood as such, even though reciprocation is usually deeply desired. The beloved may or may not be aware of the admirer's deep affections...

  • 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"

In one case, erotomania was reported in a patient who had undergone surgery for a ruptured cerebral aneurysm
Cerebral aneurysm
A cerebral or brain aneurysm is a cerebrovascular disorder in which weakness in the wall of a cerebral artery or vein causes a localized dilation or ballooning of the blood vessel.- Signs and symptoms :...



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
Delusional disorder
Delusional disorder is an uncommon psychiatric condition in which patients present with circumscribed symptoms of non-bizarre delusions, but with the absence of prominent hallucinations and no thought disorder, mood disorder, or significant flattening of affect...

 or in the context of schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a disintegration of thought processes and of emotional responsiveness. It most commonly manifests itself as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking, and it is accompanied by significant social...

 and may be treated with atypical anti-psychotics.

Historical examples

  • The assassination
    Reagan assassination attempt
    The Reagan assassination attempt occurred on Monday, March 30, 1981, just 69 days into the presidency of Ronald Reagan. While leaving a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded by John Hinckley, Jr...

     attempt of Ronald Reagan
    Ronald Reagan
    Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

     by John Hinckley, Jr.
    John Hinckley, Jr.
    John Warnock Hinckley, Jr., attempted to assassinate U.S. President Ronald Reagan in Washington, D.C., on March 30, 1981, as the culmination of an effort to impress teen actress Jodie Foster. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and has remained under institutional psychiatric care since...

     was reported to have been driven by an erotomanic delusion to Jodie Foster
    Jodie Foster
    Alicia Christian "Jodie" Foster is an American actress, film director, producer as well as a former child actress....


  • Late night
    Late Night with David Letterman
    Late Night with David Letterman is a nightly hour-long comedy talk show on NBC that was created and hosted by David Letterman. It premiered in 1982 as the first incarnation of the Late Night franchise and went off the air in 1993, after Letterman left NBC and moved to Late Show on CBS. Late Night...

     TV entertainer David Letterman
    David Letterman
    David Michael Letterman is an American television host and comedian. He hosts the late night television talk show, Late Show with David Letterman, broadcast on CBS. Letterman has been a fixture on late night television since the 1982 debut of Late Night with David Letterman on NBC...

     and former astronaut Story Musgrave
    Story Musgrave
    Franklin Story Musgrave is an American physician and a retired NASA astronaut. He is currently a public speaker and consultant to both Disney's Imagineering group and Applied Minds in California.-Personal life:...

     were both stalked by Margaret Mary Ray
    Margaret Mary Ray
    Margaret Mary Ray was best known for stalking American television talk show host David Letterman and retired astronaut Story Musgrave.-Early life:...


In popular culture

Examples of de Clerambault's syndrome (erotomania) in fiction include Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan
Ian Russell McEwan CBE, FRSA, FRSL is a British novelist and screenwriter, and one of Britain's most highly regarded writers. In 2008, The Times named him among their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945"....

's novel Enduring Love
Enduring Love
Enduring Love is a 2004 British film directed by Roger Michell with screenwriter Joe Penhall, based on a novel by Ian McEwan. The story is about two strangers who become dangerously close after witnessing a deadly accident. It stars Daniel Craig, Rhys Ifans and Samantha Morton with Bill Nighy,...

, which was later turned into a film also called Enduring Love; the American movies Fatal Attraction
Fatal Attraction
Fatal Attraction is a 1987 American thriller blended with horror, directed by Adrian Lyne and stars Michael Douglas, Glenn Close and Anne Archer. The film centers around a married man who has a weekend affair with a woman who refuses to allow it to end, resulting in emotional blackmail, stalking...

and The Bodyguard
The Bodyguard
The Bodyguard is a 1992 American romantic-thriller film starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. Costner stars as a former Secret Service Agent turned bodyguard who is hired to protect Houston's character, a music star, from an unknown stalker. Lawrence Kasdan wrote the film in the 1970s,...

, the Portuguese film O Fantasma
O Fantasma
O Fantasma is a 2000 Portuguese explicit gay-themed film directed by João Pedro Rodrigues and produced at the independent production company Rosa Filmes.-Synopsis:...

(2001) and the French films Anna M. (2007) and Laetitia Colombani's À la folie... pas du tout (2002), starring Audrey Tautou
Audrey Tautou
Audrey Justine Tautou is a French model and film actress, best known for playing the title character in the award-winning 2001 film Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain, Sophie Neveu in the 2006 thriller The Da Vinci Code, Irène in Priceless and Coco Chanel in Coco avant Chanel...

. A psychiatrist Dr. Falkowski, in real life, and in the film U Be Dead
U Be Dead
U Be Dead is a British TV movie first broadcast in New Zealand in 2009. The film is based on a true story. The film was shown in the United Kingdom on 5 September 2010 on ITV1, and released in France on 2 July 2010 on television Arte HD, and in Australia premiered as a telemovie on the ABC in...

, was stalked by a woman who suffered from this condition.

The band Dream Theater
Dream Theater
Dream Theater is an American progressive metal band formed in 1985 under the name Majesty by John Petrucci, John Myung, and Mike Portnoy while they attended Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts. They subsequently dropped out of their studies to further concentrate on the band that would...

 has a song titled "Erotomania", which is the first of a three part suite
In music, a suite is an ordered set of instrumental or orchestral pieces normally performed in a concert setting rather than as accompaniment; they may be extracts from an opera, ballet , or incidental music to a play or film , or they may be entirely original movements .In the...

 titled A Mind Beside Itself.

The television series Criminal Minds
Criminal Minds
Criminal Minds is an American police procedural drama that premiered September 22, 2005, on CBS. The series follows a team of profilers from the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit based in Quantico, Virginia. The BAU is part of the FBI National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime...

featured the condition of erotomania as the basis of the plot for the episodes "Broken Mirror", "Somebody's Watching" and "The Crossing". The episode "Nothing But The Night" in the series Wire in the Blood
Wire in the Blood
Wire in the Blood was a British crime drama television series, devised and produced by Coastal Productions for the ITV network that ran from 2002 to 2009. The series is based on characters created by Val McDermid; a university clinical psychologist, Dr Anthony "Tony" Valentine Hill , is teamed with...

[season3, episode3] , also features a female stalker suffering from de Clerambault's, and is diagnosed by the series' main character who is also the person being stalked, psychologist Dr. Tony Hill
Dr. Tony Hill
Dr Tony Hill is a fictional character created by Scottish crime writer Val McDermid. He is portrayed by actor Robson Green in the ITV television series Wire in the Blood based on her Tony Hill series of novels.-Overview:...


It is also seen in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit season 3 episode 17 - "Surveillance".

In the manga series One Piece, the villain of the Fishman Island Arc Vander Decken IX shows erotomania towards the Mermaid Princess Shirahoshi. Fully believing she is in love with him, and her father locked her up and wants to use her marriage for political reasons. Where in reality she is utterly terrified of him and her father locked her up to protect her from Decken as he regularly attempts to kill her.

In the film Swimfan
Swimfan, also known as Fanatica, is a 2002 erotic thriller film directed by John Polson and written by Charles Bohl and Phillip Schneider. Considered a Fatal Attraction for a teenage audience, the film stars Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen, and Shiri Appleby.-Plot:Ben Cronin is a a star swimmer...

Madison is shown to be obsessed with the main character Ben, to the point she tries to ruin everything in his life from his swim team, to his girlfriend, and even framing him for murder in a delusional attempt to get him to be with her. It is also revealed this has happened more than once, as she did similar to a boy named Jake, suggesting she caused a car crash which left him in a coma
In medicine, a coma is a state of unconsciousness, lasting more than 6 hours in which a person cannot be awakened, fails to respond normally to painful stimuli, light or sound, lacks a normal sleep-wake cycle and does not initiate voluntary actions. A person in a state of coma is described as...

 and she got out without a scratch.

The ITV television crime drama Lewis explicitly references de Clerambault's syndrome in the season five episode "The Mind Has Mountains."

See also

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