Erotomania

Hinckley

Erotomania [ih-roh-tuh-mey-nee-uh] is a type of delusion in which the affected person believes that another person, usually a stranger, high-status or famous person, is in love with him or her. The illness often occurs during psychosis, especially in patients with schizophrenia, delusional disorder, or bipolar mania. 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, 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,’ obsession with unrequited love, or hypersexuality. Erotomania is also called de Clérambault’s syndrome, after the French psychiatrist Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault, 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, 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, ‘erotic paranoia’ and ‘erotic self-referent delusions’ until the common usage of the terms erotomania and de Clérambault’s syndrome.

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