AskDefine | Define erotomania

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. a disorder in which a person has a delusion of a romantic relationship with another person
  2. excessive sexual inclination or desire

Extensive Definition

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"

Contemporary syndrome

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, Zachary Quinto, Barbara Mandrell, and Linda Ronstadt.


  • 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
  • "A la folie, pas du tout" (2002) and "Anna M." (2007) are two french movie about erotomania. "Anna M." is made like a documentary, very accurate.
erotomania in Catalan: Erotomania
erotomania in Danish: Erotoman
erotomania in German: Erotomanie
erotomania in Estonian: De Clérambault' sündroom
erotomania in Spanish: Erotomanía
erotomania in French: Érotomanie
erotomania in Croatian: Erotomanija
erotomania in Hebrew: תסמונת דה קלרמבו
erotomania in Lithuanian: Erotomanija
erotomania in Hungarian: Erotománia
erotomania in Dutch: Erotomanie
erotomania in Polish: Erotomania
erotomania in Japanese: エロトマニア
erotomania in Slovak: Erotománia
erotomania in Finnish: Erotomania
erotomania in Chinese: 被愛妄想症
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