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Erotomania is a type of delusion where a person becomes convinced that another party is deeply in love with him, even if the two people have never actually met. It can be associated with mental illnesses characterized by delusions, or it may appear on its own, and often forms in response to a trauma or significant life event. There are treatment options available, including medications and psychotherapy, although erotomania can be challenging to manage, as the patient may not recognize a medical problem and seek treatment for it.
In a patient with this disorder, the object of the delusion can become a topic of obsession. In the case of public figures, the patient may believe that secret signals are being sent during public appearances and in the media. A simple habitual hand gesture can be read by the patient as a confession of love, and patients may try to communicate with their love interests by arranging belongings in a particular way or using specific body language.
Often, erotomania results in jealousy. This can cause people to engage in bizarre or dangerous activities, ranging from stalking a love interest to attacking people believed to be rivals for the interest's affections. In cases involving celebrities and public figures, there have been documented instances of people with this disorder attempting murder to eliminate rivals or punish people they believe have caused harm to the object of the obsession. Someone carefully watching Celebrity A, for example, might take a catty comment by Celebrity B as an insult and attempt revenge.
In cases where erotomania revolves around someone the patient is in contact with, the patient may make aggressive and unreasonable demands or behave with extreme jealousy. This can cause problems with social interactions, such as workplace relationships. Patients in existing relationships can experience tension as a result of their delusions, because their partners may feel neglected or slighted when the patient brings up the delusion.
When this condition is identified, treatment can take a number of approaches. In a patient with an existing mental health condition, the development of erotomania can be a sign that the treatment method currently being employed is not working. A doctor may recommend adjusting medications, exploring new avenues in psychotherapy, and making other changes to the plan for managing the condition.
In the case of spontaneous occurrences, psychotherapy to understand the origins of the fixation and address it may be recommended, and some patients can also benefit from medication. It is important to recognize that for delusional patients, the delusion is real, and denying it outright will not be a productive approach to treatment and could potentially endanger people if the patient perceives the denial as a threat.