What is Erotomania? Joe Goldberg’s “You” Disorder Explained

If you have been following the psychological thriller series Did youyou know follows a bookstore manager who falls in love and develops an extreme obsession with different women. The last season finally gives a name to the condition of the main character Joe Goldberg – erotomania.

It is a delusional disorder in which someone has an unfounded belief that a person of a perceived higher social status (such as a famous musician or actor) is in love with them. This condition is also De Clerambault syndromewhich was created in 1885 by the French psychiatrist GG De Clerambault in 1885 after observing a woman who thought that a man of a higher social and/or professional status was in love with her.

Erotomania is rare, with a lifetime prevalence of 0.2 percenthe says Gauri Khurana, MD, MPH, a psychiatrist in New York City and a clinical instructor at Yale University School of Medicine. And contrary to what is portrayed in the Netflix hit show, it is much more common in women than in men, for a recent one BMJ Psychiatry case report.

But what Did you that’s right, like Penn Badgley’s character”[people with erotomania] usually go out of their way to make contact with the object of their affections, like stalking,” says Dr. Khurana. “Often, both [individuals] they never met in real life, or it was such a fleeting interaction that it shouldn’t warrant that level of obsession.”

Meet the expert: Gauri KhuranaMD, MPH, is a psychiatrist in New York City and a clinical instructor at Yale University School of Medicine.

Erotomania can also be seen as an addiction to people, Dr. Khurana notes. Sometimes it can evolve into violence when a person with erotomania pursues the object of his obsession.

What causes erotomania?

Erotomania often results from abandonment in the early years, and could be considered complex trauma, says Dr. Khurana. People with erotomania often have unresolved trauma and a poor sense of self, or they may be codependent, introverted, sexually inexperienced, or isolated.

“I often see this in patients who have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, which I also consider to be a progression of developmental trauma, but the idea remains that if I am able to treat the trauma, the illusion will withdraw she says. .

While erotomania can occur on its own, it is usually linked to another mental health condition, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It can last weeks or years, and often can transform from one person to another with the same obsessive thread, focused on love, says Dr. Khurana. For example, someone can think that someone else is flirting with them when they are not, and they can become more convinced of the idea over time, especially if they spend a lot of time alone.

“Loving someone and belonging is not something that they feel is possible or safe for them, and this is incredibly painful,” explains Dr. Khurana. “It’s really too much pain for their mind to handle, so the person begins to inhabit their fantasy world (the erotomaniac illusion), which is the only realm in which they ever feel truly loved, safe and happy.”

How do you know if you have erotomania?

The primary symptom of erotomania is the absolute belief that another person is in love with them. “People with erotomania often believe that the purpose of their affection is to send them secret messages that affirm their love,” Dr. Khurana says. “For example, I had a patient who thought DJ Khaled was communicating his love for her [based on] the time he posted his Instagram messages. She thought she posted them at eight because that was the time she was born.

People with erotomania often have unresolved trauma and a terrible sense of self.

Behaviors related to erotomania include persistent efforts to make contact through stalking, texting, and other annoying behaviors. However, these actions are rare and most mental health professionals have never met such patients, Dr. Khurana notes.

To make a diagnosis of erotomania, these illusions have to involve possible, even if improbable, events. “The illusion should only apply to their love life, with every other aspect of the affected person’s life being functional and normal,” he explains. “Other mental health disorders must be excluded. And if low mood, depression, or hypomania or mania is also present, then the duration of the illusion must be longer than the mood episode.”

What are the stages of erotomania?

De Clérambault characterized the following phases of erotomania, according to Dr. Khurana:

“The last phase is considered the most important. After hoping that the object openly declares his love and persistently pursuing, the subject feels humiliated,” he says. “This feeling of humiliation can prompt the affected person to seek retaliation and hurt their target.”

How to treat erotomania?

There is no standard treatment for erotomania; rather, it varies according to the specifics of the patient, Dr. Khurana says. However, standard treatment for delusions includes antipsychotic medication to help patients regain a sense of reality.

“Therapists have also posted case studies which also include therapy, family therapy, other types of medication and electro-convulsive therapy,” he says.

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How to deal with a person with erotomania?

If you think you may be dealing with person-to-person erotomania, Dr. Khurana recommends doing your best to maintain boundaries, remain neutral, and modulate your vocal tone so as not to encourage or aggravate the illusion.

If possible, you can also enlist others to help point out inconsistencies and direct the affected person to help, such as their family members, close friends and others in their support network, and reach out to your therapist or psychiatrist.

Finally, if you know that it will not put your safety in danger, you can also try to help with crisis management, such as driving the affected person to a hospital for immediate help, especially when his delusion borders on dangerous activities, such as is. such as stalking or trying to hurt someone.

Emilia Benton is a freelance writer and editor based in Houston. In addition to Women’s Health, she has contributed health, fitness and wellness content to Runner’s World, SELF, Prevention, Healthline and POPSUGAR, among other publications. She is also a 10-time marathon runner, frequent traveler and avid baker.

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