by AmyM. 7/28/05
She stares at the phone. She knows it will ring. How can he not call her? He will
come in due course, when the timing is right. He may not be around now but she knows
he must miss her terribly. What will the world think when they are finally together?
It won't matter, not really, as long as they are one. She dreams of the day of their
union, the day of their wedding, the day the world takes notice of how special she
really is. Oh the things she will buy, the people she will meet, the destiny fulfilled!
The room around her is in disarray. She barely notices. One day she will leave this
all behind. He will save her from the harshness of her daily life and bring her a
new, more exciting existence. She believes in fate. Her computer monitor flickers
behind her. She leaves it on all day waiting for a message from him to appear on her
screen. She stares again at the phone, sitting idle among the books and papers upon
her desk. It will ring, oh yes, it will ring!
This sounds like the timeless story of lovers ripped from each other and working towards
a reunion doesn't it? Well, it's not. The woman above is an extremely troubled soul.
We often grow up thinking everyone in the world thinks as we do. This is often the
basis for misinformation and misunderstandings. The truth is, not all humans operate
under the same rules of reality. Troubled people veer from the beaten path for a variety
of reasons. Sometimes mental illness is inherited, other times it is brought on by
life experience, and sometimes the cause is unknown. The Internet has brought into
focus some of these disorders and they are probably lurking in a chat room or on a
message board near you. Many of these disorders aren't new; they have simply found
a new outlet. One type of disorder that has found a new home on the Internet is Erotomania.
This disorder is also called Clerambault Syndrome.
What is Erotomania?
This disorder is a form of stalking. The erotomaniac will not stalk just anyone. They
focus their attention on someone in high social or financial standing. Quite often
the object of the erotomaniac's obsession is a celebrity. Erotomania can be described
as an imaginary and obsessive romantic interest in a stranger. In most cases they
have never even met the victim. Thoughts of the victim tend to fill the daily thoughts
of the affected. This goes far beyond normal daydreams and fantasies. Their mind spends
a lot of time fabricating a relationship in great detail that simply does not exist.
This type of person will justify just about any behavior they find themselves acting
out. They often believe their victim to be stuck in a loveless relationship and they
need to be rescued. This is not just a fantasy to the erotomaniac; it is their reality.
Erotomania often occurs on message boards and in chat rooms that are hosted by celebrities.
They may spend endless hours waiting for the celebrity to post a message. The erotomaniac
believes that their intended is sending them secret messages through posts on these
message boards or showing up in the chat rooms under assumed names just to get the
chance to speak with them. They feel this is their link to the celebrity and they
begin to center their life around it.
A person suffering from erotomania lives by the belief that they and the object of
their affection will be united one day. There is no middle ground to this thought.
They truly believe it will happen. Quite often the erotomaniac will see any rejection
as interference by a different party. They cannot believe their victim is really rejecting
them. There must be someone else manipulating and controlling the victim's life choices.
This could be a wife, husband, sister, brother, friend or co-worker. In some cases
the erotomaniac will take their frustrations out on the imagined manipulator. They
see them as someone who is standing in the way of their ultimate happiness.
The erotomaniac also functions under the belief that they are saving their victim
from a dull and loveless existence. They will use every opportunity to make their
victim "see the light". They are often convinced that their victim is disconnected
from their emotions and don't yet realize that they are in love.
What happens in a person's mind that makes them cross the line? What turns affection
or admiration into obsession? Feelings of affection can turn into feelings of rage,
frustration, and in extreme cases, violence. The erotomaniac has quite literally lost
touch with reality and refuses to accept rejection. A person afflicted with erotomania
will often exhibit signs of schizophrenia or borderline personality disorders. Most
often they hide these symptoms well and tell no one of their obsession simply because
they see nothing wrong with it. People with this disorder often feel unloved and extremely
unhappy in their daily lives. They combat these feelings by inventing a relationship
with someone that they feel will give them the life they could have or feel they should
have. They often feel the object of their affection is their perfect spiritual match
or what would be considered the perfect and truest love.
What type of Person?
Some of the traits of an erotomaniac are easy to spot but can be easily dismissed
as someone who is depressed or having a rough time. They are often irritable, impulsive,
obsessive, paranoid and prone to psychotic episodes. Though this disorder is seen
mostly in women there are plenty of men that are affected. A person with this disorder
tends to be lonely and socially inept. They often feel that they are unattractive
and they have poorly paying jobs. These people are quite often awkward in social situations
but feel free and unrestricted through the Internet. Though erotomaniacs do not often
become violent, it is usually the men that do so.
Signs and Symptoms
If someone is trying desperately to get the attention of their victim they will not
give up. They will post message after message on a message board in hopes of getting
a direct reply from the target. When the celebrity in question is a traveler, the
erotomaniac will venture from their home to try to make contact. Repeated and sometimes
exhaustive attempts are made by the erotomaniac to gain access to the victim. These
shy and socially inept people suddenly find the courage to pester bus drivers, security
guards, and even hotel staff in an attempt to locate the celebrity in the flesh.
The victim may have symptoms too. They are not having symptoms of being an erotomaniac;
they have symptoms of being the victim. Quite often the victim will feel depressed,
anxious, fearful, and totally out of control of their life. They will also begin to
feel vulnerable in the presence of their stalker if they are able to get near. Erotomaniacs
do not respect the personal space of their intended. To them, love is totally and
completely without any personal boundaries. They may even try to force themselves
into sexual situations with the victim. Even in cases where the erotomaniac can get
nowhere near them, the victim will live in fear that they will run into them just
around the next corner.
How to Deal
The victim should follow their instincts and gut feelings. Somewhere in childhood
we are taught to think with our heads instead of listening to our hearts or our instincts.
If something feels incredibly wrong, the victim should acknowledge that feeling and
be on guard. The victim can ask the person to stop pursuing them, however this should
only be done one time. If the victim repeatedly contacts the stalker, they are giving
them the attention they crave. The person can be banned from participation on a particular
message board or chat room, but this often fails to deter them. They simply make up
a new username and carry on until they are detected yet again.
Restraining orders rarely work but one should be sought if the victim feels that they,
their friends or their family are in any sort of danger. Quite often these roadblocks
are seen as manipulations by outsiders rather then a clear statement by the victim.
Friends and family should be reminded to be wary of any strangers. The very best thing
the victim can do to get rid of this type of stalker is to ignore them completely.
The erotomaniac should not be acknowledged in any manner or form. The victim's best
hope is that the stalker will eventually lose interest and move on with their lives.