John Hinckley Ashanti

Erotomania is defined as a delusional disorder that leads the sufferer to believe a person of higher status (usually a famous person or celebrity) is in love with him or her.

Unlike fleeting infatuation or a “crush”, erotomania is a delusional disorder with longterm consequences for the sufferer and the victim.

Examples of erotomania in modern history include the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley, Jr. (pictured above right); and Devar Hurd, 37, who targeted singer Ashanti Douglas and stalked her for 13 years.

Hurd was sentenced to 4 years in prison in March.

Hinckley, 61, who shot the president to impress actress Jodie Foster, will soon be released from a mental institution to live with his mother in a convalescent home.

Erotomania begins when the patient believes that an individual is communicating with him or her through glances, smiles, or special signals via photographs, television, movies, or the Internet.

Also referred to as delusions of reference, the patient believes the love object is expressing his or her love to him through their body language, facial expressions, words or song lyrics, etc.

If the target is in a relationship, the patient may form the belief that the target needs rescuing.

Any denial or rejection by the target is seen as reinforcement of the patient’s delusion.

The belief that the target is in love with him or her is unshakeable and often intensifies over time and distance.

In most cases, erotomania delusions require reciprocation or validation from the victim.

Erotomania is a precursor to stalking and harassing behaviors if the patient develops fantasies or a life of domesticity or commitment with the victim.

Erotomania can cause serious disruption in the workplace and in the patient’s home life.

The patient may abruptly quit his job or leave her family to travel to the city where the victim lives to stalk him or her.


Erotomania is seen in patients who are diagnosed with psychotic disorders such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. But in many cases patients who do not suffer from psychotic disorders are found to suffer from erotomania.

Sometimes erotomania can cause temporary psychosis.

Patients are usually unemployed, socially awkward, and suffer from depression.

Some patients report a lack of affection or ineffective bonding with a parent or caregiver in early childhood that leads to unhealthy attachments in adulthood (attachment disorder).


Symptoms include depression, anxiety, mood swings, anger, rage, fear of abandonment, hypersexuality.


Erotomania can sometimes be treated with medications including antidepressants or antipsychotics, and intense talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Erotomania delusions are difficult to treat if there are other psychotic features present.

In most cases involving non-psychosis, a delusion can be broken after a long period (months or years) of no contact with the victim.

If the victim is a famous person or celebrity, treatment will include no access to a television, no movies, no Internet, no cellphone, and no reading material that may include photos or mentions of the victim.

This has been your Medical Minute.

More Info On the Web

Delusional Disorder –

Erotomania –

Erotomania –


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