Medical News Today: Obsessive love: What to know

There are many factors that may cause obsessive love. The sections below discuss these factors in more detail.

Erotomania and other delusional disorders

Mental health conditions such as bipolar I disorder and schizophrenia, as well as symptoms triggered by alcohol use disorder, may cause delusions of erotomania.

This is not the same thing as obsessive love, but it may be a symptom of a much more serious mental health condition.

Erotomania is a rare delusional disorder that may cause a person to believe that destiny requires a specific relationship. The person may even delude themselves into believing that a relationship that ended long ago is still loving and healthy.

Erotomania can also cause a person to believe that another person loves them. Sometimes, the object of their love may even be someone that they do not know. For example, they may believe that they have a nonexistent relationship with a celebrity.

Some delusions may be so extreme that they cause the person to engage in stalking, abuse, or violent behavior. Erotomania also involves symptoms of paranoia.

One 2017 case study argues that social media can make erotomania worse. This is because it allows people with obsessive tendencies to observe others from a distance, and to feel closer to them than they might otherwise feel.

It is important to reiterate that erotomania is very different to obsessive love.

Learn more about erotomania here.

Borderline personality disorder

People with borderline personality disorder may intensely fear abandonment and have trouble managing their emotions. For example, their emotions may appear disproportionate to the situation, and they may obsess over their relationships.

They often view things in black and white terms, alternating between seeing a person as completely good or completely evil. This can cause them to try to control others or manipulate partners into remaining in the relationship.

People with this disorder may not have a consistent identity or sense of self. This can worsen obsessive tendencies, since they may struggle to see themselves as real or worthy individually, separate from their relationships.

Attachment disorders

A person’s ability to form healthful attachments with others begins early in childhood. People whose parents or caregivers were unstable or abusive may develop abnormal patterns of attachment. This can cause them to become obsessive, controlling, or fearful in their relationships.

People with insecure or reactive attachment styles may feel preoccupied by fears of loss. They may feel unable to cope without a relationship and be willing to do anything to keep their partner.

Sometimes, insecure attachment keeps a person in an abusive relationship because they fear loss. In other cases, it may cause a person to become abusive in a desperate attempt to keep a partner.

Trauma and fears of abandonment

Some people are so afraid of abandonment that they develop obsessive tendencies. This may stem from an attachment disorder or emerge after a trauma.

For example, a person whose spouse died may be terrified of losing their current partner. This could result in them taking unusual or unhealthful measures to “protect” them.

Other mental health conditions

A wide range of mental health conditions can distort or alter a person’s perspective, making them more fearful, obsessive, or depressed. This can increase their risk of becoming obsessed with their relationship.

For example, a person with depression may believe that they are unworthy and alone, or that the only worthwhile aspect of their life is their relationship. This can cause obsessive feelings or behavior.

Learn more about the different types of personality disorder here.

Social and cultural norms

Some social and cultural norms demand more of one partner than the other. This could mean that some parents and caregivers expose their children to these unhealthful relationship styles during their upbringing.

For example, being exposed to various relationship “norms” during childhood might cause some people to grow up believing that love means ownership, or that their partner must do everything they want to prove their love.

These thinking patterns are one hallmark of “toxic masculinity.” People with this trait may believe that it is acceptable for males to treat their partners in a way that is physically or emotionally damaging. Those who display signs of toxic masculinity may also be controlling, demand more of their partners than they are willing to give, or abuse partners who break their “rules.”

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