Erotomania revisited: Clinical course and treatment

  • Kennedy N
  • McDonough M
  • Kelly B
 et al. 
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Erotomania is a rare disorder in which an individual has a delusional belief that a person of higher social status falls in love and makes amorous advances towards him/her. Little is known about the background, classification, treatment, or outcome of individuals with this disorder. The purpose of this study was to evaluate current criteria for diagnosing and classifying primary and secondary erotomania in addition to examining course, outcome, and impact on victims of erotomania. Semistructured interviews covering personal and family details in addition to treatment and outcome to date were performed on a series of erotomanic patients identified in a defined area. Evaluation of diagnosis used DSM-IV and other criteria. Fifteen erotomanic subjects (11 female, four male) were identified. Most were isolated, without a partner or full-time occupation. Forty percent had a first-degree relative with a psychiatric history and of those half had a first-degree relative with a mono-delusional disorder. Less than half of the objects of their affection, mainly noncelebrities, were subject to harassment. Subjects with primary erotomania and erotomania secondary to other psychiatric diagnoses were identified using DSM-IV criteria. Ellis and Mellsop’s criteria were found to be useful in assessing erotomania but we could not replicate Seeman’s fixed and recurrent groups. Treatment and outcome was better than expected particularly for those with primary erotomania and erotomanics with a diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder. In this series, erotomanic symptoms largely occurred in the context of other psychiatric disorders, although subjects with pure erotomanic symptoms were seen. Subjects were less dangerous and engaged in less harassment of victims than the literature suggests. Subjects were often isolated, unemployed, and with few social contacts. Strong family psychiatric histories were seen particularly with regard to mono-delusional disorders raising the possibility of genetic inheritance. An adaptation of Ellis and Mellsop’s criteria was suggested for the diagnosis of primary and secondary erotomania. Response to treatment and prognosis was good, particularly for primary erotomania and erotomania secondary to bipolar affective disorder. © 2002 by W.B. Saunders Company.

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  • N. Kennedy

  • M. McDonough

  • B. Kelly

  • G. E. Berrios

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