• Jennifer Barnick

I Want You to Want Me: Obsessive Love Disorder

Lovesick Man

Photo Source: Pexels

You cannot stop thinking about them. Your heart races when you see they texted you. Your heart burns when you see a picture of them on Facebook with another person. You think of a thousand reasons to call or text them. You drive by their place of work or their home. If you’re working or going to school with the object of your desire, you try to plan your day and walking route to run into them…. Do you have a crush or an obsessive love disorder that may need medical intervention?

Anyone who has fallen in love or has had a crush on someone has experienced at least a few of the things mentioned above, and in truth, it is a natural evolutionary, biological process that is wired into us to so that we will mate successfully. Falling madly in love can be a real pain—especially if it is during an inconvenient time or with a person that your friends and family might not readily accept. However, nature came up with a good plan to get us to push reason aside and lock us into a mate: falling in love. Neuroscience has been studying this for some time, and there are significant brain changes that happen when we ‘fall head over heels.’ For most—especially when the love is returned—it is the most wonderful thing in the world and can lead to a lifelong bond with someone. For many of the unrequited lovers, the crush will fade after five or six months, allowing the admirer to move on and seek love elsewhere. Even most of the dumped and heartbroken will find their intense feelings of love and anguish will eventually fade and disappear. There are some people, though, that the crush does not fade or who are unable to get over a breakup. Stalking, obsessive love disorder, and erotomania are all life-ruining mental illnesses that can plague a person when they fall in love or develop a crush. These love disorders behave like obsessive-compulsive disorder combined with a drug addiction in the person’s brain function and chemistry, and often a similar treatment to OCD and drug addiction is used by the doctor in treating the sufferer. (Limerence: The Potent Grip of Obsessive Love by Nick Lehr, October 10, 2016, cnn.com)

In a really great lecture titled Lovesickness (Professor Glenn D. Wilson, Gresham College, August 27, 2011, YouTube), Professor Glenn D. Wilson opens his lecture with a 17th Century painting of a woman suffering from lovesickness and being attended by a physician. The professor then goes on to say, “Lovesickness has been recognized by physicians going back to the years B.C.” He then describes lovesickness as: “The symptoms of love look much like various forms of mental illness: mania—abnormally elevated mood, inflated self-esteem, extravagant gift-giving. Depression—tearfulness, insomnia, loss of appetite and concentration. Obsessive-compulsive disorder—preoccupation, checking (text messages), hygiene rituals, hoarding valueless but resonant items.” Again, those are pretty common crazies that happen to most people when they fall in love. And again, that’s pretty natural.

But what if the crazy lovesickness part doesn’t fade away after a period, or in the case with couples, transform into another type of love that is less crazy but way more stable and lasting? And for some it doesn’t. Stalking has two common types. (Lovesickness, Professor Glenn D. Wilson, Gresham College, August 27, 2011, YouTube) One is referred to as ‘clumsy courtship.’ Clumsy courtship is where a suiter tries a little too hard in pursuing an object of desire in combination with not picking up that the object of their pursuit does not reciprocate their affections. The other most common is by an ex-partner. This type of stalking is also the most dangerous. It is primarily men who stalk their exes, and if there was violence and controlling behavior in the relationship, the odds that the stalking behavior will lead to a violent act are very high. 50% of murdered women are killed by an intimate partner. Another stalking-type lovesickness or obsessive love disorder (OLD) is ‘erotomania.’ (Obsessive Love Disorder by Kristeen Cherney, January 10, 2018, healthline.com) Erotomania is where a person absolutely believes that the object of their obsessive desire loves them just as intensely. The erotomaniacs’ target is usually someone famous or high status. Middle-aged women are the primary sufferers of erotomania. Erotomaniacs are totally convinced the object of their desire deeply loves them back but cannot due to other issues like being married or their career to express their love to the erotomaniac openly. Often erotomaniacs will believe the object of their desire is sending them messages either through things they say on interviews on the television (as with the case of a famous person) or the fact they are wearing the favorite color of the erotomaniac (as in the case if the object of the erotomaniacs’ desire is their doctor, lawyer, or co-worker). Erotomaniacs can be very dangerous (though most often are not) and will try to kill the wife, children, or anyone else they believe is blocking the romantic relationship. The movie Fatal Attraction is actually a very accurate portrayal of an erotomaniac, and in the Lovesickness lecture (embedded down below at time 13:48) an outrageous, real-life story is shared.

For most of us, we will go in and out of love, get dumped, have a crush on someone unattainable, and manage to recover from our period of momentary insanity, and it’s important to point that out because science in the past few decades has increasingly turned very normal human experiences into mental illnesses. Pathologizing falling in love is not a good thing—as most would agree while it can suck—it’s worth all of the agony. However, for some, falling in love, or having a crush, or getting heartbroken does not eventually fade away. In fact, it can lead them to life-ruinous behaviors like stalking or obsessing over another so intensely that they lose touch with work, friends, and family. Luckily, there are a lot of treatment options for sufferers of obsessive love disorder (OLD). “Therapy is also helpful for all forms of OLD. Sometimes it's helpful for families to be involved with therapy sessions, especially if obsessive love disorder stems from issues during childhood.” (Obsessive Love Disorder by Kristeen Cherney, January 10, 2018, healthline.com) There are also a host of medications and other therapies that can help the seriously brokenhearted.

Lovesickness - Professor Glenn D. Wilson (46:17)

Jennifer Barnick

Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.”

Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.

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