Understanding Obsessive Love Disorder

Updated January 24, 2023by ReGain Editorial Team

Obsessive love disorder isn’t a real condition or diagnosis. Is not something you’ll see in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, at least at this time, and it’s not something you will be diagnosed with in a psychiatrist's office. However, fixation itself is very real. What can you do if love and relationships cause extreme distress? There are answers.

What Do I Do If I Have Obsessive Love Disorder?

What are the Consequences of Obsessive Love Disorder?

When you obsess over a potential love interest, it can make for strained or unhealthy relationships, negatively impact your mental health, and even stop potential partnerships before they start in some cases. Not only can it be a challenge for the person experiencing it, but it can also lead to negative consequences for the love interest or person who is the target of the obsession. While it might seem like a nice idea to have someone put you up on a pedestal, this type of infatuation is quite counterproductive. While many popular love stories glamorize obsessive, intense love, or jealousy, in reality, this type of obsessive focus is anything but desirable. Often, it's really quite painful emotionally. All of that said, if things feel this way now, they don't have to stay that way forever. Thoughts and actions that may feel like "obsessive love disorder" could have various potential roots, and they are something you can heal from.

Understanding Obsessive Love

It's normal to think about a love interest frequently. Typically, when a relationship starts, you're excited and have fond feelings. Obsession is different in that it can feel like your entire life and emotional state hinges on the other person and/or the relationship. There are a couple of reasons that this might happen, and although obsessive love disorder isn't a real diagnosis, it is a recognized concern, and there are some mental health diagnoses that can correlate with the signs of obsessive love. For example, borderline personality disorder, attachment disorders and perhaps even relationship OCD (which is not a specific diagnosis, but a subtype of OCD or way that OCD could present in some with an obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosis) could play a role. Additionally, attachment style could be a factor in why someone has these experiences.

Symptoms of Obsessive Love Disorder

What are the signs or symptoms that you face love obsession or what some may call obsessive love disorder? Here are some of them:

  • A strong attraction to one specific person, though this one person may change at different times in an individual's life depending on who their current romantic interest is
  • Possessive and clingy behavior
  • Extreme jealousy or feelings of jealousy that may feel as though they're out of a person's control
  • Severe challenges in handling rejection
  • Obsessive thinking involving the person of interest

These symptoms appear in many ways, depending on the person. They may send excessive tests or Facebook messages to the object of their affection. They may lose interest in interacting with anyone else in their lives, including their friends and family, and focus only on the person they have feelings for. In addition, they may keep constant tabs on the person, which can become serious if things progress to stalking and/or harassment. They might experience jealousy. In some cases, it can even be dangerous.

Why It's a Problem

Just what is it about love obsession that makes it such a problem? Well, the first thing is that in any relationship, the people involved should have their own identities and should be able to follow their interests and friendships. However, when a partner has difficulty with obsession, it often leads to difficulty in pursuing that separate identity and those interests.

That's because the fixation itself, and typically, the fear of being left or abandoned, often leads to jealousy and overwhelming intensity. The partner who is having trouble with it will generally become extremely jealous of everything the other partner does. They may claim to see proof of unfaithfulness in anything and everything that their partner does. A healthy relationship is built on trust and mutual respect, as well as the ability for each person to have their own independence. When you fear abandonment extremely or fixate on a love interest, it makes these elements very difficult to achieve.

Other symptoms include thinking excessively about the partner, need for constant reassurance, doing anything they can to constantly be in contact, limiting other social interactions or recreational activities, spending as much time as possible with the partner, and becoming extremely codependent or dependent. Love and obsession may be at the forefront of their life, which may cross into other areas of life, like a person's functioning and ability to engage in their job or career. Losing contact with family, difficulty having friendships, or complications with relationships outside the romantic one, can even occur and might be problematic for everyday life. 

Although this doesn't take place all of the time when people experience symptoms, and some who fear abandonment may never experience this at all, if activities they engage in are centered around possessive thoughts that are acted upon, it can be dangerous for anyone involved.

How Obsessive Love Differs from Healthy Love

Not all of us are clear about what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like. We receive a lot of mixed messages from our everyday media, and it's common for an obsession with a crush or love interest to be seen as cute or romantic. Family can often be the primary factor in your understanding of a healthy relationship. If you grew up without a model for a healthy relationship, you may grow up without a clear idea of what a good relationship should look like.

With a healthy relationship, there is always some form of common ground. Both parties contribute emotionally to the relationship and do what is needed to strengthen the bond. With obsessive love, one partner experiences stronger feelings of affection, which causes the relationship to become unbalanced. Sometimes, the obsession can develop even if the couple is not in a serious relationship. This may lead to delusional thinking that causes the person with obsessive love to have a distorted view of reality without even realizing it.

What Causes Obsessive Love?

There are a few different things that could lead to the development of challenges with obsessive love. Though there is no one definitive reason that it occurs, there are things that could lead to a predisposition toward obsession in love or romance, which, again, is nothing to be ashamed of and can be addressed in therapy. Some of those possibilities include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Obsessive focus on objects of individuals
  • Repeated contact with the subject of their love
  • Unwanted attention towards a love interest
  • An intense focus on only good or bad aspects of the love interest
  • Difficulty focusing on anything other than the love interest
  • Constant attempt to control the love interest
  • Extremes when it comes to feelings about individuals (good or bad only)

Attachment, particularly insecure attachment, may also be behind obsessive love. Attachment theory claims that as we grow and develop, we will have one of a few attachment styles, depending on how our parents raise us. 

Those with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style may be more likely to have obsessive and "clingy" tendencies. They might need constant reassurance or experience unwarranted jealousy. While your attachment style is not set in stone, it can take a commitment to self-awareness and developing new skills to change it.

Getting Help

Getting help in the form of therapy can help you manage emotions related to love and romance. Romantic connections are a very common reason people seek the support of a therapist. Many providers who help people with relationships will be able to address various aspects of love, including how to form a new relationship appropriately, how to maintain a healthy love for yourself and others, and how to balance your partnerships.

One type of therapy technique that you can see in counseling is cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. CBT is appealing to many because it is non-invasive, well-researched, and effective for a wide variety of mental health concerns, ranging from mental health conditions to life stress. If you're already in a relationship, you may also get psychotherapy for both you and your partner. It can help both of you to create a new relationship that is healthier and more positive for the future.

Online Therapy

Seeing a counselor or therapist can feel vulnerable, especially when it comes to topics related to love, obsession, and mental health conditions. Finding the right therapist and working with them in a comfortable environment can make a world of difference, which is where online counseling could offer an advantage. Online counseling through ReGain may be able to help you with your relationships. When you sign up for ReGain, you will select from individual counseling, couples counseling, or click "not sure" if you are not sure what kind of counseling you would like yet. Whether you sign up for online counseling or find an OCD therapist near me who can help with relationships., you deserve to have healthy connections, and it is possible. 

Below are some reviews of ReGain counselors from people encountering similar concerns.

Counselor Reviews

"Sessions with Natalie are very insightful and give practical advice on implementing new habits and changes. Be prepared to engage and be challenged to think in a different way. I know that my partner and I can already see improvements in our relationship and feel more positive about working through our issues together."

"Austa has been wonderful thus far. She has helped my partner and I during an unimaginably difficult time... She has also guided us in communicating effectively and setting appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I was hesitant to pursue counseling at the beginning, but I truly believe that it is making a difference for our relationship. Austa is easy to talk to and she is a great listener. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a counselor."

What Do I Do If I Have Obsessive Love Disorder?

Conclusion

You don't have to let your obsessive love control your feelings. A stronger, healthier love is right around the corner. Our counselors are here for you to provide all the tools you need to get there. Take the first step.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the symptoms of obsessive love disorder?

Remember first that obsessive love disorder is not a mental health diagnosis. Signs and symptoms that may lead someone to believe they “have obsessive love disorder” or that correlate with obsession in love include:

  • Possessiveness
  • Extreme jealousy
  • Overwhelming attraction to an individual
  • Obsessive thoughts about said individual
  • Excessively contacting someone, even when they don't reply
  • Controlling thoughts or behavior
  • Poor self-esteem, whether internalized or known
  • Repetitive need for reassurance
  • Abnormal difficulty with rejection

Someone living with these concerns may feel as though their world revolves around the object of their obsession. A person may take tabs on the object of their love and cling to the object of their love past the point that could be excused as potentially normal or healthy. Since obsessive love disorder is not in the DSM, you cannot get a diagnosis of obsessive love disorder. However, your symptoms are real, and a therapist can support you in addressing them. These topics can impact a person's life severely, harm relationships, and can cause extreme distress for the person experiencing them, but they don’t need to affect your mental health or relationships forever, so know that it can be advantageous to reach out for help. 

What causes obsessive love disorder?

A singular cause of obsessive love isn't known, but it's sometimes seen in individuals with a co-occurring personality disorder or other mental health diagnoses. This is particularly true for those with a personality disorder diagnosis like borderline personality disorder or BPD. Signs of borderline personality disorder such as a tendency toward intense, unstable relationships, impulsivity, extreme emotions, and fear of abandonment may all make obsessive love or romantic obsession more likely to occur. Borderline personality disorder has some overlap with other conditions such as bipolar disorder, but they are not the same. If you think that you have a personality disorder, a mood disorder, “obsessive love disorder,” or another mental health disorder and would like an appropriate diagnosis or care, it is crucial to see a mental health professional who can evaluate and diagnose you accordingly. Sometimes, obsession in love will occur alongside a diagnosis, but not always. 

Is obsessive love disorder dangerous?

Some of the actions mentioned in this article have the potential to be dangerous. If harassment, stalking, or controlling behavior ensues, it can absolutely be dangerous. Additionally, if the behavior is ever paired with any form of abuse, it is inexcusable and must be taken seriously. The condition can be incredibly painful. They might focus on the object of their love so much that they isolate themselves from others that are not involved in a relationship. They might obsess to the point where they engage in behaviors that they aren't proud of. If they experience jealousy, friends or other loved ones in the object of affections’ life might be at risk. They might experience obsessions and compulsions related to the person they love, which can be extremely toxic for everyone involved. Depending on the severity, the other person may become rightfully fearful. They may experience harassment and may even fear for their safety. If you ever feel unsafe, it is vital that you reach out to emergency services right away. Please contact theNational Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233).

How do you deal with obsessive love disorder?

If you have some of the traits or symptoms mentioned in this article, know that, although obsessive love disorder is not a diagnosis, you're not alone. You aren’t the only one going through these feelings, and you're not broken. There are many ways to cope with this. One of the most important things to is often to disengage from the obsession and seek a support system, though that can be hard at first. You can also go to a therapist for support.

What is romantic obsession?

Romantic obsession is when you are obsessed with a person that you have romantic feelings toward to the point that it's detrimental to your mental health and/or to the relationship. Sadly, it doesn’t always indicate real love; look at the way you experience relationships and if you show signs of fixation to see if you may be struggling with love obsession or something similar. 

Various circumstances can lead to love obsession and if it is something that you endure, know that treatment for obsessive love disorder is out there. The best thing that you can do is talk to a counselor to become more self-aware about how your circumstances were cultivated and how you can develop healthy connections in the future.

Is obsessive love healthy?

Obsessive love is not healthy. Obsessive love can feel intense, which can elicit extreme, passionate emotions that make it hard to get out of the obsession, but it is not healthy in any way, shape, or form. If you've experienced obsessive love, it can warp your perception of what love really is. This is particularly true if you've never experienced real love without obsession. It is important to remember that getting treatment for obsessive love is possible and that you can have healthy relationships in the future even if you are currently experiencing obsessive love.

Is obsession a mental illness?

Obsession itself is not a mental health disorder, but obsession can be a symptom of multiple mental health diagnoses. These mental health diagnoses vary significantly, and obsession will look different in different diagnoses just as it'll vary from person to person. 

One type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is actually relationship OCD. Diagnosis and treatment are available for OCD. It's important to note, however, that not everyone (or even the majority of people) with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) will have relationship OCD or any obsessions surrounding romance at all. There are multiple forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and the condition varies heavily from person to person. Other mental health diagnoses that can include obsession related to other people include borderline personality disorder and attachment disorders. People with personality disorders like borderline personality disorder or BPD could be more likely to experience obsessive love in some cases. Borderline personality disorder is one of the cluster b personality disorders listed in the DSM. Cluster b personality disorders include BPD, narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. 

When you are experiencing relationship concerns, it’s crucial to note that mental health support can be helpful whether you do or do not have a diagnosis.

Is love an obsession?

If you have real love, it will not typically be an obsession. The addictiveness, obsessive feelings, and anxiety that are present when you experience obsessive love will not be present with real love. You will love your partner and experience feelings of love without the toxic or addictive component that comes with obsessive love disorder symptoms. The obsessions and compulsions that come with obsessive love disorder can be uncomfortable, as can the obsessive feelings that come with the condition. It feels like your emotional state is contingent on the relationship, but like the other person has the reigns.

Is obsession a form of love?

Obsession is not a form of love, especially when the object of affection does not feel comfortable with receiving that attention. Actions of extreme jealousy, excessive calls to the person, and constant need for reassurance are examples of how obsession is not the same as love.

How can you tell the difference between love and obsession?

Often, obsession comes with serious painful feelings and fear of rejection. It can feel like the person is very literally your entire world, and your emotions may depend on the attention and affection they do or do not give you. Do you feel the need for constant reassurance, do you need to know where your partner is at all given times, and need them to be near you? Do you make excessive calls, texts, or get unreasonably jealous at other people or things that your partner gives their attention to? You might be facing obsession rather than love. 

Does obsession go away?

By seeking treatment for the feelings and experiences of obsession you may have, it can absolutely be mitigated. A therapist can help you establish healthy habits that will benefit both your current and future relationships.

How long does obsession last?

There is no magic length of time to explain how long obsession might last. Depending on how aware you are of the matter, and how willing you are to make a change will determine how quickly you are able to take control of your obsession. 

How do I stop obsessing over someone?

To stop obsessing over someone, the best thing to do is to cease all contact with them. Get them out of your peripheral. Block them on social media, and if you can't do it, ask your friend to do so. Make sure not to let your conversations surpass it, and make sure that you're not talking to this person about the kids more than you need to just to have communication with them. Seeing a mental health provider can be extremely helpful in this situation because they can help you to develop tangibly useful coping skills and to understand how to stop an obsession of any kind, whether it's the most extreme obsession or one that's more minor. They can also help you to understand the psychology behind an obsession like obsessive love.

How do you treat obsessive love disorder?

Obsessive love disorder is not a diagnosis, but you can absolutely get the professional care necessary that’ll allow you to address the symptoms. Possessive behavior is not something to be accepted and allowed, especially if it's harming you or others. For treatment, it is best to seek professional mental health assistance. Though it might seem intimidating, there are experts ready and willing to help you cultivate a healthier mindset and a healthier lifestyle. If you’re especially nervous to start, or new to therapy, visit ReGain.Us for approachable, professional advice.

What is Erotomania disorder?

Erotomania refers specifically to the belief that someone is in love with you when, in reality, it is clear that they aren't. Often, a person with erotomania will think that someone who has a higher social status is the person that is in love with them. This does not apply to situations where someone tells you that they love you or sends you mixed messages. If someone has this illusion, they will hold a deep-seated belief that someone is in love with them and will believe that the person is in love with them despite anything they say. They may engage in stalking or harassment and often believe that a person is sending subliminal messages of love and affection toward them despite the fact that the person is telling them they aren't interested. While rare, erotomania can be dangerous and should be taken very seriously.

What causes obsessive love?

A variety of things can cause you to develop obsessive love, including low self-esteem, a tendency toward obsession or extreme emotions, and all or nothing thinking. A personality disorder such as borderline personality disorder could potentially make it more likely that you'll experience or develop obsessive love. If a borderline personality disorder is found to be the cause of obsessive love, therapy can help BPD and relationships. Sometimes, attachment disorders can play into the development of obsessive love. If not an attachment disorder, wounding or previous experiences related to attachment can impact a person and can be part of why they experience obsessive love. 

How do you know if you're obsessed with someone?

If you can't stop thinking of someone and your emotional state relies on what a person does and how close the relationship is on that particular day, it could be obsessive love. Are your emotions surrounding your connection with this person extreme? Do you feel the need to text them compulsively and reach out even when they don't reply due to obsessive thoughts and obsessive feelings? Do your actions, in general, feel compulsive as they are related to this person and relationship? Asking yourself these questions and looking at the symptoms above can help you to determine if this is something you face.

How do you stop thinking about someone who hurt you?

The most important thing to do is to disengage from the person entirely. Stop interacting with them or following them on social media. If they attempt to reach out, set a firm boundary. It can be difficult to stop talking to someone who hurt you, but it's important to remember that you deserve real love and that a toxic relationship will never be able to give you what real love can. If you are having difficulty ceasing contact with someone who hurt you or if you can't stop thinking about someone, therapy can help.

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