Erotomania is a type of delusion in which the affected person believes that another person, usually a stranger, is in love with him or her. The illness often occurs during psychosis, especially in patients with schizophrenia or bipolar mania. In one case, erotomania was reported in a patient who had undergone surgery for a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. During an erotomanic psychosis, the patient believes that a "secret admirer" is declaring his or her affection to the patient, often by special glances, signals, telepathy, or messages through the media. Usually the patient then returns the perceived affection by means of letters, phone calls, gifts, and visits to the unwitting recipient.
Erotomania is also called de Clérambault's syndrome, after the French psychiatrist Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault (1872–1934), who published a comprehensive review paper on the subject (Les Psychoses Passionelles) in 1921.
Early references to the condition can be found in the work of Hippocrates, Erasistratus, Plutarch and Galen. In the psychiatric literature it was first referred to in 1623 in a treatise by Jacques Ferrand (Maladie d'amour ou Mélancolie érotique) and has been variously called "old maid's psychosis", "erotic paranoia" and "erotic self-referent delusions" until the common usage of the terms erotomania and de Clérambault's syndrome.
The core symptom of the disorder is that the sufferer holds an unshakable belief that another person is secretly in love with him or her. In some cases, the sufferer may believe several people at once are "secret admirers." The sufferer may also experience other types of delusions concurrently with erotomania, such as delusions of reference, wherein the perceived admirer secretly communicates his or her love by subtle methods such as body posture, arrangement of household objects, and other seemingly innocuous acts (or, if the person is a public figure, through clues in the media). Erotomanic delusions are typically found as the primary symptom of a delusional disorder or in the context of schizophrenia and may be treated with atypical antipsychotics.
The assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley, Jr. was reported to have been driven by an erotomanic delusion that the death of the president would cause actress Jodie Foster to publicly declare her love for Hinckley.
Examples of de Clerambault's syndrome (erotomania) in fiction include Ian McEwan's novel Enduring Love, and the French films Anna M. (2007) and Laetitia Colombani's À la folie... pas du tout (2002), starring Audrey Tautou.
The condition of erotomania formed the basis of the plot for the episodes "Somebody's Watching" and "Broken Mirror" of the television series Criminal Minds.
Erotomania also formed the basis of the plot of the 2006 film Borat. Throughout the film, Borat travels from Khazakstan in an attempt to find his "love" pahmeela anderson. At the end of the film, when Borat finds pahmeela, he attempts to kidnap her in a large burlap bag .