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Hist Psychiatry. 2002 Dec;13(52 Pt 4):381-400.

Erotomania: a conceptual history.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, UK.


Four historical convergences are identified in the history of erotomania. According to the first, which lasted from Classical times to the early eighteenth century, erotomania was a 'general disease caused by unrequited love'. According to the second, erotomania was a disease of 'excessive physical love (nymphomania)'; this view remained active well into the nineteenth century. The third convergence focuses on the view that erotomania is a form of 'mental disorder', and this was held throughout the twentieth century. The fourth and current definition (a development of the third stage) sees erotomania as a 'the delusional belief of being loved by someone else'. Differences between Anglo-Saxon and French views cast doubt on the meaning or coherence of the much-abused English eponym 'de Clérambault syndrome'. Erotomania is a construct, a mirror reflecting Western views on spiritual and physical love, sex, and gender inequality and abuse. On account of this, it is unlikely that there will ever be a final, 'scientific' definition rendering erotomania into a 'natural kind' and making it susceptible to brain localization and biological treatment.

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