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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. geb11@cam.ac.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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