Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Erotomania: Is It Real?

I drew this picture of Jenna Elfman as
Ellena Roberts, wearing an orange prison
jumpsuit.  I love drawing with PhotoShop!
If you're at all familiar with the Lifetime movie "Obsessed," you must be wondering about the details of erotomania.  The therapist in the movie described it as "a condition where one believes that one is loved by someone, when in fact, one is not."  That is just the tip of the iceberg.

It is a type of mental health disorder where the person believes that someone else -- often a stranger, and usually a celebrity or person of high status -- is in love with him or her.  Patients will often manifest an entire relationship that exists solely in their own minds.  The disorder occurs in people who have bipolar disorder during mania, schizophrenia, a psychosis of some type, or a disorder involving delusions.

When a person experiences an episode of erotomania, he or she often interprets the actions of their "love interest" as directed solely at him or her.  The "love interest" may, in the erotomaniac's opinion, be sending them secret messages via actions, gestures, or facial expressions, as well as messages via regular media.  The erotomaniac may also return this imaginary affection through contacting the love interest, through calling, emailing, sending gifts, or even visiting the love interest.  

Although these gestures are not expected or wanted, the love interest's denial of this "relationship" is often viewed by the erotomaniac as some type of scheme to conceal their relationship from the public.

In "Obsessed," the main character, Ellena Roberts, was erotomaniacally obsessed with Dr. David Stillman, a renowned surgeon that she pursued relentlessly.  Toward the beginning of the movie, the viewer is lead to believe that their relationship is real but clandestine, as Dr. Stillman is married and a very public, well-known physician.  As the movie progresses, we begin to understand the depth of Ellena's madness.  Her delusions and compulsions extend far beyond simply Dr. Stillman, and in fact are seen as not just a nuisance, but a potential threat to the safety of others if left unchecked.

The movie, "Obsessed" is, in fact,  based on the true story of Diane Schaefer who stalked Dr. Murray Brennan, chief surgeon at Sloan-Kettering in New York City, for about eight years.  She sent him letters, called his home and his office, brought gifts, and even managed to sneak into his home to greet him in a see-through negligee.  Although the fictional Ellena Roberts (who is played by Jenna Elfman) never threatened to harm her doctor in any way, the real Diane Schaefer is quoted as saying to Dr. Murray: "I can't live while you're alive on this earth.  I am going to kill you!  Kill you, or kill myself -- I am degraded by your being alive."

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