It’s is very often that I come across clients who are obsessed with someone. The level of obsession is so high that it often means that normal life cannot carry on without some form of validation. This obsession is often aimed at people who are either unavailable or pulling away, making the process harder. Sometimes, it is very difficult to see why the obsession exists if you look at the two people concerned who seem to have very little in common.
In the case of an obsession with a therapist, one can understand it to a certain extent. Therapy is a safe space and the therapist holds this for people who have perhaps never had that before. It is the job of the therapist to keep the boundaries in place to ensure that it remains a safe space. This isn’t always done and can be very damaging for a client when it finally happens that boundaries are set. It could (or should) be the end of therapy or a referral at that point. Something an obsessed client will find hard to take.
I have been offering online therapy for over 10 years. During that time, I have built up a speciality in many areas of psychology and helped many clients move forward. Contact me for a free consultation. I engage fully with my clients to ensure the best possible chance of recovery. I firmly believe that awareness is important but action is the decisive element of recovery. I accompany my clients along that road not only by offering sessions focusing on their issues but as a resource between sessions too.
Therapy aside, many people get obsessed with others that they have been in or want to be in a relationship with and it can be debilitating. Work suffers, relationships suffer as obsessive thinking and the need to have contact or have this person in their lives plays out. It is almost an addiction.
Any obsession can be similar to the concept described by the Addiction Cycle. The cycle builds up the need (thinking), it builds up further (obsession) and a need has to be exercised (contact). This needs to be broken for someone to move on. Either contact has to be cut completely (which is often the best option) or the thinking has to be controlled by countering the thoughts that drive towards obsession. This is a very difficult stage for the obsessed who cannot imagine not having this person in their life (sometimes after they are long gone and ignoring them, which fuels feelings of abandonment).
The other deeper area where the issue could lie is due to developmental issues. Children naturally seek closeness to their parents and if that is rejected or neglected, the child reacts and craves contact. My thinking about this is as follows: “Is there an era in child development when it is normal to feel this?” An obsession with another person brings to mind two times in life where this might happen.
The first is quite early at three or four. At that point we have enough language and cognition to hold images of primary caregivers we need and love plus the language to go with it. When that person or people are absent constantly, a child can think of nothing but them, feels sadness and desperation. The second is in early adolescence when girls, especially, have “crushes” on adults. There is a similar quality to this, the need to be close, the yearning, to emulate and be loved.
Extreme obsession could also be due to Obsessive Love Disorder (OLD) where high level feelings of attraction and protection lead to obsessive thoughts that someone in authority is in love with the person obsessed.
Symptoms of OLD may include:
- an overwhelming attraction to one person
- obsessive thoughts about the person
- feeling the need to “protect” the person you’re in love with
- possessive thoughts and actions
- extreme jealousy over other interpersonal interactions
- low self-esteem
People who have OLD may also not take rejection easily. In some cases, the symptoms could worsen at the end of a relationship or if the other person rejects. There are other signs of this disorder, such as:
- repeated texts, emails, and phone calls to the person they’re interested in
- a constant need for reassurance
- difficulty having friendships or maintaining contact with family members because of the obsession over one person
- monitoring the actions of the other person
- controlling where the other person goes and the activities they engage in (Source: Healthline)
The causes of Obsessive Love Disorder lie in attachment issues with parents, BPD or what is known as Delusional Jealousy where the obsessed cannot accept someone could reject them and refuse to believe that feelings aren’t being reciprocated. This is often consolidated by Relationship OCD (not an official disorder) where control is sought over a partner and relationships are very rigidly played out.
While OLD is seen as rare, it is getting more attention but is not recognized as yet as an official disorder by the DSM due to it overlapping with other mental health disabilities. A diagnosis is made by a mental health professional but advisable is to see a medical doctor too to rule out any medical issues.
Treatment is often on two fronts, medication and talk therapy. Sufferers are encouraged to form a protective wall of no contact around the person while they work on deeper issues.
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Thank you for this Dr Jenner.
I never heard of O.L.D before, but I certainly have had the symptoms of it, along with BPD and the other developmental/attachment issues. 😏
All I can do is try to fix myself, and improve, which I’m trying hard to do.
I also try to feel how it must feel for the other person on the receiving end, as I know how it feels both sides.
When you understand another’s past though, it does help.
I wish I could have my memory wiped, like on “eternal sunshine of the spotless mind”.