What Is The Phenomenon Of Obsessive Love Disorder?

Updated January 23, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines the word obsession as “a persistent thought, idea, image, or impulse that is experienced as intrusive or inappropriate and results in marked anxiety, distress, or discomfort.” Obsession can take many forms, such as an obsession over shopping or gambling, or even an obsession with someone else. Some obsessions can stem from an experience with someone that affects an individual so much that they become fanatical about that person. This condition – often referred to as an “obsessive love disorder” (OLD)– occurs when someone mistakes feelings of obsession for feelings of love. 

Below are a few behaviors commonly showcased with obsessive love disorder:

  • Obsessive thoughts about a person

  • Inability to accept rejection from the person

  • Feeling possessive about the person

  • Low self-esteem

  • Disruptive thought patterns that prevent achieving typical daily activities

  • Disregard for how the other person feels about the obsessive attention

  • Being emotionally unavailable for anyone besides the object of your obsession

This personality disorder doesn’t only arise in romantic relationships; it can also occur over friends, co-workers, or even strangers on the street.

obsessing, obsession, person, someone, stop

I Can't Stop Obsessing About Them

When Attachment Starts Controlling You

Unfortunately, when an attachment to a person becomes an actual fixation, it becomes extremely harmful to both the person who is experiencing the obsession and the person who is the target of it. If you realize you have a fixation that’s beginning to border on obsessive love disorder, it’s important to halt it in any way you can.

The problem is it can be difficult to figure out how to stop obsessing over someone, as your mind may compulsively bring these thoughts about this person to the foreground of your life. The sooner you get these negative traits under control, however, the better.

Is It Obsessive Love Disorder Or A Misunderstanding?  

In some situations, each person simply has different definitions of what a relationship should be like. If you are in a relationship where you are more invested than the other person, it can come across as an obsessive love to the other person, even if the feelings are completely healthy to you.

Some people desire a relationship with lots of togetherness, while others value more independence. In any relationship, it's important that each person define the relationship in the same way and decide what level of attachment or independence is important. Sometimes it's difficult to reach a mutual decision about this. Talking with each other can help put words to your emotions and perspective.

Additionally, one person may not be in tune with the other person's social cues or love language. This is when the obsession over that person can begin to blossom. Lack of effective love translation, or lack of interest, can sometimes leave the more love-hungry person yearning and shifting into an obsessive love over the other person. In effort to get closer and have connection, they might put the other person on a pedestal. Suddenly their actions are for the other person's happiness, instead of their own reality.

Don't Let Obsessing Over Someone Take Control Of You

True fixation means that everything about your life and your world revolves around the other person. It means that you struggle to not think of that person or to even stay away from them for any length of time.

A person may lose jobs or relationships because of an obsession that completely takes over their life. If you have a hard time going about your normal day without getting distracted by that other person or object, there are things you can do to help. 

Being Mindful 

It is important to be mindful about your thoughts regarding the person. If you find that you are unable to stop thinking about them, it could be that you are on the path to fixation and need to figure out some strategies to let go of the nagging thoughts about that person in your head.

But just what can you do to make sure you're working through your fixation and not falling victim to it? Fixation can turn ugly fast if you're not careful, and that's not something you want.

how to stop obsessing over someone, person

Distract Yourself 

It can be helpful to distract yourself from your intrusive thoughts and engage in other activities that promote self-improvement. They can allow you to see that there are important things in life other than your obsessive feelings. In this way, you can start to improve yourself and to focus on yourself at the same time.

Redirect Your Attention 

Redirecting your attention towards something other than another person can be a good way to healthily distract from your romantic obsession.

Spending time alone, making time for physical exercise, and sticking to a nourishing diet are all baseline ways of beginning to take care of yourself instead of fixating on the person who has become the object of your obsession.

In addition, it’s important to invest in relationships that promote a healthy love: the well-established bonds you already have with friends and family. Your support system will be there with you at every stage of life.

The Consequences Of Obsession 

For some – but not everyone – obsessive feelings about someone else can turn extremely dangerous as it continues to manifest itself. Some people have been known to even kill for the person that they are fixated on, either because of a level of jealousy that develops or because they become twisted into use as pawns for someone else. Some have even been known to commit suicide because their fixation is rejected or not returned.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 988, and is available 24/7

Breaking The Obsession Stigma

I Can't Stop Obsessing About Them

Getting Help

Getting help right away is an important step and can help you get back to the life you want to live by learning how to reshape thought patterns.

If you are experience obsessive thoughts about a person, you should know that there is more that you can do. There is a way that you can get help and there are ways to overcome your romantic obsession. Don't let this fixation run your life or ruin another person’s life.

People with OLD often have other more well-recognized mental health disorders, so a licensed counselor will want to check for other disorders that may coexist. Treatment will depend your particular diagnosis. Therapy usually first focuses on finding the cause for the obsessive thoughts or feelings about a person, then focuses on learning healthy coping strategies, reframing thoughts, and learning healthier relationship practices. Medication may also be recommended to help deal with symptoms of depression or anxiety, among other things. If you are still in a relationship, individual therapy is often recommended initially, possibly shifting to couples therapy later on. 

Finding in-person help – especially a counselor who specializes in patients with obsessive love disorder – can be difficult given the small pool of professional to choose from in your local community. With BetterHelp’s online therapy, you can browse to thousands of licensed counselors, including many specialists, to help make sure you find someone who understands your specific condition. Multiple studies have found that online therapy, such as through BetterHelp, is just as effective in many situations as in-person therapy, and adds the convenience of being able to meet with a therapist at a time that works best for you, and from anywhere with an internet connection. It’s also easier to maintain your space as you will not be physically visiting a counseling office.  

Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"Ivanilda is amazing and helped me so much with my obsessive thoughts and regrets about the past. She is very warm and comforting."

"I have been talking with Andrea for a few months, and over the course of those months, she has taught me valuable methods for dealing with obsessive thinking and negative self-image, by simply letting me talk about my issues and reflecting on them with me in ways I understand. She is well equipped for the job and makes sessions feel personal, kind of like talking with a friend so that I feel more and more comfortable. It makes for a better experience only ever talking through email and on the phone. I appreciate all she has done for me greatly!"


Obsessive feelings are challenging to get over, but not impossible. With help, you can learn how to stop obsessing over someone, move on, and live a life of freedom and prosperity. BetterHelp and its licensed, knowledgeable therapists can offer professional help that makes a positive change in your life.

Take a deep breath and get started with the first step today with a licensed health professional.

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