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.
What Does Obsessive Love Disorder Look Like?
When an attachment to a person becomes an actual fixation, it can become extremely harmful to both the person who is experiencing the obsession and the person who is the target of it. 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.
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.
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.
How To Manage Fixation And Obsession In Love
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.
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 the other 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.
Getting Help For Obsessive Behavior
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. People with OLD often also 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 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 cope 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.
Finding in-person help – especially a counselor who specializes in patients with obsessive love disorder – can be difficult given the small pool of professional from which to choose in your local community. With BetterHelp’s online therapy, you can browse through 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.
"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 can be detrimental to everyone involved, whether you are the object of an obsession or the person experiencing it. It can be challenging to resolve, 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 toward the first step today with a licensed health professional.
How do I stop being obsessed with someone?
It can be difficult to stop obsessive thoughts about another person, but there is help available. Therapy for obsessive thinking can help you retrain patterns of thought and behavior into more positive and healthy channels. Exposure response prevention (ERP) is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that is often used for those who experience obsessive-compulsive disorder and may be helpful for managing obsession over a person as well.
Some other strategies that may help you to regain control include:
- Stop feeding these feelings by focusing on other aspects of your life
- Seek out a new hobby to help direct your thoughts elsewhere
- Spend time with friends and family
- Remind yourself that your obsession is a person just like you, with their own thoughts, inconsistencies, and faults
- Practice self-care in the form of exercise, spending time in nature, and mindfulness activities (journaling, meditation, breathing exercises)
- If you are in a relationship with this person, explain that you need to create some distance and follow through with it
Why can't I stop obsessing over a person?
In some cases, obsessive thoughts about another person may be too strong to manage on your own. If you find that nothing you’ve tried on your own is helping you, it may be time to seek help from a mental health provider.
What causes obsession over a person?
Experts have not agreed on a single cause of obsession over a person, but do theorize that some cases may be related to attachment disorders. It can happen in attachment disorders that an individual may have difficulty connecting with others, and when they do find someone with whom they connect, they may interpret that they are the only person of importance.
Obsession over another person may be related to other mental health conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
What are signs of being obsessed with someone?
If you suspect that you or someone you know is obsessed with another person, here are some signs for which you can pay attention:
- Ignoring personal boundaries
- Feeling a constant need for validation from the other person
- Extreme jealousy over other relationships that the object of your affection has with others
- Thoughts and feelings for this person overwhelm activities of your own daily life and interfere with other relationships
- Low self-esteem if you perceive that your feelings aren’t reciprocated
- Acting in a controlling manner with the object of your affection
- Feeling possessive of the attention and time of the object of your affection
- Craving continual contact with the other person, you want to spend every moment with them
Why am I so obsessed with my crush?
It can be normal to feel strongly about a romantic attraction, especially in the initial stages. When meeting a crush is a recent event, you may begin to imagine your future together and spend multiple times a day thinking about the other person’s life. However, if this attraction begins to consume your own life with thoughts, ruminations, and fantasies, it may lead to unpleasant feelings like anxiety and depression. In some cases, a person experiencing these obsessive thoughts may have romantic feelings for someone who doesn’t reciprocate them, and this can lead to problematic behaviors, as well.
Am I too obsessed with someone?
If you realize that you have difficulty focusing on responsibilities, existing relationships, or everyday life because you’re constantly thinking about your romantic attraction, you may be experiencing obsession. Obsessive behavior can be time-consuming and if you find that it interferes with day-to-day life, you may want to seek professional help.
Is obsessing over someone love?
Obsession with another person is called limerence, and while it presents with common markers of love, it is ultimately a more shallow, conditional experience. Being hyper-focused on someone, whether you know anything about them or not, is a dopamine rush that doesn’t have a basis in reality, or in real knowledge of a person’s flaws and shortcomings. It is more for yourself than wanting what is best for the other person.
What are the 5 stages of obsession?
(NOTE: I checked for 5 stages of obsession all over and found nothing about it. There are 2 articles that use this structure, but they are both casual listicles referring to fandom)
Is obsession a mental illness?
Obsessive love disorder is not classified as a mental health condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), and there is currently a debate among experts about whether or not it should be considered a distinct condition. Some believe it to be a symptom of an existing mental health condition such as borderline personality disorder (BPD), while others believe it should be categorized as a separate mental health condition.
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