A young couple doesn't know if they are experiencing infatuation or obsessive love disorder.

Is It Infatuation or Obsessive Love Disorder?

June 3, 2024

4 min.

Understanding obsessive love disorder can prevent the escalation of harmful behaviors and foster healthier relationships.

By: Charlie Health Editorial Team

Clinically Reviewed By: Sarah Lyter

Learn more about our Clinical Review Process


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Table of Contents

When you’re in love or have a crush on someone, it’s normal to feel intense emotions towards them, but if these thoughts and feelings become intense, intrusive, and start to harm you or the relationship, it may be a sign of obsessive love disorder — a condition marked by an intense and unhealthy preoccupation with another person. Despite what its name suggests, obsessive love disorder isn’t a mental health disorder in and of itself, but it often stems from an underlying mental health condition.

Understanding obsessive love disorder is important because the condition can lead to significant distress and dysfunction in relationships, requiring timely intervention and support. Below, we delve further into what obsessive love disorder is, its causes and symptoms, and effective treatments.

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What is obsessive love disorder?

As mentioned, obsessive love disorder describes a pattern of behavior where a person becomes excessively preoccupied with someone else, often leading to unhealthy and obsessive behaviors. These behaviors can include intense preoccupation with the person, possessiveness, delusional jealousy, constant messaging or checking up on the person, dependency, stalking, and manipulative behaviors. Although not a formally recognized mental health condition, obsessive love disorder often overlaps with other mental health disorders such as attachment disorders, borderline personality disorder (BPD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and bipolar disorder.

Causes of obsessive love disorder

Obsessive love disorder can be associated with various underlying causes, often linked to broader mental health issues and past experiences. Here are some potential causes:

Attachment disorders

Early childhood experiences with caregivers can affect how individuals form attachments in adulthood. Insecure attachment styles or childhood trauma can lead to obsessive behaviors in relationships, research shows. For instance, one study found that ambivalent attachment — an insecure attachment style also known as anxious-preoccupied attachment — is associated with obsessive love disorder. 

Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Individuals with BPD often experience intense and unstable relationships characterized by an extreme fear of abandonment and a strong need for reassurance and attention from their partners. The relationship patterns and behaviors exhibited by people with BPD often overlap with obsessive love disorder. 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

The obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that define OCD can extend to relationships. Research shows that it’s not unusual for people with OCD to become fixated on another person and feel compelled to engage in repetitive behaviors to alleviate anxiety.

Past trauma

Experiences of past trauma, such as abuse, neglect, or childhood trauma, can contribute to the development of obsessive behaviors as a way of coping with feelings of insecurity and low self-worth.

Cultural and social factors

Societal norms and cultural expectations regarding romantic love and relationships can sometimes encourage obsessive behaviors, especially if intense romantic pursuits are idealized.

What are the behavioral patterns associated with obsessive love disorder?

Obsessive love disorder behaviors can disrupt the person experiencing them and the life of the object of their affection. Understanding the specific behavioral patterns associated with obsessive love disorder can help in identifying and addressing this issue.

Common behavioral patterns associated with obsessive love disorder include:

  • Intense preoccupation
  • Possessiveness and jealousy
  • Compulsive communication
  • Dependency
  • Stalking behaviors
  • Manipulative tactics
  • Boundary violations
  • Mood swings
  • Idealization and devaluation
  • Isolation efforts

These behaviors can significantly impact both parties involved, often leading to distress and dysfunction. Recognizing these patterns early on can facilitate timely support and improve outcomes for those affected.

Treatment for obsessive love disorder

Treatment for obsessive love disorder typically involves a combination of connecting with a mental health professional, medication, and coping strategies to help people manage their symptoms, develop healthy relationship behaviors, and experience healthy love. Here are some common treatment approaches:


Psychotherapy is essential in treating obsessive love disorder, with several approaches offering different benefits. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps individuals identify and change intrusive thoughts and behaviors, fostering healthy relationship patterns. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), beneficial for people with BPD, teaches emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness skills. Psychodynamic therapy explores underlying emotional issues and past experiences that may contribute to obsessive behaviors, helping individuals gain insight into their actions and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Joining support groups for individuals with similar experiences can provide emotional support, reduce feelings of isolation, and offer practical coping strategies.


Medications can play a crucial role in managing obsessive love disorder. Antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression that often accompany obsessive love disorder. In severe cases, antipsychotic medications may be prescribed, especially if there are delusional thoughts or behaviors. Additionally, anti-anxiety medications can help reduce the anxiety associated with obsessive thoughts.

Coping strategies

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and deep-breathing exercises, can help manage anxiety and obsessive thoughts. Additionally, keeping a journal can aid individuals in processing their emotions and gaining insights into their behavior patterns.

A young woman is experiencing obsessive love disorder towards her friend.

How Charlie Health can help 

If you or a loved one are struggling with an attachment disorder, Charlie Health is here to help. Charlie Health’s virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) provides more than once-weekly mental health treatment for young people and families dealing with serious mental health conditions. Our expert clinicians incorporate evidence-based therapies into individual counseling, family therapy, and group sessions. With this kind of holistic online therapy, managing your mental health is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today.

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