Obsessive love or obsessive love disorder (OLD) is a condition in which one person feels an overwhelming obsessive desire to possess and protect another person, sometimes with an inability to accept failure or rejection. Symptoms include an inability to tolerate any time spent without that person, obsessive fantasies surrounding the person, and spending inordinate amounts of time seeking out, making, or looking at images of that person.[1]


Although obsessive love is not contained in the DSM-5 as a specific mental disorder, it can often accompany other mental illnesses.[2] Depending on the intensity of their attraction, obsessive lovers may feel entirely unable to restrain themselves from extreme behaviors such as acts of violence toward themselves or others. Obsessive love can have its roots in childhood trauma and may begin at first sight; it may persist indefinitely, sometimes requiring psychotherapy.[3][4] In November 2019 marriage.com reported that although it could be “a slight exaggeration” Netflix show You had got people talking about obsessive love disorder.[5]

The disorder most commonly associated with obsessive love is borderline personality disorder. Other disorders that are most commonly associated with obsessive love include delusional disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and cluster B personality disorders.[6]


Sigmund Freud considered that obsessive love might be underpinned by an unconscious feeling of hate for which it overcompensated - thereby explaining the sufferer's feeling of a need to protect the love object.[7] Later analysts saw obsessive love as driven more by narcissistic need, the preoccupation with the love-object offering defences against worries and depressive feelings;[8] while Jungians see it as rooted in the projection of the inner self onto another person.[9]

In culture

Marcel Proust dissected (his own style of) obsessive love in À la recherche du temps perdu.[10]

You, a 2014 thriller novel by Caroline Kepnes portrays obsessive love disorder. The novel was translated into 19 languages and has been adapted into the September 2018 Lifetime television series You, a critical success on Netflix from December 2018. Over 43 million viewers streamed the first season after its debut on the streaming service.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Susan Forward; Craig Buck (1 January 2002). Obsessive Love: When It Hurts Too Much to Let Go. Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-553-38142-9.
  2. ^ Obsessive Love Disorder, from Healthline
  3. ^ Hodgkinson, Liz (2013). Obsessive Love: How to Free Your Emotions & Live Again. Endeavour Press Ltd.
  4. ^ Derrow, Paula. (2014-01-14). "When normal love turns obsessive". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  5. ^ https://www.marriage.com/advice/love/obsessive-love-disorder/ Obsessive Love Disorder 101
  6. ^ What Is Obsessive Love Disorder?, from BetterHelp
  7. ^ S Freud, Case Histories II (PFL 9) p. 118-9 and p. 70-1
  8. ^ O Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 382 and p. 533
  9. ^ C Jung, Man and his Soul (London 1964) p. 191
  10. ^ H Moss, The Magic Lantern of Marcel Proust (2012) p. 51
  11. ^ Yahr, Emily (January 18, 2019). "'You' was ignored on Lifetime, then it blew up on Netflix – what does it mean for TV's future?". The Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on February 20, 2019. Retrieved February 20, 2019.

Further reading