Emotionally Disturbed/Mentally Ill Stalkers

'Every breath you take, every move you make...I'll be watching you. '


The mentally ill stalker can be a simple obsessional, a love obsessional, or an erotomanic. Psychotic and delusional stalkers simply cannot separate fact from fiction. Even an imaginary love is better than no love at all. All delusional stalkers hold onto a fixed false belief that keeps them bonded to their victims. The core of their obsession is based on fantasy; what they cannot attain in reality is achieved through this fantasy. When they attempt to act out this fantasy in real life, they expect the victim to return the affection. When no affection is returned, the stalker often reacts with threats and intimidation. When the threats and intimidation don't accomplish what they hoped, the stalker can become violent and even homicidal. What makes the delusional stalker more dangerous is their tendency to objectify their victims. They view their victim not as a human being, but as an object that they alone must possess and control. Delusional stalkers are the most tenacious type of stalkers, with delusions lasting an average of ten years.

The typical profile of delusional stalkers is that of a single, socially immature loner, who has been unable to establish or sustain close relationships with others. Delusional stalkers rarely date and have had few, if any, sexual relationships. They usually come from an emotionally barren or severely abusive childhood; growing up to have a very poor sense of their own identities. Most delusional stalkers have a predisposition toward psychosis.

The common victim of the delusional stalker is most frequently a person of a higher socio-economic class/status who has had little, if any, previous contact with the stalker. Yet, the stalker believes that he/she already has a close bond with the victim, or convinced they will in the future. Delusional stalkers choose victims who are unattainable in some way; the victim may be already involved in a relationship; frequently it is someone who has been kind to them; a therapist, clergyman, doctor, work supervisor, teacher, or even the police officer who stopped them for a traffic violation but did not cite them. Those in helping professions are particularly vulnerable to delusional stalkers. The professional may have been the only person who has ever treated the stalker with warmth. The stalker, who already has difficulty separating reality from fantasy, construes the helper's compassion into a delusion of intimacy.

Celebrities and politicians are frequent victims of the delusional stalker. The stalker usually becomes aware of their victim through the media (cinema, television, radio, newspapers). He/she studies the object of their attention, collects articles, movies, and/or memorabilia related to their victim. He/she establishes a comprehensive delusional fantasy in which they have a special or unique, even mystical, relationship with the victim, even if they have never met. The stalker believes the victim is communicating with him or her telepathically or by using a secret code that only they know the meaning of. Any contact the victim has with the stalker becomes a positive reinforcement of a relationship. Any type of response by the victim is seen as an invitation to continue the stalker's pursuit. When the object of the stalker's attention says "no," he/she rationalizes their intent away and may then focus of the perceived situation or person the stalker believes is standing in the way of a relationship. "Her husband made her get that restraining order, she really loves me, he is the problem," or "His agent told him it would be bad for his career if we were involved, but he really loves me, that agent better stay out of it.." Infamous erotomanic stalkers include; Robert John Bardo, who killed actress Rebecca Schaeffer, and Margaret Ray, who stalked David Letterman, Ray later committed suicide.

Paranoia may make the delusional stalker act aggressively towards a third party. They may believe there is a conspiracy to keep their love objects away from them. If they can eliminate the intrusive third party, they believe they will protect the object of their desire, and consummate the fantasy relationship. Paranoid stalkers frequently come into contact with law enforcement during misguided pursuits to rescue the individual from someone or some imagined danger.

It is imperative that victims of the delusional, psychotic, or paranoid stalker have absolutely no contact with the suspect. Not only will attempts to appease or ignore the stalker not work, they may add fuel to the stalker's obsessional delusions. Restraining and protective orders against the delusional stalker, though important and occasionally helpful, frequently don't work and may further escalate the stalking. The stalkers' belief that they and their victim are destined to be together commonly overrides any fear they may have of the legal consequences of violating a TRO.

Threat Assessment for Violence in Stalkers

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