Love has puzzled writers, musicians, artists, philosophers and psychologists since the beginning of time. Today, neuroscientists are also trying to understand what happens to a brain in love versus infatuation. What about you? Do you know the signs someone is obsessed with you?
As Margaret Atwood neatly describes in her metaphor: “I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.” Now, doesn’t that feel obsessive?
Being obsessed with someone definition
Having an obsession with someone is very similar to infatuation. Obsessive love is also superficial and comes with a constant deluge of thoughts about the object of desire. The ‘obsessed with someone’ definition is to be addicted.
The signs someone is obsessed with you can further develop into an obsessive love disorder (OLD). You won’t actually find this term in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Nevertheless, it is a very real experience that’s comparable to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), as described in this table.
Just like OCD, Obsessive Love Disorder overwhelms you with intrusive thoughts. These usually cause extreme anxiety about, in this case, the relationship. Although, OLD shouldn’t be confused with Relationship-OCD.
In reality, Relationship-OCD is more about checking whereas OLD has a greater range of signs someone is obsessed with you. Again, Relationship-OCD isn’t officially a psychiatric term. Nevertheless, it does help people understand their problems.
Interestingly, literature is filled with various examples of the signs someone is obsessed with you. Take, for example, Nabokov’s Lolita, Catherine and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights or even Annie Wilkes in Misery if you want the extreme signs of being obsessed with someone.
Potential causes of obsessing over someone
Researchers can now confidently say that love is a form of addiction. As this article describes, we become hooked on the chemicals released when we’re in love. Of course, healthily grounded people don’t stay addicted.
Instead, they pass through the lust phase, onto the attraction and attachment phases in a natural flow. The brain creates different chemicals for each of those phases. If, on the other hand, your partner suffers from a mental disorder, you could also experience the signs someone is obsessed with you.
If you’re asking yourself ‘why am I obsessed with someone’, it’s worth noting that having a mental disorder sounds extreme. In fact, there is a wide spectrum of behaviors. According to the CDC, more than 50% of people in the US will have a mental disorder at some point.
Specific causes of obsessive love include childhood trauma, reactive attachment disorder, borderline personality disorder and perhaps also generalized anxiety disorder. All of these can trigger a fear of abandonment that might lead to obsessive love disorder.
Erotomania, or Clerambault’s Syndrome, is another possible cause, although it’s rare, but could lead to signs someone is obsessed with you. It’s actually a subset of Delusional Disorder where you believe someone you don’t know is in love with you.
Dealing with someone secretly obsessing over you
If you’ve noticed the warning signs of obsession, you’ll need to consider how to create distance. Depending on who it is, you might want to salvage a friendship. Either way, what to do when someone’s obsessed with you starts with compassionate and clear communication.
It’s hard not to get caught up when you see the signs someone is obsessed with you especially if you care about them. Try to remember that it isn’t your job to fix people and they need to find their own solutions and support system.
First, take stock of your emotions so that you can explain your boundaries and needs calmly and compassionately. Getting angry with someone who’s secretly obsessing over you will only make them defensive and deny everything.
Secondly, seek out positive, grounded people with many interests and hobbies. They’ll give you a benchmark as to what ‘normal’ behavior is. Moreover, they’ll reassure you when you feel guilty, a normal emotion when distancing yourself from obsession.
Love versus obsession
We already saw that love is a chemical rush but how do you stop the ‘obsession with a person’ symptoms? If you look at the stages from lust to attraction and then healthy attachment, dopamine and oxytocin seem to be the key ingredients.
This article describes the stages and also explains that dopamine affects the reward center of the brain. Oxytocin is then the love hormone that allows us to bond. An imbalance of these hormones keeps you in the infatuation stage. You’ll continue to search for things to be obsessed with.
So, what is the difference between love and obsession?
The difference between love and obsession starts with what’s the aim of the relationship. People who go into relationships to feel good about themselves and fill a void are more likely to end up obsessing over someone.
Conversely, healthy relationships have a strong foundation of support for both. Many misguided love songs claim they can’t live without someone or even breathe without them. That’s obsession, not love.
Look at the time you spend together as a clue for how to know if you’re obsessed with someone. Healthy love values both people as individuals while also ensuring the needs of the couple. Boundaries are important so you can be yourself. That way, your partner sees you for who you are and not as they wish you were.
If, on the flip side, you’re joined at the hip without time alone for yourself or your friends, you could be dealing with the signs someone is obsessed with you. Keep reading to the next section to determine if it’s you, your partner or a bit of both.
Some of the obvious signs someone is obsessed with you are the outbursts of emotions. These could be anything from jealousy to possessiveness and control. An unhealthy obsession with a person leads to anxiety and stress which generally destabilizes emotions.
4. Irrational versus grounded behavior
What causes an obsession with a person is linked to some form of trauma or mental imbalance. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that the signs someone is obsessed with you involve erratic behavior.
This could include blaming you for cheating because you come home from work late. You could also find yourself justifying why you’re calling certain friends. Add to that, emotional tantrums and you’ll get the signs someone is obsessed with you.
Watch other people for how to know if you’re obsessed with someone. Essentially, stable couples successfully move on from the infatuation phase because they build their relationship on a solid foundation. Common values are important as is the overall purpose to avoid the signs of obsessive thinking about someone.
So, is your partner your whole world or on the contrary, do you plan to grow and learn together?
15 ‘obsession with a person’ symptoms
What causes an obsession with a person can be summarized as possessive and intrusive thoughts. These thoughts urge you to behave irrationally, no matter the original trauma. That’s why many writers throughout the decades have called love a madness.
See if any of these signs someone is obsessed with you look familiar:
An obsession with someone quickly turns to jealousy because you have no other thoughts. Whereas delusional jealousy is the misguided belief that your partner is cheating, obsessive jealousy is that your partner could be cheating.
Jealousy usually comes with extreme checking of your partner’s whereabouts. This further fuels the unhealthy obsession with a person.
Creating a single focus around one person often comes from low self-esteem and a fear of abandonment. So, the signs someone is obsessed with you include huge anxiety about the relationship.
3. Emotional manipulation
Obsession with a person makes you focus on your world only without regard for the other person. One of the more painful warning signs of obsession is when someone, often subconsciously, tries to manipulate you to their expectations and needs.
Have a look at this simple and informative video for examples of emotional manipulation:
How to know if you’re obsessed with someone means watching your behavior. Do you find yourself watching their every move on social media?
Perhaps you’ve bumped into them somewhere in town, apparently accidentally? Although, you know full well that you planned this. Add message bombing and you’re showing obsessive thinking about someone.
5. Excessive togetherness
As mentioned, there are phases we go through when we fall in love and it’s normal to want to spend every minute together at the beginning. Nevertheless, you should be able to find your individuality and other friends after a time. If not, you run the risk of showing the signs of being obsessed with someone.
6. Need for reassurance
We all need some external validation during our lives. Nonetheless, someone who can’t function without yours could be the difference between love and obsession.
After all, they want you to be theirs alone to feel reassured with no room for your time or needs. That only gives them more things to be obsessed with as their world closes in on you.
Obsessing over someone takes up all your time and energy. It’s not just the world closing in but also their object of obsession becomes their world. The obsessor loses all enthusiasm for hobbies and friends and becomes overly anxious when separated from their infatuation.
8. Mismatched values
If you’re wondering “why am I obsessed with someone”, you might want to consider your values. When we fall in love with people vastly different to us, we naturally become anxious.
Deep down we know it can’t work but we persist and compensate by obsessing. We start doing anything to keep that person but actually, it’s signs of being obsessed with someone.
9. Obsessive thoughts
Believe it or not but intrusive and obsessive thoughts are common to everyone. The difference with someone who has an obsessive disorder is that they relate differently to the thoughts and believe them.
Most people can just laugh at them or ignore them. In contrast, an obsessive person will start displaying the signs someone is obsessed with you.
10. Overwhelming need to protect
Obsessing over someone is similar to hoarding an object such that the person belongs to you. This means that you’ll want to hide them from other people assuming that everyone is out to take them away from you.
As you can imagine, the need to protect can quickly look like clinginess. That’s another major difference between obsession and love. In other words, love is about letting someone be the best version of themselves both independently and as a couple.
On the other hand, obsession means guarding your partner as if your life depended on it. You don’t let them breathe.
Another one of the signs someone is obsessed with you is if they’re trying to change you and control your life. In a misguided way, they’re trying to keep you close to avoid abandonment.
Another disturbing difference between obsession and love is when they know odd facts about you that you’ve never disclosed. This shows they’re spying on you and, in extreme cases, doing background checks.
One of the common signs someone is obsessed with you is that they regularly accuse you of cheating. This makes sense if you remember that at the core they’re afraid of abandonment.
Essentially, their intrusive thoughts nag them that you could be cheating. So, they project their insecurities onto you and play the victim.
Another of the clear signs someone is obsessed with you is when you notice they can’t focus on anything outside you and the relationship. Perhaps your friends comment that your partner only talks about you?
When does obsession fizzle out?
So, how long does obsession last? Sadly, an obsession can last for years without proper healing or distance. As previously explained, if the brain has a steady source of those love chemicals, it will keep coming back for more just like with any drug.
Without the source, the signs someone is obsessed with you will eventually dissipate within months or years, depending on the depth of the obsession. Unless the obsessor finds ways to heal though, the focus usually passes on to something or someone else.
The signs someone is obsessed with anyone are varied. These range from outbursts of emotion to controlling and jealous behavior with no respect for boundaries. The cause is either childhood trauma or a mental disorder with fear of abandonment at the core.
What to do when someone’s obsessed with you involves creating distance and boundaries with clear communication. Be compassionate and true to your values and goals in life and don’t be afraid to share them. How long does obsession last then depends on the situation and depth of the infatuation.
If these signs of obsession describe you then you’ll need to heal internally. Find a good therapist who will find the right approach for you to reconnect with yourself.
Either way, get support to discover fulfilling relationships without the angst. Don’t be like Jack Twist in Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain novel who says “I wish I knew how to quit you”.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Annes passion and purpose in life are to guide people to find their own path and contentment by learning about themselves. Only then can we build and nurture the deep connections we all deserve to have. With a background in psychology and neuroscience coaching, she has helped countless couples transform their communication from aggression to assertiveness and appreciation.
She is both an ICF certified coach and mindfulness-certified, while being a counselor in training, meaning that she offers a holistic approach. You can expect to transform your view of yourself, your relationship, and the world by better understanding the habits of your mind and letting go of the unhelpful ones. You have power over your mind but you dont have to do it alone.