7 Symptoms of Obsessive Love Disorder – Signs You Can’t Ignore

Imagine love, a feeling that’s supposed to bring joy and companionship, turning into an overwhelming obsession. Obsessive Love Disorder (OLD) represents this transformation, where affection becomes an unhealthy fixation, causing distress to both the person experiencing it and the object of their affection.

It is crucial to recognize the signs of this order and seek help, as it can be more serious than you might think. Today we’ll talk about the symptoms of OLD, aiming to inform and guide those who might be facing its challenges.

Key Takeaways

  • Obsessive Love Disorder (OLD) is characterized by excessive, overwhelming obsession with someone perceived as a love interest, often leading to possessive and controlling behaviors.
  • Symptoms of OLD include excessive attention and contact, jealousy, and possessiveness, controlling behaviors, difficulty accepting rejection, creating fantasies, self-esteem and abandonment issues, and ignoring personal and social boundaries.
  • The exact cause of OLD is not known, but it’s often linked to other mental health issues such as borderline personality disorder, delusional jealousy, or attachment disorders, alongside environmental factors and personal history.
  • Treatment for OLD may involve therapy, medication, or a combination of both, with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medications like antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs commonly used to manage symptoms and underlying conditions.

What is OLD?

OLD is not recognized as a distinct disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), but its symptoms are often linked to other mental health conditions. It’s characterized by an excessive, overwhelming obsession with someone perceived as a love interest, often leading to possessive and controlling behaviors.

Research into the neurobiology of love has found that intense romantic love activates the same areas of the brain that are involved in addiction, suggesting a neurological basis for why feelings of love can become obsessive.

What Are the Symptoms?

What Are the Symptoms of of Obsessive Love Disorder

1. Excessive Attention and Contact

Individuals with Obsessive Love Disorder (OLD) feel a constant need to contact or be close to the person they are fixated on, often disregarding the other person’s need for space. This can manifest as frequent calls, messages, and attempts to spend time together, even when it is not wanted.

The obsessed individual might struggle to understand or respect the concept of personal space, believing that any amount of attention and contact is justified by their love.

2. Jealousy and Possessiveness

Unreasonable feelings of jealousy, even without any justification, are common. This can include monitoring the person’s movements or communications obsessively, checking their social media, and interrogating them about their interactions with others.

Such behavior often stems from deep insecurity and fear of losing the object of their obsession, leading them to rationalize their actions as being protective rather than controlling.

Cultural representations of love in media and literature can sometimes glorify obsessive or possessive behaviors, inadvertently contributing to misconceptions about what constitutes healthy love and affection.

3. Controlling Behaviors

Attempts to control who the loved one talks to, where they go, and what they do, are often justified by the obsessed person as being for the other’s “own good.” This control can extend to dictating their choices in clothing, hobbies, and even career paths, under the guise of concern.

The person with OLD might argue that their behavior is a sign of their love and commitment, failing to see the harmful impact of their actions on their loved one’s autonomy and well-being.

4. Difficulty Accepting Rejection

Individuals with OLD have an inability to accept a breakup or lack of interest, often leading to repeated attempts to get back into the person’s life. This can include persistent messaging, showing up uninvited at places frequented by the other person, or refusing to acknowledge the end of the relationship.

Their inability to move on reflects a deep-rooted fear of abandonment and a belief that persistence will eventually be rewarded with a reunion.

5. Creating Fantasies

Building elaborate fantasies about a life with the person, regardless of the other’s feelings or commitments, is a hallmark of OLD. These fantasies can be detailed and vivid, providing the obsessed individual with an alternate reality that satisfies their emotional needs.

This disconnect from reality can hinder their ability to form healthy relationships and may lead to significant distress when these fantasies are challenged or disproven.

6. Self-esteem Issues

Self-esteem Issues - Symptoms of Obsessive Love Disorder

The obsessed person’s feelings and self-worth become overly dependent on the relationship or the perception of it. They may view the relationship as a validation of their worth, leading to a cycle where their self-esteem rises and falls based on the state of the relationship.

This dependency can make it difficult for them to see themselves as valuable outside of their connection to the object of their obsession.

7. Ignoring Personal and Social Boundaries

Persistent efforts to get closer to the person, often ignoring social norms and personal boundaries, signify OLD. This can manifest as showing up at the other person’s workplace, home, or social gatherings uninvited, or engaging in behaviors that are socially inappropriate.

The individual with OLD may rationalize these actions as expressions of love, not recognizing the discomfort and potential harm they are causing to the other person and to those around them.

Causes of OLD

Causes of OLD - Obsessive Love Disorder

While the exact cause of Obsessive Love Disorder (OLD) is not known, it’s often associated with other mental health issues such as borderline personality disorder, delusional jealousy, or attachment disorders. Factors like past relationships, upbringing, and personal insecurities can also play a role.

Environmental influences, such as exposure to unstable relationships during childhood or adolescence, can predispose individuals to develop OLD.

Additionally, individuals with a history of emotional or physical abuse may be more susceptible to exhibiting obsessive love behaviors, as these experiences can affect their perceptions of love and attachment.

Neurobiological factors, including abnormalities in brain chemistry or structure, may further contribute to the development of OLD, making it a complex interplay of psychological and physiological elements.

How Does It Impact Your Health and Well-being?

OLD can severely impact both the obsessed individual’s and the target’s mental and emotional health, leading to anxiety, depression, and even the potential for physical harm.

Effects of Obsessive Love Disorder (OLD) For the individual with OLD: For the target of the obsession: On relationships: Physical health implications:
– Consumes thoughts – Leads to significant distress – May experience fear

-May experience loss of personal freedom

– Relationships can suffer due to obsessive behaviors – Sleep disturbances
– Leads to significant distress – Impairs ability to function in daily life – May experience psychological trauma – Both romantic and platonic relationships may be affected – Changes in appetite
– Impairs ability to function in daily life – May experience stress – Creates a ripple effect impacting the social support system of both parties – Increased risk of developing chronic health conditions due to ongoing stress


Treatment for OLD may involve therapy, medication, or a combination of both, focusing on managing symptoms and addressing underlying mental health conditions.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly effective in helping individuals recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors associated with their obsession.
  • Medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs, may be prescribed to manage co-occurring symptoms of anxiety or depression.
  • In addition to professional treatment, building a strong support network of friends and family can provide emotional support and encouragement. Educating the individual about healthy relationship boundaries and self-care practices is also crucial for the long-term management of OLD.
  • Engaging in regular physical activity, adopting stress-reduction techniques, and pursuing hobbies can improve overall well-being and reduce the intensity of obsessive thoughts and behaviors.


Can OLD occur in any type of relationship?

Yes, OLD can manifest in various types of relationships, not just romantic ones. It can occur in familial relationships, friendships, and even with celebrities or public figures whom the individual has never met.

Is there a specific age group that is more susceptible to developing OLD?

OLD can affect individuals of any age, but it is more commonly observed in young adults and adolescents who may be more vulnerable due to developmental and emotional factors.

How does OLD differ from a strong passion or infatuation?

While strong passion or infatuation is typically short-lived and based on admiration or desire, OLD is characterized by an unhealthy obsession that persists over time, leading to possessive and controlling behaviors that negatively impact the lives of both the individual and the target of their obsession.

Can OLD lead to other mental health disorders if left untreated?

Yes, if left untreated, OLD can lead to or exacerbate other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, and depression, or even lead to the development of psychotic features, emphasizing the importance of seeking professional help.

Is it common for individuals with OLD to recognize they have a problem?

Many individuals with OLD may not recognize their behavior as problematic, often perceiving their actions as expressions of love. This lack of insight makes it crucial for friends and family to support them in seeking help.

The Bottom Line

Recognizing the signs of Obsessive Love Disorder is the first step toward seeking help. If you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms, it’s important to approach the situation with empathy and encourage professional support.

Love should be a source of happiness, not obsession. By understanding and addressing OLD, individuals can work towards healthier relationships and a better quality of life.