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KOBE SBM and her psychopathology.

by Dr. Ruth Tuesday, Jul. 01, 2003 at 1:50 PM

Erotomanic stalkers are delusional, and the available research suggests that they are likely to be female. While the majority of the early literature on offline stalking seems to focus on erotomania as the most prolific type, some investigators suggest that there is little support for this stalker type as the most prevalent (Geberth, 1992; Harmon, Rosner & Owens, 1995; Zona et al. 1993).





Types of Stalkers

Violent vs. Non-violent

Cases that Began Offline

Cases that Began Online


In this multi-part article, we will consider some of the literature on stalkers in terms of what is known or hypothesized about any psychopathology * and then we will turn to some examples of from actual cyberstalking cases. To navigate to different sections or pages in this article, use the menu in the left margin of the page.

Part I. Psychopathology of Stalkers

Some of the original research on offline stalkers, such as that by Zona et al. (1993) described three subtypes of stalkers. These subtypes are described below, but is important to note that any one individual stalker may have more than one problem or condition that determines their stalking behaviour and choice of victim. Simple Obsessional Stalkers:   Simple obsessional stalkers are known to the victim. The stalker may be a former lover, an ex-spouse, or someone with whom the victim worked. Simple obsessional stalkers are thought to comprise the largest of the three categories, accounting for 47% of offline stalkers (Geberth, 1992).   These individuals presumably stalk out of anger or hate or to obtain revenge for some real or imagined slight, but as the victims in the Tjaden and Thoennes study suggested, the motivation may be to control the victim or to keep the victim in the previous relationship.   Obsessional stalkers may use or exhibit a number of defense mechanisms, and denial, devaluation, and projecting blame onto the victim are just some defense mechanisms discussed in the literature. They are also thought to represent the greatest threat of physical violence to their victims. Such individuals are reportedly more likely to have a personality disorder related to attachment pathology and less likely to have an antisocial personality disorder when compared to other offenders with mental disorders. They are also likely to be older, smarter, and better educated when compared to other types of offenders with mental disorders (Meloy & Gothard, 1995). Morrison (2001) reported on 100 Canadian males who had been arrested for criminal harassment (stalking). The typical profile of the "simple obsessional" stalker in their study was a middle-aged male who was separated or estranged, and who had a history of anger management or emotional problems.   Roberts (2002) surveyed undergraduate female students who had terminated heterosexual romantic relationships. One objective of the study was to determine how ex-partners who stalked were different from ex-partners who harassed but did not stalk and ex-partners who neither stalked nor harassed. The responses of the participants indicated that ex-partners who stalked were most likely to have histories of substance use (alcohol and/or drugs), criminal involvement, violence, mental health problems, difficulties in forming relationships, reacting with inappropriate emotion and jealousy, and/or suspiciousness of their partner's relationships with others.

Love Obsessional Stalkers: Love-obsessional stalkers generally do not have any prior relationship with the victim, and may engage in behaviours like telephone calls, letters or other forms of communication, and/or may show up in places where the victim is likely to be found. A significant number of these individuals may be suffering from a mental disorder such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Love obsessional stalkers are thought to comprise the second largest group (43%) of offline stalkers (Geberth, 1992).

Erotomanic Stalkers: Erotomanic stalkers have an imagined or delusional fixation on their victim, who is usually of a higher social class or status (such as a celebrity). The erotomanic stalker believes that their victim is in love with them or that they have some kind of romantic or spiritual connection. Erotomania is sometimes referred to as de Clerembault's syndrome.

Erotomanic stalkers are delusional, and the available research suggests that they are likely to be female. While the majority of the early literature on offline stalking seems to focus on erotomania as the most prolific type, some investigators suggest that there is little support for this stalker type as the most prevalent (Geberth, 1992; Harmon, Rosner & Owens, 1995; Zona et al. 1993).

Gender Differences Research by Purcell et al. (2001) compared 40 female stalkers to 150 male stalkers in terms of psychopathology, behaviour, and likelihood of violence. More of the male stalkers had a history of criminal offenses and substance abuse, but the samples were alike in other characteristics such as the duration of stalking and frequency of associated violence. The two groups differed in the nature of the prior relationship with the victim differed: female stalkers were more likely to stalk professional contacts in the helping professions with whom they had had prior contact and were less likely to harass strangers than male stalkers. Female stalkers were also more likely to pursue same-gender victims than male stalkers.

The two sexes also differed in terms of their motivation: the motivation for female stalkers was more likely to relate to establishing intimacy with the target whereas male stalkers had a more varied range of motivations.

Other Ways of Classifying Stalkers (Typologies)

Mullen, Pathé et al. (1999) studied 145 stalkers referred to a forensic psychiatry unit for treatment. Most of the stalkers were men (79%) and many were unemployed (39%). Over half of the stalkers (52%) had never had an intimate relationship. Victims included ex-partners (30%), professional (23%) or work (11%) contacts, and strangers (14%). Based on their assessments, the authors identified five types of stalkers: rejected stalkers, intimacy seeking stalkers, incompetent suitors, resentful stalkers, and predatory stalkers. As described in their subsequent book, which was based on 200 cases: Rejected stalkers are motivated by a desire for reconciliation and/or revenge. In the rejected stalker subtype, personality disorders predominated. Rejected stalkers were predominantly male, accounted for slightly over one third of all stalkers in the sample, and were viewed as the most persistent and intrusive stalkers.   Intimacy-seeking stalkers identify their victim as their true love and often imagine that their victim reciprocates their feelings. Intimacy-seeking stalkers accounted for one third of the entire sample. Although delusional disorders were fairly common (30%) in the entire sample, they were particularly among intimacy-seeking stalkers. Like rejected stalkers, intimacy-seeking stalkers tended to stalk their victims for significantly longer periods of time than other types of stalkers.   Incompetent stalkers, who comprised 15% of the sample, are described as those whose stalking is maintained by hopefulness that their victim will be "won over."  Such stalkers usually do not persist for long, but many may then switch over to another victim and repeat the process.   Resentful stalkers, who constituted 11% of the sample, are generally aggravated employees or those who feel that they have been mistreated or humiliated. They may pick one person to focus on and stalking that person makes them feel powerful. Despite being confronted with their behavior and its inappropriateness, they are likely to maintain that they are the one being persecuted, and they are very noncompliant with or resistant to treatment. Threats and property damage were more frequent with resentful stalkers, but rejected and predatory stalkers committed more assaults on the person.   Predatory stalkers, who made up only 4% of the sample, are those who stalk in preparation for physical or sexual assault. They are likely to have histories of criminal sexual convictions, and require treatment appropriate to sex offenders.

"Stalkers have a range of motivations, from reasserting power over a partner who rejected them to the quest for a loving relationship. Most stalkers are lonely and socially incompetent, but all have the capacity to frighten and distress their victims. Bringing stalking to an end requires a mixture of appropriate legal sanctions and therapeutic interventions."

-- Mullen, Pathé et al. (1999)

More recently, Lewis, Fremouw et al. (2001) compared self-reported stalkers to a control group on measures of empathy, problem-solving skills, attachment, and borderline personality features. Stalkers demonstrated significantly higher scores on measures of insecure attachment and borderline personality features, and the authors suggested that as a group, stalkers display a general pattern of inadequate interpersonal attachment and a limited ability to form and maintain appropriate relationships. They are also more emotionally labile (variable) and unstable. 

Continue to Next Page in This Article -->


Complete citations for articles referenced in this section can be found in the companion bibliography of research articles and books on stalking. You may also wish to read the full-text articles available online by Karen Abrams, M.D. (both of her articles are linked from the bibliography section). Top


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