Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D.

Obsessive Love Disorder 
 

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Obsessive Love Disorder: A Profile

Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D., MFCC

 

This is an excerpt from the full length article, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OC): A Profile. It is written to include only the pathological aspects of the disorder with full recognition that healthy aspects of behavior do exist.

 

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (American Psychiatric Association, 1994)… "the essential features of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are recurrent obsessions or compulsions that are severe enough to be time consuming (i.e., they take more than 1 hour a day) or cause marked distress or significant impairment".

 

Obsessions Are A True Anxiety Disorder…

 

Obsessions are a true anxiety disorder created in response to a very stressful, overwhelming and painful situation. A crazy family, school or work environment may cause an over-anxious or emotionally injured person to escape these painful realities by retreating to a safer, although sometimes uncomfortable, world of fantasy and obsessions. This obsessive world is created by an intense deprivation of wish and need fulfillment. Because basic needs of love, nurturance and acceptance have been denied, the injured person "trips" to the world of obsessions to avoid feeling internal anxiety.

 

The development of an obsessional disorder is similar to the development of other types of disorders. Generally speaking, when an infant is denied the presence of a significant other (parent), the baby will innately scream and cry out in order to communicate with a parent. This painful screaming cry is the infant's primal attempt at getting a parent to respond to a real need (the cry is "Mama, I need you"). If there is no parental response, the child will go into extreme shock, as every cell in the body aches for love and attention. Unfortunately, the child eventually stops crying, goes emotionally dead, stops feeling and becomes crazy. Thus begins the escape and retreat into the psyche and the development of a mental disorder. Continual parental unresponsiveness will cause a systematic and methodical closing down and denial of the child's real self. The child is left wondering why someone doesn't come to relieve the pain.

 

Suffering until a parent comes, the child becomes a candidate for disturbing obsessions and an obsessive love disorder. In order to survive, a retreat into an unreal, unfeeling world of obsessive love fantasies will be necessary. It is from this fantasy world that, as an adult, the individual will obsess about seducing a sought after lover, perhaps a fatal attraction, who is misperceived as being able to provide all of the narcissistic nutrients (love) that were needed in infancy. Narcissistically, the adult longs to return to that very unique and special place of nirvanic union and exclusive intimacy with mother. Intense pain is caused by the casting out and separation from the world of perfect union with mother, never to return again.

 

Father may be experienced as highly evaluative, punitive and critical. As such, the child may grow up feeling criticized, disapproved of and not good enough. Without early childhood needs and feelings attended to, a sense of not being valued will create powerful feelings of trauma and inadequacy. Strong terror emotions permeate the psychic and interpersonal life of the obsessive person. The child is literally terrorized, especially if punishment is of the "banishment to your room" type. The child's needs are completely ignored in deference to the parent's need for power and authority. The dictum is: father is always right and the child is always wrong.

 

The father wound may be exasperated by unfair comparisons to other children and families. For the child, the ensuing feeling is "there is something wrong with me". The parent literally distorts the inner being of the child which may manifest as psychotic episodes when the child reaches young adulthood. Since the child needs to love and idolize the father, s/he will feel like a disappointment to him. This will necessitate a withdrawal into a fantasy world as a defense against an excruciating reality.

 

The father himself may possess an obsessive compulsive mental and/or personality disorder as a means of denying his own pain. He becomes emotionally intrusive and inaccessible to his children. If a father is unable to take in and receive his young daughter's love,  the need to express the passionate part of her libido is blocked. She then redirects her love energy into a world of anxious fantasy, unmet need and obsession. The same is true in the mother/son relationship. As such, the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder becomes an attempt to neurotically resolve the child's dilemma.

 

The young child grows into adulthood arrested at an earlier stage, continually failing to establish normal, healthy, bonded love relationships. Instability in the parental relationship has left the child traumatized, anxious, fearful and erotically aroused when there is anticipation of contact with a symbolic, parental love object. S/he becomes attracted to and fixated on unavailable and emotionally inaccessible partners, many of which do not feel the same way about him/her. This struggle between partners is actually a deflection from the fact that Obsessives do not want to feel their own terror.

 

Many obsessional people suffer difficulties that stem from birth trauma. The impact of birth trauma creates a strong unconscious need to cling and hang onto mother. Consequently, many obsessives possess a powerful desire to cling to a desired lover. However, they suppress this desire by cutting off sexual feelings from the emotions of love and need. Obsessives experience a double bind situation: separation is very painful, while contact is very frightening.

 

Since an obsessional disorder is characterized by anxiety, terror becomes internalized and well disguised. This produces tension which manifests itself differently than other anxiety disorders. Terror is directed towards the ideational rather than the motor realm. As a young child, the obsessive person may be afraid of being watched or being in front of people in a particular room or locale. The child just wants to go away and hide, but all escape routes are cut off. With the home environment being so painful, she or he becomes emotionally frozen. Since running away is not possible, the only available means of escape is the retreat to the head and the unreal world of fantasies and obsessions. Shame of the self develops as she or he cannot meet the expectations of the critical inner parent. The child's world is one of constant tension, a living hell without relief or physical escape, where fantasy becomes the only option.

 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a debilitating and destructive disorder. However, it can be minimized with therapy. If you or someone you know displays more than half of these behavioral characteristics, please seek qualified professional help.

 

Psychotherapy with Dr. Paul is available through Telephone or Online Therapy for those who cannot find a trained therapist in their area. Paul Hannig, Ph.D., MFCC is a licensed psychotherapist in California and can be reached at his office at 818-882-7404. To purchase the full text version of this article, go to the Best Sellers section on the web site..

 

Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D., MFCC  * www.nvo.com/psych_help *  phannigphd@socal.rr.com  *  818-882-7404






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