Cognitive behavioural therapy successful in treating erotomania in individual with learning disability

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Erotomania, sometimes known as ‘de Clerambault’s syndrome’ is a rare disorder, classified under the group of delusional disorders, where a person wrongly believes another person is in love with them. The object of the delusion is often a person of higher social status. The person with the disorder will make advances to the object of the delusion. Whilst equally rare in people with learning disabilities, erotomania does occur and must be recognised and treated.

This study is a case report of an individual with learning disabilities diagnosed with the disorder. The authors set out to show how the erotomania was treated using cognitive behavioural psychotherapy with ongoing therapeutic approaches from community support providers.

Following a review of the previous pharmacotherapy regime, the author identified a lack of progress and began to slowly reduce the dosage over time, eventually discontinuing pharmacological treatment.

The cognitive behavioural psychotherapy sessions provided an opportunity and a place where the individual could discuss personal issues and where work could be done on identifying solutions.

The therapist worked closely with the community support service to develop and implement two main psychotherapeutic strategies – firstly to eliminate social attention for the delusion and secondly to increase the individual’s social relationships.

She suggests that this case study shows that cognitive behavioural psychotherapy in collaboration with community support services staff can result in improvements. The treatment and support was evaluated over a three year period, during which the individual returned to previous functioning with no symptoms of the delusional disorder.

She concludes that the case study illustrates

successful treatment of erotomania using cognitive behavioural psychotherapy and engaging the community support system in applying directed psychotherapeutic strategies.”

Treatment of erotomania using cognitive behavioural psychotherapy approaches, Hurley A,  in  Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, 6 2, 76 – 81

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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