About Stalkers

Excerpt from ‘STALKING Prevent Protect Progress, A training program for service providers’.

Typologies of Stalkers

The typologies of stalkers can be based on the characteristics of the victim (celebrities/strangers); the relationship between the stalker and the victim (workplace acquaintance, electronic acquaintance, ex partner; the motivations of the stalker (revengeful, love, rejected); and the psychological characteristics of the stalkers (erotomanic, simple obsessional).

Stalker-Victim Relationship – Ex-intimate, Acquaintance, Stranger

The most dangerous type of stalker is one that is known to the victim. Those who are strangers to the target have the highest rate of mental illness, and the lowest rate of violence. As a rule of thumb, the less of a relationship that actually existed between the victim and stalker prior to the stalking, the more mentally disturbed the stalker is.


There have been about 15 different descriptions of typologies published in psychological and criminological literature.  The most basic premise that is common to all the typologies is that there is a male offender and a female victim who are known to each other. This is the most common scenario.  Usually the stalker and the target have been in an intimate relationship together, but co-workers, neighbours, and professionals, such as GPs, lawyers, and psychologists, have also been noted as being targeted by a stalker.


Less common is the stranger who decides to stalk someone unknown to him or her. The targets here are often celebrities, and the stalker might be suffering from a mental disorder called erotomania.  Erotomania is the delusional belief that the victim loves the stalker, even though they have never met.

Type of Obsession

The types of obsessions common to stalkers fall into three categories.

1.        Erotomania is the least common. About 10% of stalking cases fall into this category. Often the victim doesn’t know the stalker and the victim or target is nearly always well known within the community or the media.  It is generally women who target males. Schizophrenia is a common disorder affecting the stalker. They are often referred to as celebrity stalkers.


2.       The Love Obsessional group comprises approximately 42% of stalkers. The Love Obsessional stalker is either a stranger or casual acquaintance of the victim. The stalker develops a love obsession or fixation on another person with whom they have had no sexual or intimate relationship. Not only does the love obsessional stalker attempt to live out his/her fantasies, he expects the victim to play an assigned role of loving them back with adoration and devotion. Initially the love obsessional stalker's motivation is to make the victim aware of his existence. Later he expects her to reciprocate his feelings. When the stalker fails to establish the relationship, he/she frequently harasses the victim.


3.       The third group, who have a Simple Obsession, comprise about 48% of stalkers. Eighty percent are male.  They are socially immature and unable to develop lasting relationships.  They exhibit traits such as extreme jealousy, insecurity, paranoia, and feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. They are usually stalking ex-partners andfeel unable to let the relationship end. The target may be an ex-spouse, ex-lover, friend, former boss, or co-worker. The obsessional activities begin after the relationship has ended or is headed for termination. The stalker often perceives that he/she was wronged by the victim. The simple obsessional stalker's motivation is to mend the relationship or to seek some type of retribution. Virtually all domestic violence cases involving stalking fall under this category. These stalkers are more likely to harm their victim or their victim’s property, and will do whatever necessary to achieve their goal.  Ninety seven percent of this group threaten their target, with 30% actually carrying out their threats.  The duration of this type of stalking is shorter than the other two groups.


Type of Motivation

Motivation is another typology of stalking behaviour. Motivation encompasses the intimacy seeking, incompetent, resentful, predatory, and rejected stalkers.


The rejected stalker: The rejected stalkers behaviour was brought about by the termination of a relationship, most commonly with a romantic partner, but also with estranged mothers or through broken friendships, or strained work relationships. Often, these stalkers experience ambivalent feelings about reconciliation and revenge regarding their targets. The majority suffer from personality disorders, although about one-fifth had delusional disorders. Rejected stalkers have the widest range of methods associated with stalking but are significantly associated with telephone harassment.


The intimacy seeking stalker:  This classification is based on the their desire for intimacy with someone that the stalker has identified as their true love. Half believe that their love is requited, qualifying for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) diagnosis of delusional disorder, erotomanic type.The other half are termed to have morbid infatuations, in which they recognise that their love is not returned but “insist(ed), with delusional intensity, on both the legitimacy and the eventual success of their quest.” Along with the rejected stalkers, this group tend to be the most persistent over time.


The incompetent stalker: These stalkers lack appropriate social skills and knowledge of courtship rituals but hope that, regardless of these deficits, their behaviour would lead to intimacy. These stalkers target people that they believe would be good romantic partners but are not infatuated with them to the same degree as the intimacy seekers. They too do not believe that their feelings are reciprocated, but rather that they are entitled to a relationship. This group have often stalked other victims before.


The resentful stalker: This category include those stalkers whose behaviours are meant to distress and frighten their victims. Half act on grievances against specific people, while others are generally disgruntled and chose targets at random. In addition to the rejected group, these stalkers are most likely to threaten their victims.


The predatory stalker: While most notorious, predatory stalkers are the smallest group of stalkers, and are usually only men. These stalkers act in preparation for a sexual attack. They enjoy the power inherent in their stalking behaviour. They are predominantly diagnosed with paraphilias (sexual deviations or perversions) and are the most likely to have prior convictions for sexual offences.


Psychology of the Stalker

The stalker may have a history of unpredictable or chaotic relationships, a negative sense of self, and is easily angered in the context of trying to seek control. The development of a negative sense of self will make him dependent on others for his self esteem. He may be fearful of intimacy because of his fear of rejection. Times of stress will set off his maladaptive internal coping strategies.


These persons tend to be angry people, and easily angered in the context of seeking control. They are angry because the relationship has broken up. They are angry because she is the one who ended the relationship.


The goal of the stalker is to inflict psychological harm. This is his ultimate aim. He achieves this through:


§         Overt behaviours: such as following of the victim, writing letters, calling, sending unwanted gifts, threats to the victim’s property


§         Covert unwanted pursuit:including coercive or aversive behaviours that are intended to cause emotional harm, and which are directed at the target’s sense of self.  This is achieved by capitalising on the targets isolation, combined with the dominance of the stalker. Also, the emotional and verbal maltreatment of the victim plays a crucial role.



The relationship between early parenting and stalking involves a theory known as Attachment Theory. It is suggested that harsh or unfair parental punishment leads to poor attachment with the parent(s) as well as others.


The development of a negative sense of self will make a person dependent on others for self-esteem and support, or perhaps even fearful of intimacy because of a fear of rejection.  Times of stress will really set off these internal coping strategies.  There is a lot of evidence to support this theory.


These persons tend to be angry people. It is quite likely that before the end of the relationship this anger is also going to affect the relationship satisfaction for both parties. Both the level of commitment, as well as the intimacy, is going to be affected by being in a relationship with someone who is like this.  These qualities are not just specific to male stalkers, they related to female stalkers also; however, being psychologically controlling was stronger for males who stalk.