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What keeps me up at night

I've had some experience in my lifetime with the issue of stalkers. Recently the problem has kept me up at night, on edge, worrying about the safety of someone I hold dear to me.

Most of the time when people think stalker they think of the numerous celebrities who've been plagued by some obsessed fan. However, those are only a small portion of the problem. Obsessives that stalk someone they don't really know or haven't been involved with are about 20% of the cases out there. Often time those people have serious mental disorders and repeated run-ins with the law. They don't fit well within normal society and they stand out.

However, there's the other 70-80% of cases that involve a person who's been in some form of relationship with the person they're stalking; romantic, familial, coworker, or classmate. In these cases the stalkers are less likely to have an obvious mental disorder that makes them standout like schizophrenia or hallucinations, but still do have serious mental conditions like depression, substance abuse problems, or personality disorders.

With this type of stalker they place a high degree of emphasis on their relationship to their victim. Their self-esteem is reliant on their closeness to their victim and as the victim places more and more distance between themselves and the stalker the stalker my grow more desperate and feel that their life is slipping away from them.

In their desperation to maintain their closeness to the victim they may employ a variety of tactics, but most often things end up devolving into threatening behavior. At first the stalker may plead, may beg for forgiveness for some past wrong, or even attempt to bribe the victim. They may call on the victim to remember some better time. When this fails they may resort to insults or threats. This may create a cycle where the stalker pleads, threatens, pleads, bribes and insults again.

Not only will the stalker use their past history with the victim as a tool to maintain a connection, they may also attempt to gain the advantage in other ways; Feigning illness inventing life or death situations (deadly accidents, self-harm), or lying about the death of a loved one... anything to gain a moment of sympathy from the victim and provide an opening for conversation.

In the mind of the stalker they believe that if they could only have a moment to prove themselves they could salvage the relationship and make themselves whole again. They do not understand that any relationship based on lies or coercion is not a healthy relationship. Their obsessive nature and need to maintain their ego keeps them from seeing this simple truth.

Likewise they refuse to hear the message when the victim either does not respond to their requests or clearly refuses further contact. As the stalker's desperation increases and opportunities for contact diminish the stalker will turn toward punishment and revenge. This can include spreading rumors online, talking with the victims friends, with coworkers, harassing phone calls, texts, or e-mails, veiled threats, and can in some cases result in damaged property, theft, and physical assaults.

The simple obsessive stalker are emotionally immature. They often cannot maintain relationships with their peers by normal means and may have a relatively small social circle made up of limited family and neighbors or coworkers. They may have had a series of failed marriages or many shorter term relationships. Their relationships are usually marred by jealousy, suspicion, and accusations. They may have low self-esteem and feel extremely insecure. This can result in an overcompensation, wild story telling, and bragadociousness on the part of the stalker. I.E. laying claim to some special expertise or knowledge or otherwise showing off their skills as frequently as possible.

The stalking behavior may exhibit as their partner begins to exit the relationship. In a few cases the stalker may even have been the one to end the relationship as a preemption in order to maintain their sense of control over the victim. Then they may stalk their old partner as a means of proving to themselves that they made the right decision or a means of punishing the ex-partner.

In any case the stalking behavior is a serious problem that requires immediate attention. The behavior does not go away and it is likely to escalate from simple spying into more dangerous and threatening behavior. Many states have anti-stalking laws making it easier to gain restraining orders or protective orders while also making it easier for stalkers to be prosecuted for their behavior.

Regardless if you are the stalker or the victim, it's important to seek help immediately if you find yourself in this situation. Don't let it go thinking it will go away.