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Categories of Stalking

Tutorial on the crimes of stalking and harassment for New Mexico judges

Similar to domestic violence, stalking is not limited to certain types of individuals, racial, ethnic or cultural backgrounds, educational levels, or socioeconomic status. Stalkers come from different backgrounds and have different personalities and approaches to their behaviors. Social science researchers have developed various ways of classifying or categorizing stalkers.

Underlying Motives

One widely-accepted typology of stalkers is based on the stalker's underlying motives. These types of stalkers are essentially general classifications. Therefore, individual stalkers may not exactly fit in one single category, but instead may exhibit characteristics associated with more than one category. The categories are as follows:

  • Simple Obsessional: This is the most common type of stalker. The stalker is usually a male and the focus of the stalking is an ex-wife, ex-lover or former boss. In intimate relationships, the stalking frequently starts before the break-up. The stalking can sometimes result from the stalker feeling that he or she has been mistreated by the victim.
  • Love Obsessional: In this type of stalking, the stalker is a stranger or a casual acquaintance to the victim. Nonetheless, the stalker becomes obsessed and begins a pattern of behavior as a means of making the victim aware of his or her existence. High profile examples of this type of stalking include when celebrities or public figures become the target. However, this type of stalking can be focused on an "average" citizen as well.
  • Erotomania: In this type of stalking, the stalker incorrectly believes that the victim is in love with him or her, and that, but for some external barrier or interference, the two of them would be together. Given that perceived "love" between the stalker and the victim, the stalker can also pose a risk to those persons close to the victim since they may be viewed as "being in the way."
  • False Victimization Syndrome: This involves an individual who either consciously or subconsciously seeks to play the role of the "victim." As such, the individual may invent a detailed tale in which he or she claims to be a stalking victim. In reality, however, the would-be victim is sometimes the actual stalker and the alleged stalker is actually the real victim. This is an extremely rare form of stalking.

Relationship to Victim

Another method used to classify stalkers defines them according to their relationship to the victim. This typology divides stalkers into two basic categories:

  • Intimate: In this type of stalking, the stalker and victim had a former relationship with each other. Often times, the stalker seeks to reestablish a relationship with the victim which has either ended or which the victim has tried to end. It is likely that there is a history of abuse, including domestic violence, by the stalker.
  • Nonintimate: Here, the stalker and victim have absolutely no interpersonal relationship with each other. Rather, the stalker may select and focus on the victim following a brief encounter with each other, or merely after observing the victim. The victim is often at a loss to readily identify the stalker once he or she becomes aware of the conduct. Nonintimate stalking is further divided into the two following categories:
    • Organized: The "relationship" between the stalker and victim is characterized by one-way, anonymous communications from the stalker to victim. The stalker is methodical and calculating such that the victim usually does not know the identity of the stalking.
    • Delusional: The "relationship" between the stalker and victim is based exclusively on the stalker's psychological fixation on the victim. The stalker's delusion is falsely believing that he or she in fact has a relationship or some other connection with the victim.


Meloy, J. (1998). The Psychology of Stalking: Clinical and Forensic Perspectives. New York: Academic Press.

Wright, J., Burgess, A., Burgess, A., Laszlo, A., McCrary, G., and Douglas, J. (1996). "A Typology of Interpersonal Stalking." Journal of Interpersonal Violence 11 (4): 487-502.