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Signs Of A Stalker: Identifying and Dealing With An Underreported Problem

by eharmony Editorial Team - April 26, 2024
This article has been reviewed by Dr Lalitaa Suglani, an eharmony relationship expert. The content has been checked for accuracy and legitimacy based on the qualifications of our expert prior to publication.Reviewed by Relationship expert Dr Lalitaa Suglani

We might joke about ‘Insta-stalking’ a crush, but the truth is stalking isn’t funny, nor is it uncommon. According to the Stalking Resource Center, 15% of women and 6% of men have been stalked in their lifetimes, often by a current or former partner1. Even when it’s not a partner, most victims know their stalkers in some way. Let’s look at the most common signs of a stalker, types of stalkers, what to do if you’re being stalked, and resources for victims.  

What is stalking?

The technical definition of stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person’s safety or the safety of others; or suffer substantial emotional distress. While harassment may be and often one of the most common signs of a stalker, victims of harassment are often not afraid of their perpetrators, unlike victims of stalking.  

Common signs of a stalker

Some of the major warning signs of a stalker include: 

  • Constant contact, whether phone calls, emails, or texts 
  • Lurking around your neighborhood or place of work 
  • Setting up situations that force you to interact with them 
  • Having information about you that you didn’t tell them 
  • Excessive monitoring or surveillance of your movements 
  • Giving inappropriate and unwanted gifts  
  • Showing up unexpectedly 
  • Orchestrating mishaps (flat tires, appropriating your keys or other possessions so they can return them to you) so they can play the hero  
  • Isolating you from loved ones 
  • Threatening you or people they see as ‘competition’ for your affections 

Stalking online

While the internet has made our lives more convenient it’s also made stalking easier. While some stalkers simply use the web to find information about their victims, such as their addresses or daily routines, others go so far as to cyberstalk them. Signs of a stalker online include creating social media accounts exclusively to harass the target, commenting on all their social media posts, following them into any online communities they join, sending threatening or lewd messages, or explicit photos to the target, or even impersonating the target on social media to ruin their reputation.  

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Types of stalkers

While the signs of a stalker are universal, there are different kinds, including intimate partner stalkers, acquaintance stalkers and stranger stalkers. 

  • Intimate partner stalker: as the name suggests, this person is a current or former partner of the victim. They may consider the victim their property, even after he or she has left the relationship, or be trying to woo them back.
  • Acquaintance stalker: This kind of stalker is known to the victim – they may be friends, or someone the victim has met a few times. The stalker may want a more serious relationship and see stalking as a way of pursuing their victim.
  • Stranger stalker: The victim has no prior acquaintance with the stalker, although the stalker may believe they have some kind of pre-ordained connection (this is often the case with fans who stalk celebrities). 

Regardless of what kind of stalker you have, it’s best to have a safety plan, be careful of what you say online, and let other people know you’re being stalked so they can keep an eye on you.  

How does stalking impact victims?

It’s unfortunate that stalking isn’t taken as seriously as it should be, since it’s far more dangerous than most people imagine. It can lead to depression and PTSD, and over two-thirds of stalking victims report having experienced physical harm. In addition, it’s been proven that long periods of elevated stress can lead to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes2. Being stalked can also impact the victims’ ability to form relationships, as well as have a negative impact on their own relationships, since one of the signs of a stalker is their ability to isolate their targets.  

Steps to take if you suspect you’re being stalked

If you’re wondering ‘Is he stalking me?’ or ‘Is she stalking me?’ it’s probably time to adopt a few defensive measures. These can be invaluable not only for your own safety, but also if it gets to the point where the police become involved. 

  • Do not engage your stalker. While it might be tempting (and cathartic) to tell them to stop, most stalkers see any contact as motivation to continue 
  • Make sure your home is secure. Have a safety plan for any place you are regularly in, such as work or school 
  • Document, document, document. Keep any correspondence you get, note the date and time of interactions, as well as notes on behavior and any threats made  
  • Let your friends and family know you are being stalked, so they know not to give out any information about you 
  • Contact the police. Even if they can’t do anything to start with, the complaint helps establish a pattern of behavior 

Are you currently being stalked? Help is available

If you feel like you are in immediate danger, do not hesitate to call 911 (or your country’s emergency number.) For people in the US, it’s also a good idea to reach out to the Stalking Resource Center National Center for Victims of Crime Helpline at 855-4-VICTIM (484-2846), Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) 24 hours a day, seven days a week for advice from trained advocates. The previously mentioned SPARC also has resources for stalking victims of all genders, as does RAINN.  

Taking stalking seriously might save your life

It’s easy to dismiss the signs of a stalker; we’re accustomed, after all, to assume the best of people. However, stalking can take a major physical and emotional toll on the victim, which is why it’s important to be on the lookout, both for yourself and people around you. If you see signs of a stalker personality, don’t hesitate to walk away – it’s not a bet you can afford to lose.  

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