BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|
Our real life has been moving to social networks, to the web, a place where many people, like us, are aware of others. However, some have broken the privacy barrier that each one should have, because they become controllers of the content that we upload to the network. What is a stalker and does this type of person have mental health problems? What consequences does this stalking behavior have for our emotional wellbeing?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary  defines stalker as “a person who stalks: a person who pursues someone obsessively and aggressively to the point of harassment”. Cambridge Dictionary  defines it as “a person who illegally follows and watches someone over a period of time”. Collins Dictionary  determines that a stalker is “someone who keeps following or contacting someone else, especially a famous person or a person they used to have a relationship with, in an annoying and frightening way”.
If we carefully review these three definitions, none is positive, which leads us to conclude that this is a negative behavior. According to the non-profit Rain  , “one of the ways perpetrators stalk victims is through the use of technology, for example cyberstalking”. Some of the uses of technology to stalk include:
- Persistently sending unwanted communication through the internet, such as spamming someone’s email inbox or social media platform.
- Posting threatening or personal information about someone on public internet forums.
- Video-voyeurism or installing video cameras that give the stalker access to someone’s personal life.
- Using GPS or other software tracking systems to monitor someone without their knowledge or consent.
- Using someone’s computer and/or spyware to track their computer activity.
The Blog Stalking Risk Profile  affirms “stalkers present with a wide variety of mental disorders, with psychosis often playing a role for those stalkers with Intimacy Seeking or Resentful motivations, while personality disorders, depression and substance misuse are common amongst those with rejected, resentful, and predatory motivations”. The same resource identifies two types of stalkers:
- Incompetent Suitors: Those whose stalking is an inept attempt to get a date. Sometimes present with development disorders such as intellectual disability and/ or autism spectrum disorders, with the stalking behavior being a consequence of social skills deficits associated with these disorders.
- Predatory Stalkers: Disorders with sexual attraction. May play a role in motivating the stalking behavior. In many cases, stalkers present with multiple mental disorders, or a primary disorder accompanied by specific personality traits that are linked to the stalking behavior but are not sufficient for a diagnosis of personality disorder.
Additionally, there are also common personality characteristics of the stalker that are important to understand, these include: Narcissistic behavior, selfishness, historic domestic violence, inability to cope with rejection, obsessive, controlling, and compulsive, impulsivity, suffering from delusions or a severe mental illness that interferes with perception of reality, low self-esteem, socially awkward, uncomfortable, or isolated, deceptiveness, jealousy, etc  .
For the victim of stalking, some of the consequences to their mental health are frustration, emotional numbing, insecurity and inability to trust others, problems with intimacy, personality changes due to becoming more suspicious, apprehension, fear, terror of being alone or that they, others, or pets will harmed, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia, inability to sleep, anger, etc.
Then, what should you do if you are stalked? Try to avoid the person stalking you. This can be difficult at times, especially if the person stalking you is close to you or your family; keep any evidence received from the stalker such as text messages, voicemails, letters, packages, emails, etc., but do not respond. You can do this by taking screenshots of conversations or even printing out email exchanges; keeping an accurate journal or log of all incidents connected to the stalking, become familiar with a computer safety and ways to stay safe online, etc  .
In conclusion, being stalked is an increasingly common occurrence in the digital world. However, remember that your social networks profiles are your home on the web, you decide who is welcome. And, if you are being stalked by a person, block, report and raise the alarms, your emotional wellbeing comes first.