AskDefine | Define monomania

Dictionary Definition

monomania n : a mania restricted to one thing or idea [syn: possession]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˌmɒnəʊ'meɪnɪə/ (RP)
  • /ˌmɑnoʊ'meɪniə/ (US)
    Rhymes: -eɪniə


  1. excessive interest or concentration on a singular object or subject
    It was apparent to all but himself that what was once idle curiosity had become a monomania.
  2. a pathological obsession with one person, thing or idea


  • 1905 — Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Six Napoleons
    "There are no limits to the possibilities of monomania," I answered. "There is the condition which the modern French psychologists have called the 'idee fixe,' which may be trifling in character, and accompanied by complete sanity in every other way. A man who had read deeply about Napoleon, or who had possibly received some hereditary family injury through the great war, might conceivably form such an 'idee fixe' and under its influence be capable of any fantastic outrage."


Related terms

Extensive Definition

In psychiatry, monomania (from Greek monos, one, and mania, mania) is a type of paranoia in which the patient has only one idea or type of ideas. Emotional monomania is that in which the patient is obsessed with only one emotion or several related to it; intellectual monomania is that which is related to only one kind of delirious idea or ideas.
In colloquial terms, the term monomania is often attached to subcultures that to the general public appear esoteric. However, the differences between monomania and passion can be very subtle and difficult to recognize.

Monomania in literature

The 19th century writer Edgar Allan Poe would often write tales in which the narrator and protagonist would suffer some form of monomania, becoming excessively fixated on an idea, an urge, an object, or a person, often to the point of mental and/or physical destruction. Poe uses the theme of monomania in:
  1. "The Black Cat" (a man fears his cat and kills it, adopts another cat, kills his wife, and is then punished by the cat)
  2. "The Oval Portrait" (about a painter who is obsessed with painting his wife)
  3. "Berenice" (about a madman who wants to marry his sick cousin only for her beautiful teeth)
  4. "The Masque of the Red Death" (a prince fears a terrible disease but finally gets ill from the red death and dies)
  5. "The Tell-Tale Heart" (a madman is obsessed with an elderly man's eye)
It is said that Flaubert's hatred of the bourgeois and their bêtise (willful idiocy), that began in his childhood, developed into a kind of monomania.
It is monomania from which Flaubert's tragic heroine Madame Bovary suffers; in her case it takes the form of an incessant guilt and fear of discovery. The same monomanic fear is explored in great depth in M E Braddon's novel, Lady Audley's Secret, through the protagonist Robert Audley, whom the guilty woman accuses of monomania in his relentless attempt to prove her guilt. She describes monomania thus:
What is one of the strangest diagnostics of madness--what is the first appalling sign of mental aberration? The mind becomes stationary; the brain stagnates; the even current of reflection is interrupted; the thinking power of the brain resolves itself into a monotone. As the waters of a tideless pool putrefy by reason of their stagnation, the mind becomes turbid and corrupt through lack of action; and the perpetual reflection upon one subject resolves itself into monomania.
In Crime and Punishment, by the renowned Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, the main character, Raskolnikov, is said to be a monomaniac on numerous occasions.
In Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851), Captain Ahab is a monomaniac, as shown by his quest to kill Moby Dick. One particular situation where he is shown as a monomaniac is in the crew's first encounter with the whale, stating "in his narrow-flowing monomania, not one jot of Ahab's broad madness had been left behind; so in that broad madness, not one jot of his great natural intellect had perished.” [Citation needed]
In Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is described as a monomaniac, obsessing over his reunion with Cathy in the final chapters of the novel.
The Marvel Comics supervillain Bullseye is a professional assassin who obsesses over his targets. In one of his more recent appearances, he was revealed to be a monomaniac.
monomania in German: Monomanie
monomania in Spanish: Monomanía
monomania in Dutch: Monomanie
monomania in Japanese: モノマニア
monomania in Portuguese: Monomania
monomania in Russian: Мономания

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

absorbed attention, absorption, application, complex, compulsion, concentration, contemplation, deep study, deep thought, engagement, engrossment, fascination, fixation, fixed idea, hang-up, hypercathexis, idee fixe, immersion, intentness, involvement, irresistible impulse, meditation, morbid drive, obsession, obsessive compulsion, possession, preoccupation, prepossession, profound thought, rapt attention, ruling passion, single-mindedness, studiousness, study, submersion, tic
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