Are you a STALKER? Ever scrolled through your ex's Instagram, drunk-called them or even followed them home…? A psychologist explains how obsession can affect us all… 

  • 40 per cent of people believe their ex still loves them
  • Obsession with exes can lead to stalking, drunk calls and erratic behaviour
  • Psychologists explain how obsession can affect even rational people
  • The Girl On The Train's protagonist is guilty of acting this way
  • Obsessively stalks her ex-husband, Tom, in hit movie, out on October 5

Break-ups are never easy but whilst we forget about some exes the second we cut ties, others can haunt us for months, years, and even decades.

According to research, 40 per cent of people believe their ex still loves them, which can cause them to pay a little too much attention to their former flame. 

Rachel Watson, the protagonist of hot new blockbuster, The Girl On The Train, which hits UK cinemas on October 5, is the prime example - and whilst most women won't want to admit it, they can probably relate to her.

Are YOU a stalker? This year's most anticipated thriller, The Girl On The Train, starring Emily Blunt, above, examines the issue of obsession, something that can affect us all

Are YOU a stalker? This year's most anticipated thriller, The Girl On The Train, starring Emily Blunt, above, examines the issue of obsession, something that can affect us all

The self-destructive alcoholic, played by Hollywood royalty Emily Blunt, chases after her ex-husband, Tom, despite the fact that he is now married to Anna, the woman he cheated on her with. The gripping plot sees Rachel drunk call him, leave him late night voice messages and even turn up at his front door.

But Rachel isn't alone. As anyone who has been haunted by an ex will know only too well, a casual flick through an exes Instagram, the odd drunk-call and even the temptation to follow them home from work can become a painful but all too familiar part of the healing process.

But what causes even the most sane people to indulge in stalker-like behaviour? We called on Dimtri Raftopoulos, Psychotherapist and Relationship Coach, to explain how obsession can affect us all.

As Dimtri explains, most people have an innate tendency to obsess over someone and it's all down to our experience of our early relationships in childhood, as well as the person we choose to date.

Speaking about how obsessive behaviour comes about, Dimtri said it's a combination of two things. 'It's a mix of our relationship blueprint and certain partners that we choose,' he said.

'A partner who is emotionally unavailable and then breaks up with us - leaving us confused and vulnerable - could trigger obsessive behaviour in us, as we try to make sense of what has happened.'

Rachel Watson, the protagonist of hot new blockbuster The Girl On The Train, which hits UK cinemas on October 5, begins to act like a stalker, even turning up at her ex Tom's home

Every time Rachel passes her old marital home on the train, she can't help but take a glance because it reminds her of her former life with Tom, who now lives there with Anna, the woman he cheated on her with

Every time Rachel passes her old marital home on the train, she can't help but take a glance because it reminds her of her former life with Tom, who now lives there with Anna, the woman he cheated on her with

According to Dimitri, a lot of us aren't aware of how easy it is to get involved with someone who can evoke these strong feelings in us.

He explained: 'In a woman’s case, a distant partner who doesn't express his feelings can cause her to obsess about changing him and getting him to open up.' The man can then feel this is too much and leave or cheat on her, which is exactly what happens to Rachel in The Girl On The Train. 

'The woman is then left to make sense of all this, unable to have her many questions answered because she hasn’t received an explanation from her former partner,' adds Dimitri. 'Without the partner being there she can then obsess about it, which can lead to stalking and obsession.'  

In the movie, Rachel chases after her ex-husband, Tom, right, despite the fact that he is now married to Anna, left, the woman he cheated on her with

In the movie, Rachel chases after her ex-husband, Tom, right, despite the fact that he is now married to Anna, left, the woman he cheated on her with

The gripping plot sees Rachel drunk call him, leave him late night voice messages and even turn up at his front door

The gripping plot sees Rachel drunk call him, leave him late night voice messages and even turn up at his front door

As anyone who has experienced a breakup knows only too well, it's no longer as cut-and-dry as it used to be thanks to social media.

The chance to browse through old pictures with your ex or obsess over pictures of them with their new partner is all too tempting.

Indeed, in a recent study, one third of all adults admitted to stalking a former lover on Facebook and Twitter.  

According to Dimitri, social media is adding fuel to the fire when it comes to obsessive behaviour because we can get away with it without anyone knowing.

'It's easy to stalk an ex on social media because you can see what they are up to, what they might be feeling and if they are dating somebody new - but do it all undetected!', he said. 

Have you - like Rachel - ever woken up after a night of drinking and had that horrible sinking feeling when you remember what you did - or who you texted or called - the night before?

Have you - like Rachel - ever woken up after a night of drinking and had that horrible sinking feeling when you remember what you did - or who you texted or called - the night before?

In The Girl On The Train, we see Rachel cringe as she wakes up from a drunken night and realise she has called, emailed and left voice messages for Tom, often forgetting what she has said to him

In The Girl On The Train, we see Rachel cringe as she wakes up from a drunken night and realise she has called, emailed and left voice messages for Tom, often forgetting what she has said to him

Sometimes, however, we don't quite manage to go undetected - and alcohol is often the catalyst.

Have you ever woken up after a night of drinking and had that horrible sinking feeling when you remember what you did - or who you texted or called - the night before?

Those muddled, often embarrassing, thoughts of ours are suddenly in the inboxes of our exes - and there is nothing we can do about it but face the music in the morning.

In The Girl On The Train, we see Rachel cringe as she wakes up from a drunken night and realise she has called, emailed and left voice messages for Tom, often forgetting what on earth she has said.

'Alcohol uninhibits us,' explains Dimitri. 'So the voice that appeals to our sensible and rational side is drummed out and our hurt and angry irrational side comes out and we act without thinking about the consequences. 

'Our irrational side simply wants to make sense of what happened in the relationship but goes about it in a way that can be destructive and we loose what little respect and dignity we did have.' 

As we see in the The Girl On The Train, Rachel takes her obsession with Tom, right, so far that she calls the house phone and walks past his house, leaving Anna, left, riled and afraid

As we see in the The Girl On The Train, Rachel takes her obsession with Tom, right, so far that she calls the house phone and walks past his house, leaving Anna, left, riled and afraid

Speaking about people exhibiting behaviour like Rachel's, therapist Marisa Peer said: 'The trauma of the break- up has been such that they cannot process it at all, as it has simply taken over them and they cannot make sense of it'

Speaking about people exhibiting behaviour like Rachel's, therapist Marisa Peer said: 'The trauma of the break- up has been such that they cannot process it at all, as it has simply taken over them and they cannot make sense of it'

Leading therapist Marisa Peer, author of Ultimate Confidence, agrees. She said: 'When we are drunk, our defenses go down. We believe that we could coerce our ex back and because we are drunk we forget to control, manufacture and edit what we say and we just let go of all the pent-up control that we are exerting on ourselves.'

As we see in the The Girl On The Train, Rachel takes her obsession with Tom so far that she often follows him home and shows up unannounced at his house - or simply walks past for a curious browse.

Whilst this behaviour may seem extreme (and Anna certainly thinks so), Dimitri says it's a sign the person has regressed to a younger state of mind. 

'They are no longer in control of their adult self,' he said. 'The trauma of the break- up has been such that they cannot process it at all, as it has simply taken over them and they cannot make sense of it. This is a clear sign the person could really benefit from talking to a professional. It some strange way they feel if they can at least see the person it might help understand what happened that the relationship ended.'  

So how can we stop behaving obsessively? 'Obsessive behavior has to do with the difficulty you are having with dealing with the ending of your relationship. A part of you refuses to accept its over.

'Without accepting it's over you cannot begin the necessary grieving process, which will allow you to move forward.'

Marisa also emphasises how important it is to realise that your thoughts can often just be a fantasy that are keeping a relationship alive in your mind. Indeed, Rachel even convinces herself that Tom still cares about her romantically after he picks her up one day and they go for a drive. She is, however, mistaken.

'Realise it is not alive,' says Marisa. 'It doesn't exist outside of your own thought process and if you don't allow yourself to say that person's name or look them up on social media, if you delete them on your phone and stop reading their texts and emails, you eventually take the energy out of the relationship and it will finally give you closure.'

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN: THE YEAR'S MOST ANTICIPATED THRILLER 

Devastated by her recent divorce Rachel Watson (played by the compelling Emily Blunt) is infatuated by the seemingly perfect couple she sees from her daily commuter train that runs past their house. 

One day she sees something shocking and in that moment, everything changes. 

Driven by intrigue, passion and suspense, Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar but to what lengths will she go to uncover the truth?

Based on the global best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins, The Girl On The Train is directed by Tate Taylor (The Help) and has been adapted for screen by Erin Cressida Wilson and Tate Taylor.

In UK cinemas October 5 

Watch the full, compelling story of Rachel as the The Girl On The Train hits UK and Irish cinemas on October 5


  

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