Delusional disorder is a type of mental illness characterized by people having delusions that persist for longer than one month. Delusions are beliefs that are false, but the person still believes them even when there is proof that they are not true.
Delusions can either be bizarre or non-bizarre. Non-bizarre delusions are beliefs that are possible in real life, such as thinking you are being stalked or being poisoned. Bizarre delusions are beliefs that can never occur in real life, such as feeling that an outside force is controlling your body or thinking that someone has removed your organs without the presence of any scars.
- A person with delusional disorder can appear completely normal unless you bring up the subject they are delusional about
- Some doctors refer to delusional disorder by the term psychosis
- A person with delusional disorder is more likely to seek help from the police or a lawyer rather than a mental health professional
- The delusions suffered by someone with delusional disorder are not due to any substance abuse or a medical condition
- Delusional disorder is slightly more common among women.
- Delusional disorder is more likely to occur in middle aged or elderly people
Doctors still aren’t sure what causes delusional disorder. Because most cases do not attempt to seek medical assistance, there isn’t a lot of available research on the disorder.
However, it is believed that the disorder can be caused because of a combination of several factors.
One factor is that certain abnormalities in the brain or an imbalance of neurotransmitters can contribute to the development of delusional disorder.
Another factor is Genetics; there is a tendency for children to develop delusional disorder if a family member or one of their parents has it.
Some environmental factors can slightly trigger the disorder, such as :
- People with poor hearing
- People with poor eyesight
- People who abuse drugs or alcohol.
The symptoms of delusional disorder can be difficult to spot because the person acts completely normal unless you talk to them about the subject triggering their delusions. In some cases, the person may see, hear or smell things that aren’t there.
There are several types of delusions that a person with delusional disorder can experience, such as:
- Grandiose: Delusions of extreme importance or an inflated sense of power or worth. The person can also feel like they made a special discovery or that they have a special connection with a higher power.
- Somatic:Delusions of having a medical problem or a physical defect.
- Erotomania:Delusions that a person, who is often someone famous, is in love with them.
- Persecutory:Delusions that they (or someone they know) are being spied on, mistreated or that someone is planning on hurting them.
- Jealous:Delusions that their partner or significant other is being unfaithful.
- Mixed: A person might suffer from several of the above types of delusions.
There are no lab tests that can detect delusional disorder, so a doctor will have to first rule out any possible health conditions by performing blood tests, imaging tests and a thorough physical examination.
If the cause is not a physical condition, the doctor will refer you to a mental health professional who can diagnose the disorder. A mental health professional will examine your symptoms and rule out other mental conditions. They will then compare your symptoms to those present in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Some of the criteria the doctor will be looking for include delusions that have lasted for longer than one month and the absence of symptoms related to schizophrenia.
It can be difficult to treat delusional disorder because sometimes the patient refuses to believe that they have a problem and refuse to seek treatment.
Treatment usually involves a combination of counseling and medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of counseling, can help the patient understand and correct the distorted thinking patterns that lead to their delusions.
Psychotherapy, another type of counseling, can help the patient identify their own warning signs and control their symptoms.
Medications can also be prescribed to help manage the condition. Usually, medications involve a combination of antidepressants and antipsychotics.
These medications can help control the production of certain chemicals in the brain that can help aggravate the disorder and its symptoms.
Even though delusional disorder is a chronic condition, seeking professional help can lessen the frequency of symptoms and help you stop them. Some cases can stop getting delusions completely with proper treatment.