What are delusions?

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Delusions are the unshakeable belief that something is true when in reality it is not. People experiencing delusions often have situations that could be real but are not real at all or very exaggerated. These people sometime think they are being deceived or conspired against. This can be a symptom of a mental disorder. If someone you know is having delusions, the person may need to be evaluated by a trained medical professional.
Delusions are false beliefs. People who have delusions believe strongly that what they are thinking is true and/or logical, even when presented with evidence to the contrary. Delusions may cause people to believe that others are reading their mind or plotting against them. Some people have a delusion that they can read other people's minds.

People may be diagnosed with delusional disorder if they have one or more of these false beliefs that persist for at least one month. Delusional disorder may develop in people who have paranoid personality, and is typically diagnosed when people are in middle or late adult life. In some people, delusional disorder falls under one of several possible subtypes, including the following.
  • Erotomanic: People believe that another person is in love with them. They may stalk the other person through following them, telephone calls, letters or other activity.
  • Grandiose: People are convinced that they have some great talent or have made some important discovery, or may even believe themselves to be a well-known historical figure.
  • Jealous: People are convinced that a spouse or lover is unfaithful, despite little or no evidence that this is true. They may become angry and threaten bodily harm.
  • Persecutory: People may have delusions that others are trying to harm them, such as by cheating, harassing, poisoning, spying on or plotting against them or the people they care about. They may try to obtain justice by contacting legal authorities, or rarely, may become violent to retaliate.
  • Somatic: People are preoccupied with a bodily function or attribute, such as an imagined physical deformity or odor. The delusion can also take the form of an imagined medical disorder, such as a parasitic infection.
  • Mixed: People have characteristics of more than one type.
  • Unspecified: People have symptoms that are evident but do not indicate one of the other subtypes.
People with delusions can often lead normal lives, including maintaining employment. They can often be helped with therapy to try to shift their focus from concentrating on the delusion to more constructive thoughts. In some cases, antipsychotic medications and/or hospitalization may also be a part of treatment.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.