Delusion Definition Psychology
A delusion psychology is a belief that is clearly false and that indicates an abnormality in the affected person’s content of thought. The false belief is not accounted for by the person’s cultural or religious background or his or her level of intelligence. The key feature of a delusion is the degree to which the person is convinced that the belief is true. A person with a delusion will hold firmly to the belief regardless of evidence to the contrary. Delusions can be difficult to distinguish from overvalued ideas, which are unreasonable ideas that a person holds, but the affected person has at least some level of doubt as to its truthfulness. A person with a delusion is absolutely convinced that the delusion is real.
Delusions are a symptom of either a medical, neurological, or mental disorder.
Examples of Delusion
- Delusion of control: This is a false belief that another person, group of people, or external force controls one’s thoughts, feelings, impulses, or behavior.
- Nihilistic delusion: A delusion whose theme centers on the nonexistence of self or parts of self, others, or the world.
- Delusional jealousy (or delusion of infidelity): A person with this delusion falsely believes that his or her spouse or lover is having an affair.
- Delusion of guilt or sin (or delusion of self-accusation): This is a false feeling of remorse or guilt of delusional intensity.
- Delusion of mind being read: The false belief that other people can know one’s thoughts.
- Delusion of reference: The person falsely believes that insignificant remarks, events, or objects in one’s environment have personal meaning or significance.
- Erotomania: A delusion in which one believes that another person, usually someone of higher status, is in love with him or her.
- Grandiose delusion: An individual exaggerates his or her sense of self-importance and is convinced that he or she has special powers, talents, or abilities.
- Persecutory delusions: These are the most common type of delusions and involve the theme of being followed, harassed, cheated, poisoned or drugged, conspired against, spied on, attacked, or obstructed in the pursuit of goals.
- Religious delusion: Any delusion with a religious or spiritual content. Beliefs that would be considered normal for an individual’s religious or cultural background are not delusions.
- Somatic delusion: A delusion whose content pertains to bodily functioning, bodily sensations, or physical appearance.
Delusional Disorder Symptoms
- Non-bizarre delusions — these are the most obvious symptom
- Irritable, angry, or low mood
- Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t really there) related to the delusion. For example, someone who believes they have an odor problem might smell a bad odor.
Delusional Disorder Treatment
Treatment most often includes medication and psychotherapy (a type of counseling). Delusional disorder can be very difficult to treat, in part because those who have it often have poor insight and do not know there’s a psychiatric problem. Studies show that close to half of patients treated with antipsychotic medications show at least partial improvement.
The primary medications used to attempt to treat delusional disorder are called antipsychotics. Drugs used include:
Conventional antipsychotics: Also called neuroleptics, these have been used to treat mental disorders since the mid-1950s. They work by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter believed to be involved in the development of delusions.
Atypical antipsychotics: These newer drugs appear to be help treat the symptoms of delusional disorder with fewer movement-related side effects than the older typical antipsychotics. They work by blocking dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is another neurotransmitter believed to be involved in delusional disorder.
Psychotherapy can also be helpful, along with medications, as a way to help people better manage and cope with the stresses related to their delusional beliefs and its impact on their lives. Psychotherapies that may be helpful in delusional disorder include:
People with severe symptoms or who are at risk of hurting themselves or others might need to be hospitalized until the condition is stabilized.