Delusions are a common symptom of certain mental disorders. While the exact cause is yet to be ascertained, according to some studies certain genetic and environmental factors play a key role in triggering delusional thinking. Neurochemical imbalances caused when messages are referred between different regions of the brain could precipitate the condition. In addition to brain conditions, traumatic injury, brain tumors and adverse drug reactions could also precipitate a delusion-like state.
Some mental health disorders associated with delusions are:
Bipolar disorder: During the manic phases, it is common for the person to experience delusion. When one is in a depressive phase, they may become paranoid and start imagining things. A person may think that others are trying to take their money.
Schizophrenia: Delusions are common in schizophrenia. The set of false beliefs does not change with time and even interferes with daily activities.
Dementia : A person with dementia has difficulty staying in the present. It is quite possible that they are unable to concentrate, and say and do things that might seem awkward. Many are beset with paranoia, suspicion and delusions. The delusion could cause them to become suspicious of caregivers, children and spouse.
Delusions are responsible for the individual acting in ways that might seem bizarre to all, but the person affected could still believe that he / she is perfectly sane. A person may start believing that he / she is unnecessarily being persecuted by the government. Simple day-to-day activities such as walking in the street could be a challenge as the individual may have the constant sense of being “watched.” Persistent delusions may turn into a delusional disorder.
Types of delusions
The spectrum of delusional thinking that could be exhibited by an individual could range from the grandiose to the nihilistic. While some people with a delusional disorder remain high-functioning individuals, there are others who jumble their thoughts and words, and lack coherence, sensibility and reason.
Delusions are of the following subtypes:
- Persecutory: One of the most common forms of delusions is persecution when the person believes that he / she is being punished wrongly for their activities. They may also feel that they are being victimized by people kindly and made to suffer a miserable life.
- Grandiose: A grandiose delusion is one when someone thinks he has inflated powers and knowledge. A person with a grandiose delusion could also think of himself / herself as the reincarnation of a famous person and even start acting as such.
- Referential: Referential delusion comes into existence when the person thinks that any action or word by another person (usually a famous personality or someone on TV) has a special reference that is understood by them only.
- Erotomaniac: As the name specifies, this type of delusion is obvious when the person mistakenly believes that someone loves him or her, when it is clearly not the case. While most keep their erotomanic fantasies under cover, some could resort to practices such as stalking, sending emails or gifts, etc.
- Nihilistic : People with nihilistic delusions think they are invisible or inaudible. Even when someone proves their existence, they refuse to acknowledge it.
- Somatic: Under this condition, an individual ponders over self-defects and consider it a medical condition. An innocent mole, for example, may throw an individual into a frenzy, as he or she could consider it a sign of cancer.
Road to recovery
Delusions are a sign of a mental illness as thoughts and behaviors are not embedded in reality and there is a risk to life. Sometimes, delusional thinking may cause harm to other people's lives or result in legal offsets. It is advisable to seek a therapist's help and get appropriate medical intervention.