Definition of Delusional

Delusional is defined as an distorted belief or interpretation of reality contrary to the actual facts. Delusional thinking is often thought of as a symptom of a mental health disorder, such as schizophrenia, and is characterized by a person holding onto an idea despite evidence to the contrary.

In the context of mental health, delusional thinking is extremely common and can be the result of a range of causes. It’s important to understand the definition of delusional in order to know when someone may be exhibiting signs of a mental disorder.

Types of Delusions

A delusion is a mistaken belief that does not conform to the reality of the person’s social or physical world. It is not based on logical reasoning, but rather on a rigid personal belief that defies any rational explanation. Delusions can manifest in various forms, ranging from a fixed false belief to an unshakeable assumption.

Some common types of delusions, divided into categories based on the type of misperception they represent, include:

  • Delusions of grandeur: This type of delusion involves believing one has special talent, influence or power over people or events. It could involve believing one is a celebrity or otherwise important figure within their community.
  • Delusions of persecution: This type of delusion involves feeling singled out for unfair treatment and typically centers around feelings of paranoia and distrust toward other individuals who are seen as persecutors. Additionally, these individuals may feel as though they are being constantly watched by these persecutors, resulting in extreme anxiety and fear regarding their safety and well-being.
  • Delusions of control: This type of delusion involves believing that one’s thoughts are being controlled by some outside force such as aliens or government figures. They may also experience feelings that their movements are controlled externally or even that someone else is speaking through them without consent.

Bizarre Delusions

Bizarre delusions are defined as false beliefs that can’t be just explained as a result of cultural influences, fantasies or deeply held values. To be considered a bizarre delusion, the belief must often appear very strange or highly implausible to an outsider.

Bizarre delusions usually include ideas of being monitored or harassed by an individual or organization, powerful forces controlling behavior, having extraordinary powers or unexplainable physical sensations. For example, someone might have a delusion that believes their thoughts are being broadcasted aloud for all to hear. This would qualify as a bizarre delusion due to its highly implausible nature and lack of clear explanation even when considered within the context of cultural influences and deep-seated values.

Non-Bizarre Delusions

Non-bizarre delusions are false beliefs that a person holds to be true and can include convictions that one is being monitored or followed, or is the object of someone’s vendetta. These types of delusions, though obviously not true, might be plausible within a person’s particular cultural context. Non-bizarre delusions still depart from everyday reality despite their surface plausibility. They may arise from misinterpretations of normal events and experiences, anxiety or mistrust.

Examples of non-bizarre delusions include the belief that:

  • One’s thoughts are being broadcasted to the world.
  • Someone is out to get them – stalking them or giving them poison in their food and drinks.
  • The government is monitoring their every move and watching them through cameras.
  • A family member has had plastic surgery and now looks different than before.
  • They have special skills they do not actually possess – such as the ability to fly like a superhero or shoot lasers from their eyes.

Causes of Delusional Disorder

Delusional disorder is a type of mental disorder wherein a person holds firmly to false beliefs, despite overwhelming evidence and strong counter-arguments. Causes of this disorder range from biological or neurological factors, such as genetic predisposition, to environmental factors such as stress. Studies have also shown that some people have an inherent tendency to be more prone to delusional thinking.

Let’s look into the causes of delusional disorder in detail:

Genetic Factors

Genetic factors are thought to contribute to the development of delusional disorder. The exact nature of this relationship is unknown, but research suggests that some people may have a genetic predisposition or vulnerability to developing delusional disorder. However, it is important to note that genes are not the only cause of this mental health condition and environmental factors likely play a role as well.

The degree to which any person’s genetic make-up contributes to their mental health is difficult to measure. It is likely that multiple genes interact with one another and with environmental influences such as stress or trauma, contributing in some way to the development of delusions.

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Studies have shown that individuals with certain gene variants are more likely than those without these variants, to develop delusions in adulthood. For instance, research has identified variations in several neurotransmitter systems (which are involved in communication between nerve cells) associated with an increased risk for delusional disorder; these include dopamine and serotonin pathways as well as receptors for glutamate (a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory formation).

Moreover, genetic studies have failed to find a single gene responsible for this disorder; rather, the causative genes may instead involve multiple mechanisms across various systems within the body.

Finally, family history has been found to be associated with an increased risk of delusional disorder; although most people who develop this condition do not have a family member who has it, those who do often share similar circumstances or experiences prior to developing their symptoms.

Psychological Factors

Delusional disorder is the presence of one or more non-bizarre delusions with periods of impaired functioning, but no other psychotic symptoms. Psychological factors associated with delusional disorder include a person’s temperament, levels of self-esteem, life events/stressors, and other individual vulnerabilities.

  • Temperament involves a person’s emotions and behaviors from an early age. Individuals with delusional disorder have been noted to have an emotionally unstable temperaments characterized by intense reactions to minor frustrations and difficulties maintaining emotional stability.
  • Low levels of self-esteem can lead to feelings of inadequacy that can contribute to the onset or maintenance of delusional thoughts.
  • Difficult life events such as traumatic experiences, major losses, job changes or isolation can be major contributing stressors that can trigger onset or exacerbate existing symptoms.
  • Certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine also play a role in how functions in the brain interact and affect behavior; higher levels of dopamine activity have been observed amongst those with delusional disorders.
  • Finally, there are certain environmental factors that may interact with genetic predispositions to make certain individuals more vulnerable to developing delusions than others.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors are a possible cause of delusional disorder. It is not known why some people develop delusional disorder and why others do not. However, some external factors may play a role in the development of the disorder such as stressful events, chronic medical illnesses and substance abuse. Other psychosocial causes have also been identified including immigration, family or relationship problems, or isolation from society.

Certain stressful life events such as traumatic experiences, family issues and physical or mental illness may predispose an individual to the development of delusional disorders. Studies have shown that some individuals develop delusions following extreme stress, psychological dissonance or emotionally traumatic experiences. Immigration can also factor into the development of delusional disorder due to language difficulties and cultural differences in regard to one’s illness experience being quite different from one’s culture at home. These individuals may also be more susceptible due to lack of socialization opportunities within their new environment and limited access to adequate healthcare services.

Family dynamics can also contribute to an individual developing a delusional disorder if there is a lack of emotional support within the family unit or discord among family members which leads to further isolation from support networks who could otherwise provide positive coping skills. Substance abuse can increase the risk for those living with these types of mental health conditions due to how drugs and alcohol can further alter perceptions, thoughts and behaviors which could increase feelings that reality is being distorted in some way for an individual with unstable mental health foundations prior to substance use.

Symptoms of Delusional Disorder

Delusional disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by clearly false beliefs that the individual holds onto despite evidence to the contrary. People with delusional disorder experience persistent and generally non-bizarre delusions that are not common or part of an existing cultural or religious system.

Common symptoms of delusional disorder include beliefs of:

  • Persecution
  • Jealousy
  • Infidelity
  • Grandiosity
  • Somatic delusions

Let’s dive in to find out more about the various symptoms of delusional disorder.

Unusual Beliefs

Unusual beliefs can often be a symptom of delusional disorder. The beliefs may be completely false and based on incorrect interpretations of reality or experiences, but the individual may still strongly believe them to be true and will not change their mind even when presented with overwhelming evidence that implies otherwise. Some examples of unusual beliefs include:

  • Belief that someone, usually a sinister force, is out to harm the individual or their loved ones (paranoid delusion).
  • Belief that they are being talked about constantly, often by a powerful force or celebrity.
  • Belief in having special powers, such as being able to control events with their thoughts.
  • Delusions of grandeur – believing they are famous and/or have supernatural powers.
  • Delusions of reference – believing something unrelated has special personal meaning just for them.
  • Belief that external circumstances make it impossible for them to exist or succeed.
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A person with delusional disorder may experience delusions of paranoia, or an unfounded belief of being persecuted, or followed. He or she may falsely believe that a loved one is unfaithful, that their coworkers are plotting against them, or even that they are being followed or spied on by strangers. These paranoid delusions can be associated with feelings of intense fear and mistrust.

Paranoia can be so pervasive as to lead a person to constantly monitor their surroundings or think that others are out to hurt them in some way. In extreme cases they may become paranoid and guarded when interacting with others and can go to great lengths to protect themselves from imagined harm.

Unusual Behaviors

Delusional disorder is characterized by an abnormal belief system that interferes with a person’s day-to-day functioning. People with delusional disorder may have a distorted view of reality, be highly suspicious or fearful of others, or act in unusual ways based on their beliefs.

A person experiencing symptoms of delusional disorder may exhibit the following kinds of behaviours:

  • Displaying strong belief in claims or theories that are not supported by evidence or facts
  • Showing unreasonable fear or suspicion of other people without any basis for their beliefs
  • Avoiding social interaction because they feel threatened in some way
  • Speaking in a strange, disjointed manner when discussing relevant topics
  • Becoming excruciatingly defensive when challenged about their beliefs and interpretations
  • Acting out aggressively towards those who question their claims
  • Having difficulty engaging in meaningful relationships
  • Developing unusual routines or rituals focused around their delusional beliefs

Diagnosis of Delusional Disorder

The diagnosis of delusional disorder can be difficult because a person’s behavior can appear normal at times. In order to make a diagnosis, a professional will need to go through a comprehensive evaluation.

This evaluation includes:

  • Gathering information from the individual, their family members, and others close to them.
  • Psychological tests.
  • A physical examination.

Once the evaluation is complete, a professional can make an official diagnosis of Delusional Disorder.

Physical Exam

In diagnosing delusional disorder, your healthcare provider will perform a comprehensive physical exam to assess your overall health and to rule out any medical conditions that may be contributing to the symptoms. Questions will be asked about your health history, including family and social history. The physical examination may include blood tests, X-rays, brain imaging such as CT scans or MRI’s and more.

During the physical examination, providers look for signs of any medical condition that may have caused or aggravated delusions, like infections, tumors or other illnesses that can cause irrational thinking. Additional evaluations may include psychological testing and/or interviews with friends or family members to gain more insight into your symptoms.

Treating the underlying medical condition is often the first step in treating delusional disorder.

Psychological Evaluation

Psychological evaluation is a key component in diagnosing delusional disorder. This assessment begins with an intake interview which provides the mental health professional an opportunity to get to know the individual, discuss the presenting problems and gather in-depth information regarding past medical history, family history and current symptoms.

During the interview, the mental health professional will ask questions to distinguish between normal thought processes and those associated with delusional disorder. For example, psychotic symptoms are difficult to differentiate from non-psychotic thought processes. Also, persecutory delusions of persecution or grandiosity can be seen as compensatory delusions used to fill a psychological need for affirmation or acceptance. Additionally, organic delusions may overlap with delusion types associated with anxiety or depression – it is essential for clinicians to accurately identify the underlying cause in order to best provide effective treatment plans.

Once complete, the clinician will move onto psychological testing. This may include:

  • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) as well as personality tests such as Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), thematic apperception test (TAT), projective role-playing tests, free association tests and binocular rivalry tests.
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These evaluations can be helpful in determining relationship dynamics, stressors and coping mechanisms which may play a role in diminishing or exacerbating existing symptoms of delusional disorder.

Lab Tests

Certain lab tests may be indicated when diagnosing delusional disorder and understanding the cause or triggers for the condition. Such tests might include:

  • Blood tests such as an electrolyte panel to check basic chemical/hormonal balances, thyroid function tests to evaluate thyroid hormone levels, and urine toxicology screenings to detect substances that may contribute to psychiatric symptoms.
  • CT or an MRI scan of the head, if a neurological cause is suspected.

Mental health professionals also use psychological testing like questionnaires and interviews to help diagnose delusional disorder. If the person’s symptoms interfere with their ability to participate in the assessment process, then a physical examination may be conducted.

Treatment of Delusional Disorder

Delusional disorder is a type of serious mental health disorder where an individual has persistent delusions that are false and cannot be changed by facts or logical reasoning. It is important to seek professional help if you or someone you know has been experiencing these beliefs for more than a month.

There are several treatment options available for individuals with delusional disorder that can help them manage their symptoms. Let’s take a look at some of these options:


Medication is the most frequently used form of treatment for Delusional Disorder, with antipsychotic medication being the primary tool in treating delusions. Antipsychotics are usually the first line of defense against delusions because they can reduce symptoms quickly and are effective in managing multiple symptoms associated with Delusional Disorder. Depending on your condition and specific needs, common antipsychotics may include:

  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • Risperidone (Risperdal)

Additionally, medication such as mood stabilizers, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other antidepressants may be added to a treatment plan to improve the effects of antipsychotic medications.

It is important to note that while medications may significantly improve delusion-related symptoms in those with Delusional Disorder, there is no “quick fix” and results will vary from person to person. Medications may need to be adjusted periodically or combined with other treatments to effectively manage delusions over time.


Psychotherapy is an effective treatment for delusional disorder. It helps in understanding the underlying causes and triggers of delusion while helping identify healthy thought patterns, behavior and problem-solving skills. Working with a therapist aims to normalize negative thoughts by addressing issues related to stress, relationships, social interactions and daily functioning.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been found to be particularly useful in treating delusional disorder. CBT helps clients understand the relationship between thoughts, feelings, behavior and symptoms to recognize distorted or unrealistic beliefs which can lead them towards misinterpretations of reality or situations. It focuses on the current problem rather than the past while employing techniques such as education, reality testing, assertiveness training and communication skills.

Group therapy may provide additional support for those with delusional disorder by understanding how other people’s perception of their illness may differ from their own as well as how others deal with similar cognitive distortions. Group members are encouraged to take responsibility for their own actions while learning more about themselves from peers. Additionally, family therapy can be beneficial in helping family members understand the struggles faced by an individual suffering from this disorder so that they can better help provide emotional support during their loved one’s recovery process.


In cases of severe delusional disorder, hospitalization may be necessary for stabilization and treatment. While hospitalized, doctors can help patients create a safety plan that can be used for future episodes in which delusions become difficult to manage. This plan typically includes ways to connect with family members or friends during times of distress, as well as doctor-recommended interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Hospitalization may also enable doctors to establish or adjust a patient’s medication regimen. Antipsychotic medications have been found to have the most success when it comes to treating the symptoms of delusional disorder. Commonly prescribed antipsychotics (yet not limited to) include:

  • Risperidone (Risperdal)
  • Clozapine (Clozaril)
  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • Ziprasidone (Geodon)
  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)

If needed, other medications such as anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants or mood-stabilizers may also be prescribed in combination with antipsychotics. Supportive therapy is often recommended along with medication management in order to foster healthier coping skills and promote effective communication with others.

By Reiki

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