The term ‘delusional disorder’ is used to describe people who suffer from persistent or recurrent delusions that are not part of mania. The symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe and different people experience different types of delusions. There are many possible causes for delusional disorders including genetic factors, brain injury, drug abuse, physical illness such as syphilis or Huntington’s disease and more. This blog post will discuss the various causes and potential solutions for this condition.
Delusional disorder is a condition that makes people think things that are not true. People will have thoughts and ideas that don’t make sense or are different from what other people experience.
Delusional individuals are able to interact with others and function well, other than the topic of their delusion, and do not act in an obviously unusual or bizarre manner. People experiencing delusions may also experience paranoia, which is the belief that others are trying to harm them in some way.
What are the types of delusional disorder?
Delusions are one of the most common mental health problems seen in people. There are many types of delusional disorder, each with its own unique set of symptoms. The following are some examples:
Erotomanic: people believe that another person is in love with them and they may engage in behaviors such as calling, texting, showing up uninvited at their house or workplace.
Grandiose: people think of themselves as famous and powerful and may even claim to be royalty without any evidence to back it up. The grandiosity involved can lead the individual into risky behavior such as spending large amounts of money.
Jealous: people believe that their spouse or significant other is being unfaithful and may show obsessive behaviors related to this belief, including checking social media accounts, phone call logs etc., spying on a loved one in person or hiring a private investigator to do so.
Persecutory: people believe that they are being plotted against, spied on and/or followed. They may seek revenge or become angry because of their belief system.
Somatic: people have delusions about a medical condition affecting the body in some way such as believing there is a terrible illness present when tests show otherwise. This results from physical symptoms experienced rather than psychological symptoms.
Mixed: people have a combination of two or more types of delusions.
What causes delusional disorder?
There can be many different causes of delusional disorder and understanding these factors will help determine what course of action should be taken when dealing with this condition. Some possible causes for delusional disorders include:
Genetic: there is evidence that delusional disorder can be hereditary, meaning it runs in families. This means certain people are predisposed to the condition and may need special care or treatment if they do develop symptoms of this illness.
Brain injury: damage to the brain caused by an accident, stroke or other trauma may lead to delusions as well as paranoia or other symptoms.
Drug abuse: substance misuse can lead to delusions as a result of the drugs themselves or from what is known as ‘toxic withdrawal’. In this case, people with delusional disorder experience psychological problems after they stop using certain substances such as alcohol and hallucinogens.
Physical illness: some physical illnesses may cause delusions in those affected by this.
Other psychological or social factors: there are several other causes of delusional disorder including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and more.
What are the symptoms of delusional disorder?
Symptoms that may be experienced by people with delusional disorder include:
- Inappropriate affect – laughing at things others would cry about and vice versa
- Flat affect – Speaking in monotone voice, not showing appropriate emotions for each situation
- Hallucinations – Hearing or seeing things that do not exist
- Delusions of grandeur – thinking you are very important, a special person who is going to save the world for example. This may be an exaggeration of what you actually believe about yourself and can lead to dangerous behavior such as spending large amounts of money in the belief that you are very wealthy.
- Delusions of persecution – believing someone is plotting against you or trying to hurt you in some way. This may result in the individual lashing out as a way of protecting themselves from what they believe is going on around them.
How is delusional disorder diagnosed?
If there are symptoms, your doctor will undertake a comprehensive medical history and physical examination in order to determine whether you have this condition or any other mental disorder. This information will be used in conjunction with your family history, age and current medication use if applicable.
These are the basic steps involved in diagnosing delusional disorder:
- Obtaining a medical history of the patient including conditions treated currently or previously, physical illnesses suffered by the patient and family history of mental illness, particularly delusions and paranoid thinking
- Obtaining a detailed account of the patient’s experienced symptoms including how often they occur and any times or situations when they seem to be triggered
- Ascertaining whether there is a history of any hallucinatory experiences such as hearing voices, seeing things or strange sensations in the body or mind
- Checking for physical symptoms that may be causing delusions including headaches, high fever, abnormal blood pressure readings and so on
- A review of the patient’s current medications to identify any side effects or interactions with other drugs that may cause hallucinations or delusions.
- Ascertaining whether there is a family history of similar symptoms in patients or any history of hallucinatory experiences in family members
Any other relevant information obtained from the patient may be included in making a diagnosis so it is important to give as much detail as you can about your symptoms.
A treatment plan will be developed based on all this information. Your doctor may also get more information from tests including blood samples, X-ray scans, CT scans and so on.
Treatment for delusional disorder
There are several treatment options available to manage symptoms of delusional disorder including:
- Psychological therapies including behavior therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which will involve learning ways to understand and control your thoughts, feelings and behaviors
- Family therapy for those affected by the disorder
- Regular psychiatric checkups to review symptoms, any side effects from medication and progress with treatment.
Antipsychotics are the first line of treatment for delusional disorder. The following drugs are used to treat this condition:
Some antidepressant medications can also be used to treat delusional disorder including:
These medications may help reduce the symptoms of delusions and hallucinations but they do not cure this condition. The symptoms may return if you stop taking them as well as they do not treat the underlying causes for delusions and hallucinations.
Additional medications such as clonazepam (Klonopin) or lorazepam (Ativan) can also be used to reduce anxiety and tension experienced by those with delusional disorder. Your doctor will advise you on the most appropriate medication for your symptoms.
Delusional disorder is a long term condition which requires ongoing management and treatment plan to keep symptoms under control. You may need to be admitted to hospital from time to time if symptoms are severe or there is a risk of hurting yourself or others.
Before coming in contact with any medications, make sure that the doctor is aware of other conditions you may have such as diabetes, glaucoma or liver disease and any allergies to medication. Also advise your doctor if you take over the counter medications and supplements so they can check for drug interactions and side effects.
Conclusion: If you’ve been experiencing symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and paranoid thinking for a while now, it may be time to see your doctor. Delusional disorder is not an uncommon condition which can range from mild to severe depending on the patient. There are treatment options available that will help manage these symptoms including medications like antipsychotics or antidepressants which can reduce anxiety and tension experienced by those with delusional disorder.
The most important thing though is getting diagnosed correctly so that you start taking the right medication sooner rather than later! Let us know if we can help answer any questions about this condition or find out whether there are any other treatments available in our comment section below!