The primary symptom of delusional disorder is having delusions. Those with this kind of disorder believe in something that is not based on actual life or not true at all. But even so, it still does not mean that their delusions are not realistic. Their fragmented reality is not so far off as they could take place in reality, such as being deceived, poisoned, loved from a distance, or conspired against, etc. Their delusions are generally mistaken experiences or perceptions which in real life are only exaggerated or did not have any truth to it at all.
There is another type of delusion where the idea is out of this world as it can never occur in reality, like getting your thoughts broadcasted on TV or being cloned by aliens. This kind of delusion is called bizarre delusion.
Those who have delusional disorders can function and socialize in a normal way except the subject of their delusion. These people do not have weird or unusual behaviors, unlike those with psychotic disorders. Some of those with psychotic disorders may also have delusions as part of their symptoms. People with delusional disorder can live normal lives except when their delusions become so severe that they get too preoccupied with them, which then disrupts their daily living.
Delusional disorder is more commonly experienced by women than men and usually occurs in their mid to late life. Though this type of disorder is not so common, it may be a symptom of a more common disorder like schizophrenia.
Types of Delusions in Delusional Disorders
The type of delusion is based on the subject of delusion. These are:
- Erotomanic: This is when a person thinks that a famous or an important personality is in love with them to the point of trying to contact that other person, which can lead to stalking.
- Grandiose: Those with this kind of delusion have a grand sense of power, identity, knowledge, or worth to the point of believing that they have made a great discovery or they possess a special talent.
- Jealous: This type of delusion involves the person believing that their partner or spouse is unfaithful with them.
- Persecutory: Those with this delusion believe that either someone close to them or they are being spied on, being mistreated, or someone is trying to harm them. These people end up making repeated calls to authorities to make complaints.
- Somatic: People with this type of delusion think that they have a medical condition or a physical defect.
- Mixed: Some of those with delusional disorder may have a combination of more than two types of the ones mentioned.
What are the Symptoms of Delusional Disorder?
Symptoms for this disorder may have the following:
- Low mood, irritable, or angry
- Having hallucinations which mean hearing, feeling or seeing things that are not there in reality
- Not so odd delusions, which is also the most common symptom
- Oversensitivity about a belief.
- Reacts with hostility, and does not accept other opinions.
Causes of Delusions of Superhuman Strength
Like several other psychotic disorders, the exact nature of what causes delusional disorder has not been determined yet. Though some possible factors are being considered, such as environmental, psychological, genetic, or biological.
- Genetic: It is believed that delusional disorders may be passed on from the parents to the children, which is also true for mental disorders. It is suggested that this condition is more common for those who have family members who have schizophrenia or delusional disorder as well. This is the reason why genes may be involved.
- Biological: Studies are being made if any associations between brain regions are not normally functioning, and the symptoms of delusions. This was hypothesized as the abnormal brain regions controlling thinking and perception may influence the experience of delusion.
- Environmental/ Psychological: Delusional disorder may be provoked by stress, as well as drug or alcohol abuse. Other factors that are believed to influence this condition are isolation, and those who have poor hearing or poor sight.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you think you are experiencing any of the symptoms of delusional disorder, do not hesitate to seek medical help. See your doctor so you can be properly diagnosed. During your consultation with your doctor, you may be asked about your medical history and go through some physical exams. There are no lab tests to assess delusional disorder, but some diagnostic tests may be performed, such as blood tests and some imaging tests. These are done to be sure that there is no physical illness or other medical conditions involved.
The doctors will try to see if these conditions will be ruled out:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Other disorders in the spectrum of schizophrenia
Once the doctor has confirmed that there is no physical illness, the patient will then be referred to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other health care professionals who are trained to deal with mental conditions and are capable of making a diagnosis and giving treatments for this kind of disorder. The process will involve some assessment tools as well as an interview so the patient can be evaluated for a psychotic disorder.
The diagnosis will be based on the patient’s symptoms as well as the doctor’s observation of the patient’s behavior and attitude. After this, a decision will be made if the person’s symptoms spot a disorder.
The delusional disorder may be confirmed if:
- The patient is experiencing more than one symptom of delusion and does not go away for more than a month.
- The patient has no confirmed diagnosis of schizophrenia and may be experiencing hallucinations that are associated with their experience of delusion.
- Though they have delusions, they can live a normal life, and their behavior is normal as well.
- They experience manic or depressive episodes that are short-lived as opposed to having delusions.
- Other factors have been ruled out such as mental disorder, medical condition or medication
How is Delusional Disorder Treated?
Delusional disorder is usually treated through a type of counseling called psychotherapy and may be combined with medication. This type of disorder is quite challenging to treat partly because of the reason that they do not have a very good insight, and are not even aware that they have a psychiatric issue. Half of the patients that were given antipsychotic medicines have shown that these patients have exhibited some improvements.
The main type of medicines that are used as a treatment for delusional disorders is antipsychotics. Some of these are:
- Conventional Antipsychotics: These drugs have been used since the ‘50s as a treatment for mental disorders. They are also called neuroleptics, and they function by blocking the dopamine receptors in the brain, which is said to influence delusions.
Some of these drugs include:
- Atypical Antipsychotics: These are the newer versions of medicines that are used as a treatment for delusional disorder, and are said to have fewer side effects than the old ones. These types of antipsychotics block the serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain. These neurotransmitters are said to cause delusions.
Some of these medicines are:
- Invega Sustenna
- Other medications: If the patient has mood or anxiety symptoms along with delusional disorder, they may also be treated using antidepressants and sedatives. And if the patient has a high level of anxiety or is having difficulty sleeping, tranquilizers may also be prescribed. For those who are experiencing depression, which is somewhat common to those with delusional disorder, antidepressants are prescribed to treat the depression.
Risks of Having
- Those who have the delusional disorder have the tendency to experience depression as well. This is because of the challenges that they go through with having delusions.
- People with delusional disorder and are acting on their delusions may tend to become violent or may have problems in terms of legal matters. If their behavior gets out a hand, they could even get arrested. This type of scenario usually happens in those with erotomanic delusion, who reaches the point where they harass or stalk their target of delusion.
- Having a delusional disorder may lead to isolation. This happens when their delusions already affect their relationship with other people.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If you think you know someone who is displaying any symptoms of delusional disorder, get medical help for this person right away. Get in touch with his or her health care provider, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professionals so that the person can be diagnosed accurately and be given the appropriate treatment.
This is highly important before the condition gets worse and before the person can cause harm either to him/herself or to others, especially if the object of delusion is another person.