Delusion is a type of serious mental illness that is also called psychosis in which a person believes in something that is not really there. The main characteristic of delusion is the unshakable belief about something that is not true.
Meanwhile, people with non-bizarre delusional disorders experience situations that can occur in real life, such as feeling being followed, poisoned, cheated, conspiracy to fight themselves, or loving from a distance.
This delusion usually involves misinterpretation of perception or experience. But in reality, the situation presented in the sufferer’s thinking is not true at all or is very excessive.
In general, people with delusional disorders can socialize and function normally, regardless of their imaginary subject. However, in some cases people with delusional disorders may become so busy with their delusions that their lives are disrupted.
Once you know what delusions are, it’s also worth noting that delusional disorders occur most often in middle to late life and are more frequent in women than in men.
There are various types of delusional disorders based on the main theme of the delusions experienced. Types of delusional disorders include:
- Erotomania: Someone with this type of delusional disorder believes that other people, (often important or famous people) fall in love with him. The sufferer can try to contact the imaginary object and stalk the imaginary object’s behavior.
- Grandiose: A person with this type of delusional disorder feels he has more strength, energy, knowledge, and even an identity than others. This person can believe that he has great talent or has made important discoveries.
- Jealous: A person with this type of delusional disorder believes that their partner is unfaithful.
- Persecutory: Someone with this type of delusional disorder believes that they (or someone close to him) are being persecuted, or that someone is spying on them or is planning to hurt. However, people with this delusional disorder do not report it to legal authorities.
- Somatic: A person with this type of delusional disorder believes that he has a physical disability or medical problem.
- Mixed: People with this type of delusional disorder have two or more types of delusions listed above
The presence of non-bizarre delusions is the most obvious symptom of this disorder. Other symptoms that appear include:
- Easily irritated, angry, or in a mood that is always sad.
- Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that don’t really exist) are related to delusions (for example, someone who believes he has a smell problem might be able to complain of smelling unpleasant odors such as the smell of corpses or the smell of garbage when there are no corpses or trash).
Causes of Delusions
Like many other psychotic disorders, the exact cause of delusional disorders is unknown. The researchers looked at the role of various genetic, biological, environmental or psychological factors.
Facts prove that delusional disorders are more common in people who have family members with delusional disorders or schizophrenia. From this it can be suspected there might be genetic factors involved.
Researchers are studying how abnormalities in certain parts of the brain might be involved in the development of delusional disorders. Abnormalities in the functioning of the brain areas that control perceptions and thoughts that might influence the formation of delusional symptoms.
Evidence shows that delusional disorders can be triggered by stress. In addition, alcohol and drug abuse may also contribute to the condition. People who tend to be isolated, such as immigrants or people with poor eyesight and hearing, appear to be more susceptible to delusional disorders.
If symptoms of a delusional disorder appear, the doctor can perform a complete medical history and physical examination. Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose delusional disorders, doctors can use a variety of diagnostic tests, such as imaging studies or blood tests, to rule out physical illness as a cause of symptoms.
If the doctor does not find physical illness, the doctor can refer patients to psychiatrists, psychologists, health workers who are specifically trained to diagnose and treat mental disorders.
Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interviews as an assessment tool to evaluate whether a person has a psychotic disorder.
The doctor or therapist will make observations on a person’s attitude and behavior.
The doctor or therapist then determines whether the symptoms experienced by the patient lead to a certain disorder. The diagnosis of delusional disorders is established if a person has non-bizarre delusions for at least one month and does not have typical symptoms of other psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.
Treatment for delusional disorders that are most commonly used are antipsychotic drugs and psychotherapy (a type of counseling). Delusional disorders can be difficult to treat because sufferers often have poor insights and cannot realize there are psychiatric problems in him.
Research shows that almost half of patients treated with antipsychotic drugs show at least a partial (not total) improvement.
Meanwhile, antipsychotic drugs are the main treatment for delusional disorders. Sometimes, psychotherapy can also be an addition to help patients better manage and deal with stress.
Psychotherapy that can help in delusional disorders includes:
- Individual psychotherapy: Can help people recognize and correct underlying thoughts that have been distorted into other thoughts.
- Cognitive and behavioral therapy: Can help people learn to recognize and change mindsets and behavior.
- Family therapy: Helping patients’ families to deal more effectively with families who have delusional disorders.
Whereas the main drug used to treat delusional disorders is called anti-psychotic. Medications used include:
- Conventional antipsychotics
This drug, also called neuroleptic, has been used to treat mental disorders since the mid 1950s. This drug works by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter believed to be involved in the development of delusions. . Conventional antipsychotics include Thorazine, Loxapine, Prolixin, Haldol, Navane, Stelazine, Trilafon, and Mellaril.
- Atypical antipsychotics
These drugs are more effective in treating symptoms of delusional disorders because they have fewer side effects than conventional antipsychotics. This drug works by blocking dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain.
Serotonin is another neurotransmitter besides dopamine which is believed to be involved in delusional disorders. These drugs include Risperdal, Clozaril, Seroquel, Geodon, and Zyprexa.
- Other drugs
Sedatives and antidepressants can be used to treat anxiety or mood symptoms that are unstable. When there is a combination of delusional disorders, sedatives and antidepressants can be used to treat anxiety symptoms or mood symptoms that are not stable. Sedation can be used if the sufferer experiences anxiety and sleep problems.
Antidepressants can be used to treat depression, which often occurs in people with delusional disorders. People with severe symptoms or who are at risk of self-injury or others may need to be hospitalized until their condition is stable.
- People with delusional disorders are more likely to experience depression.
- Act because of their own thoughts and can do violence or relating to legal issues.
- People with this disorder can become alienated from others, especially if delusions interfere with or damage social relations.
Prospects for people with delusional disorders vary depending on the person and the type of delusional disorder, including the availability of support, especially from family and willingness to continue treatment.
Delusional disorders usually (continuously) reach chronic conditions, but when treated properly, many people with this disorder can find relief from their symptoms. Some people recover completely and some others experience episodes of delusional beliefs with repeated periods with fewer symptoms.
Unfortunately, many people with this disorder do not seek help. It is difficult for people with mental disorders to admit that they are experiencing mental problems. They may also be too shy or afraid to seek treatment. Without treatment, delusional disorders can become a lifelong disease.
Can Delusions Be Prevented?
Until now there is no known way to prevent delusional disorders. However, early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce disturbances to sufferers, families, and maintain social relationships.