This symptom is common in psychotic and paranoid disorders.
It is common that on some occasion, and especially under high levels of stress, we find ourselves faced with the firm belief that someone is watching us, that someone is following us or that someone is talking about us even though this is not true.
However, when these ideas flood the mind of the person and one is not able to see reality, we can speak of the well-known delusions. Throughout this article we will delve into the nature of this experience, as well as its causes, types and differences with other false beliefs.
What are delusions?
Within the scope of psychopathology , delirium is understood to be a false belief or idea that the patient accepts with complete conviction, despite the fact that external evidence or evidence shows the opposite. Although it has not yet been possible to generate a fully accepted and satisfactory description of this concept, the previous description would be one of the most approximate.
Despite its pathological characteristics, delirium is not considered a mental illness or disorder by itself, but rather it would be a symptom of a wide variety of psychological conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, mania or depression psychotic.
During the course of delirium, the mental state of the person undergoes a great number of changes. These make the patient experience feelings of confusion and behavioral disturbances.
Other manifestations or problems of delusional states are:
- Sudden changes between states of lucidity and unconsciousness.
- Loss of contact with reality.
- Alteration of attention and memory.
- Emotional ups and downs.
- Muscle control problems.
- Sleep disturbances.
Although, as specified in the previous point, delusions do not constitute a clinical disorder, but are part of a larger pathological picture. Of course, they must meet a series of special and specific requirements in order for them to be considered as such.
Some authors and researchers have developed a series of defining constructs of delirium. These dimensions or constructs are given in the form of continuums that start from what is considered a normal belief, even a pathological one, and are key to being able to differentiate delusion from other types of beliefs or erroneous ideas. These characteristics are what we will see below.
1. Fixed and unchangeable beliefs or ideas
The delirium must be maintained over time ; being little or nothing possible that it can be modified or corrected regardless of the evidence against it.
2. Intense conviction
A delusion is a firmly held idea. That is, the person blindly believes in a specific idea or event.
3. Lack of cultural supports
It is necessary to specify that the idea that the patient maintains cannot be shared by other people or cultural group. This means that for the belief to be considered irrational it cannot be shared or accepted by the rest of the reference society.
4. Excess of concern
Unlike other types of false or irrational beliefs, in delusions the person presents great concern or rumination of the delusional idea, which implies significant psychological wear and tear since the patient thinks about it obsessively.
5. Degree of likelihood
This last criterion refers to the degree of probability that exists that the idea can be real. This degree of plausibility can vary from one delusion to another. This means that although in some cases it is easy to detect the impossibility of the delusional idea, in others it can be totally plausible but false.
What causes do they have?
Delusions and delusions have as their origin a series of mental and psychological disorders that accompany it and give it shape. These psychological conditions are:
- Paranoid disorders.
- Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal Personality Disorders.
- Affective disorders such as psychotic depression and mania.
However, they can also be part of other disorders of organic origin derived from the consumption of drugs and alcohol in abuse, as well as detoxification processes and as a secondary reaction to certain drugs.
What types of delusions are there?
Despite the large number of existing delusions, these can be categorized and classified according to their content. Next we will see some of the most frequent and known.
1. Paranoid delusion
In the case of paranoid ideas, the person is convinced that a person or group wants to cause some kind of harm, be it physical, psychological or social.This delusion can be specified in the idea that others want to kill him or that someone is trying to drive him crazy.
2. Delusion of persecution
People with delusions of persecution firmly affirm that someone is persecuting them, or even that there is a conspiracy against them. This persecution can be either on the street, directly, or in a more veiled way: patients may think that they are entering their house, opening their mail or registering their mobile devices or computers.
3. Delusion of grandeur
The content of this delusion is manifested by an excessive self-assessment of the abilities and powers of the patient; who attributes special abilities as well as a high regard for his own identity.
4. Delusion of reference
As its name indicates, in the delusion of reference the patient believes that certain events, phrases or statements of other people have to do with him or have a special meaning that has to do with him.
It is common for these patients to think that both the media and other people are sending them all kinds of messages.
5. Somatic delirium
In the latter case, the patient shows the conviction that he is sick or his body is getting sick. In the same way, you may perceive a series of false changes or abnormalities in it, these are only a small sample of what is actually a long list of delusions and delusions.
Other well-known delusions are:
- Delusion of control.
- Metacognitive delusion.
- Delusion of guilt or sin.
- Celotypical delusion.
- Delusion of false identification.
- Erotomanic delusion.
What is the difference between a delusion and a hallucination?
The fact that on many occasions they occur together and share certain characteristics makes delusions and hallucinations frequently confused. However, once we know what delusions consist of, it is much easier to differentiate them.
Unlike delusions, hallucinations are an original product of the person’s mind. That is, they do not really exist in reality or in the external world of this. Furthermore, just as delusion consists of an idea, hallucinations can be auditory, visual, tactile or even taste experiences. Therefore, the main difference between the two concepts is that hallucination is a totally original product and invented by the person’s mind, while delusion would be a distortion of an external stimulus.
For example, in a delusion the person may perceive a real stimulus such as the radio; however the mind of this distorts the message or interprets it as a kind of communication for him. Whereas in hallucination the auditory stimulus would be completely invented by the mind, not being able to be perceived by anyone else.
The delusion would consist of a belief or erroneous interpretation of reality based on a real fact, situation or stimulus. However, both concepts have a point in common. In this case, it is that the patients are fully convinced of the reality and veracity of their ideas or beliefs.