Have you heard of Delusional Disorder? Probably not. This uncommon psychiatric disorder is fairly rare, not plaguing many. But for those who do suffer with the disorder, the effects can be detrimental to their health, happiness and ability to live normally. Understanding delusional disorder is the first step in helping those suffering its consequences overcome the stigma of experiencing delusions on a daily basis. This can help victims realize that they are not alone in their fight.
What is Delusional Disorder?
This is a psychiatric disorder that is fairly uncommon. It presents symptoms that are similar to psychosis; yet those who are diagnosed do not have any accompanying hallucinations or other types of disorders, such as a mood or severe anxiety disorder. Those diagnosed face their delusions daily, which often become disruptive to everyday life. In some extreme cases, those diagnosed cannot function by themselves and need to be hospitalized or constantly watched. It is important to note here that the delusions experienced by these patients are not connected to any type of drug abuse or prescription medication. There are also several types of delusional disorders including jealous and paranoid delusions.
Delusional Disorder Symptoms
Those who suffer from this disorder have a very small range of symptoms that are often accidentally attributed to other disorders. Delusional Disorder in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) has the diagnostic criteria of:
- Non-bizarre delusions that are present for one month or more
- No hallucinations or very few
- No memory loss
- No odd behaviors
There is no baseline or base range for adults with Delusional Disorder of any kind because it is so uncommon. While schizophrenia has an estimated prevalence of 1%, this disorder has a prevalence of about 0.03%, which is extremely low for any medical or psychiatric disorder. This can make diagnosis difficult. Those who have been diagnosed are usually between the ages of 18 and 40, showing that this is not a disorder that appears in childhood, but rather, in early and late adulthood.
Delusional Disorder: Jealous Type
In this type of delusional disorder a person believes that their significant other is not faithful to them. Mostly, it results around their partner being sexually unfaithful. However, some with jealous type will also believe and fear in their partner being emotionally unfaithful as well. In its mildest version, the patient may be considered jealous or overbearing. In more severe circumstances, the delusions can wreak havoc on the relationship. The person may also become violent or suicidal if the delusional person feels that their relationship is being threatened.
Delusional Disorder: Erotomanic Type
This is when the person diagnosed believes that someone is in love with them. Oftentimes they believe that someone in a position of power or in the public eye is the one in love with them. In some ways it can appear to be simply an infatuation with a certain public figure, when in fact it is a delusion. In severe cases, the patient may actually stalk the person involved in their delusion.
Delusional Disorder: Grandiose Type
This is when the person experiences delusions of grandeur. They believe that they are greater than they really are. Some believe that they hold a special authority, special power, or even that they are related to a popular public figure. Depending on the type and severity of the delusions being experienced, the person could unknowingly put themselves in harms way.
Persecutory Delusional Disorder
In this type, the person who is diagnosed believes that some harm is going to come against someone close them. A best friend, significant other, or family member is often the target of the imagined harm. Oftentimes the delusions revolve around a child’s safety, as the parent feels that their child is in danger. The person can believe that it will be physical, mental, or emotional harm and they will often act in ways to try and prevent it from occurring.
Paranoid Delusional Disorder
This type shares some similarities with Paranoid Schizophrenia. The diagnosed person often feels as if someone is after them or is wishing to do harm to them. However, unlike with Paranoid Schizophrenics, they will not act in a way to stop this perceived danger.
Somatic Delusional Disorder
An individual with this type believes that they have a medical disorder; but they do not. They will claim to have conditions like cancer and believe it wholeheartedly. It is not believed that they make claims to seem more important or to gain attention, but that they genuinely believe that they suffer with the disease.
Those with mixed type delusion disorder have symptoms of more than one type of the disorder. For example, someone with mixed type might have delusions of grandeur and also believe that their family member is in grave danger. These two delusions fall under different types. Most with delusional disorder fall under the mixed category.
Delusional Disorder Treatment
Since Delusional Disorder is a very uncommon disorder, there is no specific treatment plan. Each person who is diagnosed with delusional disorder is treated differently depending on their type and the symptoms they exhibit; and with what medications and therapies their doctor feels will work best for their circumstances. However, there are some treatment options many physician use. Here are some of the most popular treatments that can be used to help treat patients with this disorder:
- Psychotherapy: This is popular treatment for many disorders that are accompanied with severe delusions or hallucinations. A key to psychotherapy is that the patient and therapist have a good relationship and that the patient trusts their therapist. Once this is accomplished a therapist can begin to try and shift a patient’s frame of mind and focus them on the more positive aspects of their life. This slowly leads to a therapist being able to challenge the beliefs set forth by a patients delusions. This is a very successful treatment when done right; however, it is a long and difficult process for both the patient and therapist and can take months (or even years) for progress to be made.
- Medication: If one cannot establish a good patient-therapist relationship they can look into medications that might help with their symptoms. Of course, this isn’t going to help cure the disorder, but it is a good option to help a patient lead a symptom free, more normal and functional life. Anti-psychotic medication is what most psychiatrists recommend for those with delusional disorder.
- Self-Help: Although this isn’t the preferred method of treatment for any kind of serious mental health issue, some people can benefit form some sorts of self help programs, coupled with more traditional treatment methods. Keep in mind though, that those suffering with the paranoid type of delusions may only be able to trust themselves with their treatment, so self help methods are crucial (at least at the beginning of their treatment plan).. Some communities have support groups for disorders like delusional disorder which can be helpful for someone trying to receive treatment for themselves. Even if it isn’t the most effective treatment it is much better than no seeking treatment at all.
- Partial Hospitalization: Some people can be a danger to themselves and others and this may require hospitalization. However, holding someone with delusional disorder can actually set them back because it is playing into their delusions. However, partial hospitalization can be positive because it allows these people to be free and live their life while also having someone to keep an eye on them at times.
Treatments to Avoid
Through trial and error psychiatrists and doctors have come to an agreement on what therapies are not highly effective for those with delusional disorder. These include:
- Hospitalization (if at all possible it is best to avoid)
- Insulin Shock Therapy
- Electroconvulsive Therapy
These types of treatment are not helpful in most cases for treating a person suffering from delusional disorder. In fact, these treatments can actually be dangerous, harmful, and even counter intuitive with some people.
With very little information available, it is almost impossible to know everything about delusional disorder. Those who suffer from any type of this disorder are unique and can often feel alone in their struggle. Many times they do not understand their feelings or why they feel the way they do. Therapists and doctors can only help them so far. Knowing as much as possible about disorder like this one can help ordinary people understand a disorder that anyone could be struggling from. A general knowledge can help those diagnosed not feel so alone in their struggle.