Delusional disorder, (previously called paranoid disorder,) is a type of serious mental illness called a “psychosis“ in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. The main feature of this disorder is the presence of delusions, which are unshakable beliefs in something untrue.
People with delusional disorder experience non-bizarre delusions, which involve situations that could occur in real life, such as being followed, poisoned, deceived, conspired against, or loved from a distance. These delusions usually involve the misinterpretation of perceptions or experiences. In reality, however, the situations are either not true at all or highly exaggerated.
People with delusional disorder often can continue to socialize and function normally, apart from the subject of their delusion, and generally do not behave in an obviously odd or in a bizarre manner. This is unlike people with other psychotic disorders, who also might have delusions as a symptom of their disorder. In some cases, however, people with delusional disorder might become so preoccupied with their delusions that their lives are disrupted.
Types of delusional disorder
There are different types of delusional disorder based on the main theme of the delusions experienced. The types of delusional disorder include:
- Erotomanic — Someone with this type of delusional disorder believes that another person, often someone important or famous, is in love with him or her. The person might attempt to contact the object of the delusion, and stalking behavior is not uncommon.
- Grandiose — A person with this type of delusional disorder has an over-inflated sense of worth, power, knowledge, or identity. The person might believe he or she has a great talent or has made an important discovery.
- Jealous — A person with this type of delusional disorder believes that his or her spouse or sexual partner is unfaithful.
- Persecutory — People with this type of delusional disorder believe that they (or someone close to them) are being mistreated, or that someone is spying on them or planning to harm them. It is not uncommon for people with this type of delusional disorder to make repeated complaints to legal authorities.
- Somatic — A person with this type of delusional disorder believes that he or she has a physical defect or medical problem.
- Mixed — People with this type of delusional disorder have two or more of the types of delusions listed above.
There are no systematic studies on treatment approaches and results in Delusional Disorder. The patient’s distrust and suspiciousness usually prevents any contact with a therapist.
Hospitalization is indicated if a potential for danger is present; otherwise outpatient management is advisable. Unfortunately, involuntary hospitalization may increase distrust and resentment and increase the patient’s persecutory delusions.
Antipsychotic medication may be useful, particularly for accompanying anxiety, agitation, and psychosis. Because patients may be suspicious of medication, depot forms may be helpful. Although antipsychotics may have a good response, they are often only marginally effective for specific forms of Delusional Disorder.
Other treatments have been tried (electroconvulsive therapy, insulin shock therapy, and psychosurgery), but these approaches are not recommended.
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