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Delusional Disorder – Types, Symptoms, Causes, Complications and Treatment

Overview

Delusional disorder, previously known as paranoid disorder, is a mental illness known as ‘psychosis’. People suffering from this disorder cannot differ from imagination to reality. In such cases, medical intervention is required. This article discusses delusional disorder, its types, symptoms, causes, complications, and treatment options in detail.

What is delusional disorder?

As mentioned earlier, delusional disorder is a mental illness known as psychosis. The main symptom of this disorder is delusions, meaning the patient experiences unshakable beliefs in something untrue. People with delusional disorder suffer from non-bizarre delusions that involve real-life situations such as being followed, poisoned, deceived, and conspiracies against them. However, these events may not always be true. These delusions generally involve the misreading of perceptions or experiences. However, in reality, the situations are either completely false or highly distorted.

People with delusional disorder can function quite normally and continue to socialize. Apart from the subject of their delusion, they generally do not behave abnormally. This is unlike people with other psychotic disorders, having delusions as a symptom of their disorder. However, in certain cases, the lives of patients with this disorder are disrupted.

What are the types of delusional disorders?

 The types are based on the main delusion include:

  • Erotomanic – Patients with this type of delusional disorder believe that another person, often someone important or famous, is in love with them. They might attempt to contact them, which can lead to stalking behaviour.
  • Grandiose – In this type of delusional disorder, the patients have an over-inflated sense of worth, power, identity, or knowledge leading them to believe that they have great talent or have made an important discovery.
  • Jealous – Here, the patient believes that their spouse or sexual partner is unfaithful.
  • Persecutory – In this type of disorder, the patients believe that they or someone close to them is being ill-treated or spied on or planning to harm them. They can make repeated complaints to legal authorities.
  • Somatic – Patients with this type of delusional disorder believe that they have a physical defect or medical problem.
  • Mixed – Patients experiencing this type of delusional disorder may have two or more of the above-said type of delusions.

What are the symptoms of delusional disorder?

 The presence of non-bizarre delusions is the most visible symptom of this disorder. The other symptoms that might appear include:

When should you call the doctor?

People must seek medical help from a qualified professional as soon as possible if they or their loved one is experiencing delusions because early intervention and mental health support may positively affect the person’s outlook.

What are the causes of delusional disorder?

 As with many other psychotic disorders, the accurate cause is still unknown. However, certain triggers such as drug use, lack of sleep, and other environmental factors and illnesses lead to delusional disorder. Additionally, certain situations can lead to specific types of delusional disorder.

Researchers are looking at the role of factors such as: 

How is a delusional disorder diagnosed?

Delusional disorder is diagnosed through a psychiatric evaluation in which the doctor assesses the person’s behaviour and asks questions about what they are experiencing. Tests and X-rays may be used to determine if an underlying illness is causing the symptoms.

What are the complications of delusional disorder?

The following are some of the complications of delusional disorder: 

  • Patients may suffer from depression, often due to the difficulties associated with their delusions.
  • People acting on their delusions might exhibit violence and legal problems due to this.
  • Patients may alienate themselves from others, mainly when the delusions interfere with or damage their relationships.

What is the treatment for delusional disorders?

The treatment of psychosis might involve a combination of medications and therapy. The majority of people experience an improvement in their symptoms with treatment which includes:

Rapid tranquilization 

Sometimes, people who experience delusions might become agitated and be at risk of hurting themselves or others. Therefore, it may be necessary to calm them down quickly with rapid tranquilization in such cases. It is a fast-acting injection or liquid medication to quickly relax the person, administered by a doctor or an emergency response personnel.

Medication

The symptoms of delusional disorders can be managed with medications known as antipsychotics. They minimize hallucinations and delusions and help people think with greater clarity. The type of antipsychotic that the doctor prescribes is dependent on the symptoms. In the majority of the cases, people are only required to take antipsychotics for a short time until their symptoms are manageable whereas others might need to take them for a longer period.

Psychosocial treatments 

Different psychosocial treatments may help with the behavioural and psychological problems. Psychotherapies that can be helpful in the treatment of delusional disorder include the following:

  • Individual psychotherapy – can help people recognize and correct distorted thoughts.
  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) – helps people learn to recognize and change the thought patterns and behaviours that cause troublesome feelings.
  • Family therapy – can help families deal more effectively with a loved one who has a delusional disorder, allowing them to contribute to a manageable outcome for the person.

Conclusion 

Delusional disorder is a chronic condition, but when properly treated, the majority of people with this disorder can find relief from their symptoms. Some people recover completely, whereas others have bouts of delusional beliefs with periods of remission (lack of symptoms).

Unfortunately, most people with this disorder do not seek help because they might be too embarrassed or afraid. Without treatment, delusional disorder can be a life-long illness for people.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can delusional disorder be prevented?

There is no known way to prevent delusional disorder, but early diagnosis and treatment may help in decreasing the disruption to people’s life, family, and friendships.

What is the outlook for people with a delusional disorder?

The outlook for people with delusional disorder varies depending on the person, the type of delusional disorder, the circumstances of their life, and the availability of support and willingness to stick with treatment.

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