A young single woman having romance difficulties believes that each and every partner from a terminated relationship is stalking her. There are no signs of stalking. A middle aged man believes that as each new year approaches, he has a different kind of cancer. There are no signs of cancer. A young man from rural middle America believes that Beyonce is in love with him. He has never met Beyonce. All three of these examples represent patients with paranoia and delusional disorders.
As with many mental disorders the formula of genetics (nature) and environment (nurture) merge at the right time in a patient’s life to cause the condition. A patient with a genetic predisposition to the disorder encounters a situation or life event that creates an environment for the perfect storm. The result is a collapse of mental functioning and sound reasoning. Factors that exacerbate the onset of paranoia and delusional disorders are stress, alcohol and drug abuse.
Symptoms of paranoia and delusional disorders include the following:
• Mistrust of other people
• Excessive feeling of being betrayed or victimized
• Imagined criticism and responding inappropriately with a defensive attitude
• Feelings that others are taking advantage of them
• Hanging on to grudges (the inability to forgive)
• Inability to distinguish reality from imagination
There are six types of delusional disorders and they are briefly discussed below:
Somatic: If an individual continually believes they have a sickness that is not present and cannot be verified by medical professionals, they are said to have somatic delusional disorder.
Persecutory: If an individual believes that others have the intent to harm or mistreat them and the belief is untrue, they are said to have persecutory delusional disorder.
Jealous: If an individual believes that their spouse or partner is cheating on them, there is no evidence of cheating, yet the person continues to believe they are being betrayed, they are said to have jealous delusional disorder.
Grandiose: If an individual has an overinflated sense of self, if they believe their contributions to society are enormous when in fact they are not or if they believe they have extraordinary talents in a certain area when their talents are average, they are said to have grandiose delusional disorder.
Erotomanic: If an individual believes that a very important or well known person is in love with him or her and if they make attempts to contact the person through means including stalking, they are said to have erotomanic delusional disorder.
Combination or Mixed: It is possible for an individual to have two or more of these five types of disorders and that being the case, their diagnosis is mixed delusional disorders.
Diagnosis may include a physical exam, including blood analysis, and if the results are normal, physical or biological causes may be eliminated. If symptoms persist after the physical exam, the patient would be referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist trained to diagnosis mental illness. Treatment may be difficult because the patient may not be able to see their delusions and recognize that a problem exists. Medications, including tranquilizers, anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs may be prescribed. Other therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), individual therapy and family therapy. In any event, there is hope for patients with paranoia and delusional disorders if they are guided by a trained professional therapist.
Written by Donna Lynes Miller, Content Strategist & Lead Copywriter for In Session