Delusions — Part 1 of 3

Many individuals get confused with the terms, illusions, delusions and hallucinations. I’ve discussed the topic of illusions here. Today, I will begin to discuss the topic of delusions. Since it is fairly long, I will divide it into 3 separate parts.

Part 1 — Definition and Overview of Delusions

Part 2 — Types of Delusions

Part 3 — Medical Conditions Associated With Development of Delusions

delusionA delusion is commonly defined as a fixed false belief and is used in everyday language to describe a belief that is either false, fanciful or derived from deception. Delusions typically occur in the context of neurological or mental illness, although they are not tied to any particular disease and have been found to occur in the context of many pathological states (both physical and mental).

  • The patient expresses an idea or belief with unusual persistence or force. That idea appears to exert an undue influence on his or her life, and the way of life is often altered to an inexplicable extent.
  • Despite his/her profound conviction, there is often a quality of secretiveness or suspicion when the patient is questioned about it.
  • The individual tends to be humorless and oversensitive, especially about the belief.
  • No matter how unlikely it is that these strange things are happening to him, the patient accepts them relatively unquestioningly.
  • An attempt to contradict the belief is likely to arouse an inappropriately strong emotional reaction, often with irritability and hostility.
  • The belief is, at the least, unlikely.
  • The patient is emotionally over-invested in the idea and it overwhelms other elements of his mind.
  • The delusion, if acted out, often leads to behaviors which are abnormal and/or out of character, although perhaps understandable in the light of the delusional beliefs.
  • Individuals who know the patient will observe that his belief and behavior are uncharacteristic and alien.
  • It is a primary disorder.
  • It is a stable disorder characterized by the presence of delusions to which the patient clings with extraordinary tenacity.
  • The illness is chronic and frequently lifelong.
  • The delusions are logically constructed and internally consistent.
  • The delusions do not interfere with general logical reasoning (although within the delusional system the logic is perverted) and there is usually no general disturbance of behavior. If disturbed behavior does occur, it is directly related to the delusional beliefs.
  • The individual experiences a heightened sense of self-reference. Events which, to others, are nonsignificant are of enormous significance to him or her, and the atmosphere surrounding the delusions is highly charged.

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