Delusional Disorder Diagnosis and Treatment
Learn more about delusional disorder diagnosis, the different types, causes and symptoms, and treatment options.
Table of Contents
What is Delusional Disorder?
Delusional disorder is a form of psychosis in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. The characterizing trait of delusional disorder, as the name implies, is delusions. Delusions are unshakeable beliefs that something is true when proven otherwise.
Delusions come in many different forms. This disorder was previously known as paranoid disorder because of frequent beliefs in patients that they’re being followed, watched, or conspired against. They may believe that people even love them from a distance. In these instances, though, these scenarios are untrue or are greatly exaggerated.2
Types of Delusional Disorders
- Erotomanic: The delusion that another person is in love with the person suffering from the mental disorder. In many instances, the individual at the center of the delusion is famous or well-known. Individuals suffering from erotomanic delusions will often try to contact the object of delusion and stalk them.
- Grandiose: Grandiose delusions lead the individual suffering from delusional disorder to believe that they’re powerful or knowledgeable. It leads to an over-inflated sense of identity and narcissistic behaviors.
- Jealous: Delusions that involve an individual’s partner or spouse being unfaithful.
- Persecutory: Individuals who suffer from persecutory delusions believe that they’re the subject of mistreatment and that someone is out to get them. This is the basis of the former title of delusional disorder, paranoid disorder.
- Somatic: Delusions that cause an individual to believe that they have a medical problem or physical disability.
- Mixed: In some cases, individuals suffer from more than one kind of delusion, making the disorder even more complex.
Causes and Symptoms of Delusional Disorder
Causes of Delusional Disorder
- Genetic: Individuals who have delusional disorder are more likely to have family members suffering from it, as well. This leads researchers to believe that the cause may be genetic in nature.
- Biological: Abnormal brain regions may lead to an increased likelihood of developing delusional disorder.
- Environmental or Psychological: It’s believed that stress from environmental factors, or substance abuse, may lead to delusional disorder.
Symptoms of Delusional Disorder
- Irritable or angry mood for seemingly no reason.
- Hallucinations, seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there. These are related to the delusion. If a person believes that someone is following them, they may hear footsteps that aren’t really there.
- Non-bizarre delusions or situations that could happen in real life but aren’t.
How is Delusional Disorder Diagnosed?
If a doctor suspects that an individual is suffering from delusional disorder, several things will need to occur. First, a physician will perform a thorough medical examination. This helps the physician determine if this runs in the family.
They’ll likely want to conduct a physical exam, as well as diagnostic tests. These are used to rule out any other issues that may be occurring, like injuries to the brain or compounds present in the body that cause hallucinations.
Finally, when other issues have been ruled out, an interview and assessment will occur with a psychiatrist. This is to help determine if the person indeed is suffering from delusions and that what they believe is, in fact, untrue.
How is Delusional Disorder Treated?
Treatment for delusional disorder isn’t clean cut. Different people need different treatment. Still, many treatments will consist of a combination of medicine and therapy.
Atypical antipsychotics are being developed, as well. These newer medicines don’t come with the movement side effects of the older drugs. They work by blocking dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain. Some common examples are clozapine, aripiprazole, and lurasidone.
Other medications that have been used include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to help reduce the mood-altering symptoms of delusional disorder.
- Individual Psychotherapy: Therapy to help the individual recognize and correct distorted thoughts to reduce the impact of the delusions.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Therapy to help identify thought patterns that lead to troublesome thoughts or feelings and the tools to help correct those thought patterns.
- Family Therapy: Therapy designed to help the family learn how to help the individual suffering from delusional disorder.
Outlook for People with Delusional Disorder
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent delusional disorder from occurring. Until we learn more about it, it will still be treated after appearing rather than before.