Causes, Signs, & Effects of Delusional Disorder

Are you concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with delusional disorder? Learn about the causes, signs, and effects to identify whether professional treatment may be necessary.

Understanding Delusional Disorder

Learn about delusional disorder

The beliefs we hold about life and reality rule our everyday lives. Delusions are beliefs that are held strongly, despite evidence to the contrary. When an individual believes something that is not actually happening, yet he or she holds on to that belief despite evidence pointing otherwise, that person may have delusional disorder.

Individuals with delusional disorder can have difficulty identifying myth from reality. When the person experiences episodes of delusion or false thoughts for more than a month and those delusions are not stemmed from another physical or mental health condition, a diagnosis of delusional disorder may apply. This condition could have an impact on the person’s daily living, although, fortunately, it does not necessarily prevent that individual from functioning within society on an ongoing basis.

This mental health condition can cause a person to display varying types of delusions, including:

  • Erotomanic Delusion – This happens when an individual believes that a specific person is in love with him or her.
  • Somatic Delusion – This type of delusion makes a person feel his or her body is invaded by outside forces, illness, or insects, among other things.
  • Jealous Delusion – This occurs when a person has the belief that a partner is unfaithful.
  • Grandiose Delusion – This occurs when a person believes that he or she is famous or has an impeccable talent.
  • Persecutory Delusion – This type of delusion makes an individual feel as if he or she is being held back, attacked, or plotted against.

This type of disorder will only manifest once the individual speaks about irrational ideas and delusional beliefs and refuses to listen to those who think otherwise.

Even if it is not a hindrance to functionality and performance of daily tasks, delusional disorder can still have serious effects and complications on a person’s life. Luckily, there are treatments available that can help an individual recover and manage this mental health condition.

Statistics

Delusional disorder statistics

Based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 0.2% of the population may experience delusional disorder at least once in life. This type of condition affects both men and women, although men have a higher risk of developing jealous delusions.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for delusional disorder

Genetic: A history of schizophrenia and schizotypal personality disorder poses a higher risk for individuals to develop delusional disorder. Older people are also more at risk of developing this condition than their younger counterparts.

Risk Factors:

  • History of schizotypal personality disorder or schizophrenia
  • Being of older age

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of delusional disorder

Just like other mental health disorders, the symptoms of delusional disorder may vary from person to person, especially considering the motivation of these delusions. The following are symptoms to look for in order to help identify delusional disorder:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Aggressiveness either towards a specific person or to others
  • Unusual or abnormal behavior such as removing “insects” on the skin that are not there in reality
  • Inability to perform well at work
  • Extensive antagonism such as filing a law suit against someone even if unnecessary
  • Ability to perform well in other areas not related to the delusion

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Believing that someone is deeply in love with the individual
  • Believing that his or her partner is being unfaithful
  • Believing that the body has a foul smell or is being invaded by insects
  • Believing that someone is out to harm the individual
  • Believing that the individual has achieved great things or is popular

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Consistent tension in romantic situations
  • Difficulty socializing

Effects

Effects of delusional disorder

Fortunately, delusional disorder allows an individual to perform regular tasks unlike other psychotic disorders or schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Nevertheless, this disorder can have a great impact on the individual’s personal life.

The possible negative effects of struggling with delusional disorder can include:

  • Conflict in relationships
  • Job loss
  • Interaction with the legal system
  • Difficulty socializing or building relationships
  • Self-imposed withdrawal or isolation from others
  • Hatred, violent, or cruelty against others
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Self-inflicted injury to address the delusion, which is often present in those experiencing somatic delusions
  • Inability to manage finances
  • Development or worsening of other mental health disorders

Thankfully, delusional disorder is treatable. Medication and therapy treatments offer individuals with delusional disorder a way to recover from this condition even if the delusions are severe and posing as a hindrance to the individual.