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January 5, 2012

What is Delusional Disorder?

For a person with Delusional Disorder, the line between what is real and what is imagined is blurred. Once known as "Paranoid Disorder," Delusional Disorder is a mental illness characterized by RECURRING non-bizarre delusions, which are non-wavering beliefs in something that's actually untrue. For a person with Delusional Disorder, delusions center on scenarios that COULD happen, even if they are far-fetched. Known as NON-BIZARRE delusions, such scenarios include being followed, cheated on, conspired against, or poisoned. These delusions usually involve the misinterpretation of perceptions or experiences. In reality, however, the situations are either not true at all or HIGHLY exaggerated. For most people with this condition, delusions center around one specific theme. Knowing this, psychiatrists sub-categorize Delusional Disorder into five groups: Erotomanic, Grandiose, Jealousy, Somatic and Persecutory. Erotomanic Delusional Disorder is illustrated by a sufferer's adamant belief that someone else is in love with him from afar. Grandiose Delusional Disorder is characterized by delusions of power and supreme importance. And when a person obsesses about a romantic partner's fidelity, Jealousy Delusional Disorder is present. Somatic Delusional Disorder, meanwhile, is characterized by a sufferer's belief that he has a physical defect or medical problem. Finally, Persecutory Delusional Disorder occurs when an individual thinks that he is being mistreated, spied upon, or conspired against. People whose fantasies fit in more than one of these categories are said to have a sixth type: MIXED Delusional Disorder. Regardless of the classification, most sufferers tend to function and socialize normally outside of their delusions. This inconsistency makes the disease specifically interesting to researchers who suspect that people with Delusional Disorder have an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters in their brains. They have also found that people with the condition in their immediate families are more likely to develop it, as well. Additionally, certain environmental factors, like alcohol or drug abuse, may also contribute to the condition. Regardless of the cause, if a person is suspected of having Delusional Disorder, other illnesses, like schizophrenia, must first be ruled out. Once a diagnosis is made, the cornerstone of treatment, psychotherapy, can begin. Some patients find that individual talk therapy is useful to help them recognize their distorted thinking while others experience success with cognitive-behavioral therapy, which makes it possible to CHANGE delusional thought patterns. Often, talk therapy is supplemented with one of the many types of antipsychotic medication on the market. Older antipsychotics, like Thorazine and Prolixin as well as newer options, like Risperdol and Seroquel are used to calm neurotransmitter activity in the brain, in turn reducing delusions. In some cases, antidepressants or tranquilizers may also help ease the anxiety and sadness that can come with this illness. Although Delusional Disorder is a chronic problem, these treatments can allow a person to experience a great deal of relief. So if you believe you or a loved one are affected, it's vital to make an appointment with your doctor!

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Last Updated:
December 20, 2012