Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of delusional disorder is an important step toward getting help for yourself or your loved one. Haverhill Pavilion Behavioral Health Hospital in Haverhill, Massachusetts, is a source of accurate information, reliable guidance, and comprehensive solutions for adults and older adults who have been struggling with delusional disorder.
Learn about delusional disorder
Delusional disorder is an illness that is characterized by rigid adherence to beliefs that are disconnected from observable reality and that do not change even in the light of obvious contradictory evidence.
The clinical term for these beliefs is “delusions.” When a person experiences one or more delusions that last for at least one month, they may meet the criteria for a diagnosis of delusional disorder.
Several subtypes exist within the general category of delusional disorder. These subtypes are differentiated by the nature of a person’s delusions:
- Erotomanic – People who have this subtype of delusional disorder believe that someone (including possibly a celebrity or someone else they have never met) is in love with them.
- Grandiose – Individuals who struggle with this subtype of delusional disorder believe that they possess some incredible talent or quality, or have achieved a great accomplishment, yet they have not been recognized for their abilities or successes.
- Jealous – This subtype of delusional disorder involves the persistent belief that a person’s spouse or romantic partner is being unfaithful.
- Persecutory – A person who has this subtype of delusional disorder will think that they are being followed, harassed, conspired against, spied on, or otherwise victimized by malicious forces that are acting against them.
- Somatic – An individual with this subtype of delusional disorder will experience delusions that are related to physical sensations or bodily functions. They may believe that they have a medical disorder or physical defect, or that their body has been infested by some type of parasitic life-form.
- Mixed – This subtype is applied to people whose delusions are not dominated by any single one of the themes or concepts listed above.
- Unspecified – This subtype describes individuals who struggle with delusions that do not fit any of the other subtypes.
People who develop delusional disorder may experience considerable difficulties within the context of their personal, academic, and professional lives. However, delusional disorder does respond to effective professional care. When a person gets the type and level of help that they need, they can learn to manage their symptoms and can achieve improved wellness.
Common signs and symptoms of delusional disorder
Delusions are the one common symptom among all people who have delusional disorder. However, as noted in the previous section, the nature and severity of delusions can vary significantly from person to person. This can lead to many different signs and symptoms of delusional disorder, including the following:
- Constantly accusing a romantic partner of cheating or being unfaithful
- Frequently attempting to contact a famous person because you believe that person is in love with you
- Claiming that you have a special or secret relationship with a prominent individual
- Attempting to attain legal or legislative protection from what you believe are the conspiratorial actions of others
- Writing dozens or even hundreds of letters to protest perceived slights, to profess your love, or to request assistance
- Seeking medical help for nonexistent physical ailments or abnormalities
- Lying or otherwise acting deceptively in order to avoid being spied on by the government or to evade other hostile forces that wish to inflict harm upon you
- Acting aggressively or even violently toward individuals who you believe are attempting to hurt you or undermine your progress
- Angry outbursts
- Mood swings
- Obsessive thoughts
- Impaired judgment
- Dysphoria (this is a clinical term that describes a state of generalized unease or dissatisfaction with life)
Possible short-term effects of delusional disorder
Anyone who struggles with delusional disorder is at risk for several short- and long-term effects. Examples of common short-term effects of delusional disorder include the following:
- Difficulties in relationships with family members, friends, colleagues, or peers
- Substandard performance in school or at work
- Medical problems related to poor self-care or violent behaviors
- Legal problems related to aggression, violence, or certain other behaviors that are symptomatic of delusional disorder
- Social withdrawal
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Please note that describing these outcomes as short-term effects of delusional disorder is not meant to imply that they are fleeting, superficial, or otherwise not to be taken seriously. The short-term effects of delusional disorder in this section are here because they are more likely to occur earlier in a person’s experience with this illness.
Anyone who experiences any short-term effects of delusional disorder may be in significant danger and should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare provider.
Potential long-term effects of delusional disorder
A person who continues to struggle with the signs and symptoms of delusional disorder may be at increasingly greater risk for several long-term effects. Common long-term effects of delusional disorder include the following:
- Destroyed relationships with family members, friends, or others
- Loss of personal support network
- Academic failure
- Job loss
- Chronic unemployment
- Worsening physical health
- Continued legal problems, including arrest and incarceration
- Social isolation
Both the short- and long-term effects of delusional disorder can have a devastating impact on a person’s life. There is no such thing as a safe short- or long-term effect of delusional disorder. Any person who has experienced any signs, symptoms, or effects of delusional disorder is in danger and needs effective professional care.
With the right help, a person whose life has been impacted by the long-term effects of delusional disorder can avoid future harm and begin to heal from past damage. With proper professional care, you can manage the symptoms of delusional disorder and achieve improved quality of life.