The Midweek Sun
Many a times we engage with individuals with beliefs that we do not comprehend and also detached from reality. Delusions are false, fixed beliefs that are held with conviction despite evidence to the contrary. Delusions are often associated with several mental disorders and will be the subject of our discussion today.
There are various forms of delusions that include paranoid, grandiose, religious and somatic. Grandiose delusions are characterised by the belief that one has special skills and/or power (exaggerated importance). With paranoid or persecutory delusions, an individual believes that people are out to harm them. Somatic delusions on the other hand are beliefs about one’s body such that one of the organs is not functioning or missing. Religious delusions involve beliefs that one has a special relationship with a higher power.
What causes delusions? There are no exact causes of delusions but existing evidence posit that a combination of genetic, environmental and neurobiological factors are a likely cause of delusions. An imbalance of dopamine in the brain; particularly high levels of dopamine have been linked to delusions. In fact, individuals with a family history of schizophrenia are more likely to experience. Delusions are positive signs of schizophrenia.
Substance use is one other factor that can result in experience of delusions. There is documented evidence that drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana to name but a few, can facilitate development of delusions. Additionally, stressful situations and traumatic events like sexual abuse can trigger delusions in vulnerable individuals.
Interacting with individuals having delusions is difficult. It is important that we empathise with them and convey respect. There are situations when an individual having delusions accuses family members of plotting their downfall, it is imperative not to personalise the accusations but rather actively listen to the individual and only validate parts of the conversation that are true.
Most often than not, individuals experiencing delusions are often rebuked but it is important for them to seek professional help. There is some treatment for delusions which is a multifaceted approach.
Treatment can involve the use of psychotropics. Antipsychotics are the most common primary treatment for delusions. Therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioural therapy can also be an option.