Raya Bidshahri, 13 April 2014
We are all deluded in on way or another. Whether its the politician with delusions of grandeur, the dreadful singer on American idol auditions or the friend who finds chocolate disgusting, we all perceive ourselves and the world around us in a way others don’t. As perplexing as it sounds, there are people who find cold objects hot, smooth objects rough, and smell things others don’t.
However, these are merely minor delusions, if anything, and are nothing compared to the actual clinical brain disorders that lead a patient to be considered delusional. These psychiatric and delusional disorders, as bewildering as they are, can give us a rare insight into the sheer complexity of the human brain.
A person or patient who is delusional is someone with an immutable, persistent, and most importantly, false belief in something that has absolutely no basis in reality. They resist all arguments and evidence that they are wrong and blindly remain fixed on their delusion. Whilst reading this, one cant help but accumulate a list of people whom all of these characteristics seemingly apply to but I assure you, they are nothing compared to the five main types of delusions pointed out by psychiatrists. Patients who experience these delusions often experience them consistently for a long period of time and show no other symptoms related to schizophrenia.
The first one is what they call an “Erotomanic” delusion and it is when a person believes that another person is seriously and romantically in love with them. It’s very often a Hollywood star or a superior at work. Normal people who are suspicious of someone having a crush on them may do very little but patients with an Erotomatic delusion utilize a great deal of time and energy contacting their delusional lover via emails, visiting and stalking them.
Then there’s the “Grandiose” delusion and it’s when a person believes that they are special and have extraordinary unparalleled abilities or have made a significant discovery, when they in fact have done neither. These delusions may sometimes lead the person to feel that they are a prominent person with special relationship with others or may even be religious, leading to believe that they have a unique connection with a diving being.
Next is the “Jealous” delusion or the unsubstantiated belief that a partner is being unfaithful. People with this delusion often hire a private detective and in worse cases, attempt to imprison their partner as well as verbally and physically assault them.
Fascinatingly, The most common type of delusion is a “Persecutory” one where the person strongly believes that someone or a group is conspiring against them. They are often very indignant and scornful for they believe that they are being cheated, spied on, harassed, gossiped about or even poisoned and drugged. Many attempt to take legal measures but fail to proved evidence to authorities regarding their claims. In extreme cases, they get vicious and aggressive towards people whom they wrongly suspect is targeting them.
The last one is the “Somatic” delusion and is not very different to an intriguing disorder known as the Body Dismorphic Disorder. Here, the individual is deluded to believe that his or her body is strange and not functioning properly. This delusion can come in many different types, sometimes is the consistent belief that one smells odd and other times that a particular part of the body is misshaped. In most cases, however, people believe that they may have some internal bug, insect or parasite that is affecting a specific part of the body regardless of medical examinations proving otherwise.
Unfortunately, the causes of these delusions, in particular the extreme ones, still remain a mystery. Various studies have pointed to different biological features of the brain being associated with such disorders including the basal ganglia and neo-cortex. Some researches have found stastical evidence that there is a genetic basis for delusions, as so many patients seem to have first-degree relatives with related disorders. Others have pointed to the fact that many with the disorder have had difficult and often abusive childhood.
Nevertheless, innovations and developments in neuroscience and brain scanning technology leave a lot of hope in unraveling the mysteries of delusions in the near future. It’s astonishing, really, how small minor false beliefs that we all have can develop into such outrageous delusions in some of us.