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4 Types of Delusions & Extensive List of Themes

Delusions are considered inaccurate beliefs held by an individual, (typically with a mental illness), regardless of logical evidence disproving the belief.  A delusion differs from a belief that is held based on insufficient information or perceptual feedback.  An example of a non-deluded belief was when scientists initially thought that the Earth was the center of the solar system in the 4th century BCE.

As they gained new scientific insight into space with new technology (16th century), they updated their previously held false belief.  Based on the accumulated scientific knowledge, we all now know that the Sun is in fact the center of the solar system.  Someone that still believes [with conviction] that the Earth is the center of the solar system, despite significant evidence to the contrary, would be “deluded” in their thought.

Although a majority of delusions manifest as a result of excess dopaminergic activity, it is difficult to pinpoint the specific neurochemical abnormalities responsible for every delusion.  In addition to positive symptoms of schizophrenia, delusions may occur in cases of psychotic depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, as well as those who abuse illicit drugs.

What are delusions?

In the earliest days of psychology, diagnostic criteria for delusions were developed by Karl Jaspers.  Jaspers wrote an essay called “General Psychopathology” in 1910 that discussed delusions and various aspects of jealousy.  He had specific criteria that included three key descriptors including: certainty (conviction), incorrigibility (unchangeable), and impossibility of content (implausible).

  1. Certainty: Individuals that hold delusions are certain in their beliefs; they believe with 100% conviction that they are real, despite significant logical evidence to the contrary.
  2. Incorrigibility: Those with delusions will not update their false beliefs even if presented with overwhelming logical evidence suggesting that the opposite is true. Despite scientific evidence to suggest that their way of thinking is flawed, they aren’t able to escape their deluded perception.
  3. Impossibility: The delusion that a person holds is not only untrue, but generally impossible or highly implausible to be true. Some of the delusions may not only seem like an obvious impossibility, but they may seem highly bizarre.

4 General Types of Delusions

There are many different, specific types of delusions that people may experience.  According to the DSM-V, there are four specific classifications for delusions.

  1. Bizarre delusions: These types of delusions are considered extremely odd, highly implausible, and inappropriate based on the person’s culture and life experiences. An example of a bizarre delusion would be the belief that an alien performed surgery and replaced all of their blood with Kool-Aid without leaving a scar.
  2. Non-bizarre delusions: These are considered delusions that theoretically are possible, but still unlikely based on circumstances. An example of a non-bizarre delusion would be that an individual believes they are being secretly video-taped and phone-tapped by the F.B.I. as part of an investigation.
  3. Mood-congruent delusions: These are considered delusions that directly stem from a person’s mood (e.g. depression or mania). A person with severe depression may believe that strangers hate seeing him.  A person with mania however may believe that they are a celebrity and should be recognized by TMZ or that by thinking happy thoughts, the sun will come out on a cloudy day.
  4. Mood-neutral delusions: A mood-neutral delusion is a false belief that isn’t directly related to a person’s emotional state. In other words, the delusion doesn’t stem from depressive or manic thoughts.  An example of a mood-neutral delusion would be the false belief that your neighbor can project and insert thoughts into your head.

Specific Themes of Delusions

In addition to there being 4 general diagnostic types of delusions for a DSM-V diagnosis, there are also more specific themes of delusions.  These themes range from: control (e.g. another person is able to control your brain) to grandeur (e.g. believing that you are God) to mind reading (e.g. others can read your mind).  Some themes are more common than others.

Delusions of control: This is defined as a false belief that an external being, group, or energy is capable of controlling a person’s thoughts, ultimately influencing their emotions and behavior.  Those experiencing delusions of control may believe that a group of people is forcing them to drive around the block three times, move their right arm up and down, or kick a fire hydrant.

  • Thought broadcasting: This is the false belief that a person’s thoughts can be heard by others as if they are audible to everyone in their environment.
  • Thought insertion: This is the false belief that others are inserting specific thoughts into the person’s head.  A person may believe that they are being forced to think about the Mayan calendar by a religious group.
  • Thought withdrawal: This is the false idea that people are able to intercept and remove a person’s thoughts. A person may believe that their thoughts are being “stolen” from their brain by others.

Capgras delusions: This is a type of delusion in which a person believes that someone they know (e.g. a family member or friend) has been replaced by an impostor with an identical appearance.  This specific delusional theme often occurs among those that have been formally diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, dementia, or those that have endured a brain injury.

Clinical lycanthropy: This is another rare delusional theme in which a person believes they can morph from human into an animal.  An example would be someone thinking that they were blessed with a special superhuman ability, allowing them to transform into a wolf.  Keep in mind that this is one of the rarer delusional themes on this list.

Cotard delusions: These can be described as delusions in which a person believes they are already dead.  A person with Cotard delusions may deny that they exist and some of these individuals may simultaneously experience delusions of immortality.  “Cotard” delusions were named in honor of Jules Cotard, a neurologist who discovered this condition in the 1880s.  The DSM does not include Cotard delusions in its specific diagnostic criteria.

Erotomania: Another delusional theme is that of erotomania in which an individual believes that a celebrity is in love with them.  For example, a person may watch the Yankees and believe that Derek Jeter is their soulmate and sending signs of love only to them.  Those with erotomania often attempt to contact the celebrity with gifts, letters, emails, and phone calls despite no reciprocation from the celebrity.  In extreme cases, the individual may resort to becoming a stalker.

Fregoli delusions: These are considered extremely rare delusions in which a person believes that different people are all just a single person that is capable of morphing his/her appearance as a disguise.  Some have speculated that these delusions are most associated with brain lesions or damage.  If you experienced this delusion, you would think that everyone you see at the store is actually the same entity – just morphing into different people.

Delusions of guilt or sin (self-accusation): This type of delusions involve feeling guilty or remorseful for no valid reason.  An example would be someone that believes they were responsible for a war in another country or hurricane damage in another state.  In this case, the person believes that they deserve to be punished for their sins and place full blame on themselves.  A person may see a crime on the news and believe that they were involved and to blame, despite the fact that they had never committed a crime.

Delusions of grandeur: Those experiencing grandiose delusions believe that they are a deity, have special powers (e.g. they can fly), rare abilities, or hidden talents.  Some people with delusions of grandeur may believe that they are an incarnation of a god (e.g. Jesus Christ), a famous musician, or professional sports player.  People experiencing this delusional theme believe that they should be praised for their talents and achievements, and therefore should be publically recognized.

Delusions of immortality: Some people may experience the delusion that they are immortal.  Up to half of individuals experiencing Cotard delusions (the belief that they are already dead) also believe that they are immortal.  Although this is a relatively uncommon delusional theme, it often occurs among individuals with nihilistic delusions.

Internet delusions: Since the boom of the internet in the 2000s, there have been delusional themes in which people believed they were being controlled by the Internet.  As more individuals connect to the world-wide-web in coming years, expect the number of cases of internet-based delusions to increase.  An example could be that someone believes that Google is controlling their brain and behaviors.

Delusions of jealousy: Those experiencing delusions of jealousy often believe that their significant other is having an affair, which leads to feelings of jealousy.  Those that experience delusions of jealousy often have struggled with problems of preexisting pathological jealousy.  Many people experiencing delusional jealousy repeatedly collect evidence in attempt to justify their delusions of infidelity.  Eventually the individual with this delusion will confront their partner and present them with the accumulated “evidence” despite the fact that it shows nothing.

Delusions of mind being read: Some people experience false beliefs that another person or other people can read their mind and knows exactly what they’re thinking.  This is different from delusions of control like thought broadcasting in that the individual doesn’t think that their thoughts are being perceived auditorily.  An example could be that you walk into a library and think that the librarian can read your mind.

Nihilistic delusions: This is a false belief associated with the nonexistence of the “self,” specific body parts, or the world.  Another variation of a nihilistic delusion could be that the self, body parts, and/or the world will be destroyed in the near future (e.g. the world will end).  These are often considered synonymous with Cotard syndrome.

Delusions of persecution: Persecutory delusions occur when a person falsely believes they are being conspired against by others, sometimes in attempt to achieve a goal.  An example would be if you thought your brother was trying to poison you by putting chemicals in your food that affected your ability to function at work.

Another example would be that the government is spying on them (e.g. tapping their phone lines) because they were wrongfully identified as a terrorist. Those with persecutory delusions often describe to others that all events they experience are in some way related to them being persecuted.

  • Attacked: People wrongfully believe that others are blatantly attacking them as a person.
  • Cheated: Some individuals believe that they are being cheated out of opportunities.
  • Conspired against: Some people believe that their neighbors or work colleagues are conspiring to get them fired from their job or to get them to move out of state.
  • Followed: It is very common for those with persecutory delusions to believe that they are being followed by other people (e.g. government spies).
  • Harassment: Certain people believe that others are harassing them and/or going out of their way to make life difficult.
  • Obstructed: Individuals think that others are trying to prevent them from achieving a certain goal.
  • Poisoned: A specific type of a persecutory delusion that people experience is that of poisoning. They may believe that a restaurant chef has put a poisonous substance in their salad in attempt to make them sick.
  • Spied upon: Other individuals believe that they are being spied upon by government officials (e.g. the C.I.A.).

Delusions of poverty: Some people believe that they are extremely poor and struggling financially, regardless of their current financial status.  This isn’t quite as common of a delusion compared to others on this list, but it was more common in early days when those experiencing mental illness failed to get government aid.

Religious delusions: These are considered delusions that have a religious or spiritual basis.  It is common for religious delusions to be connected to delusions of grandeur (e.g. a person believes they were “chosen” by a deity to become famous).  These may also be connected to delusions of control (e.g. that a God is hearing their thoughts), and delusions of guilt or sin (e.g. that they should go to “Hell” for a tornado that occurred in Kansas).  It should be noted that beliefs that are considered the norm for a particular religion or culture are not regarded as delusions.

Reduplicative paramnesia: Those with this delusional theme believe that a specific place or location has been replicated and exists in multiple locations simultaneously.  Sometimes an individual with this delusional theme may believe that a place has been relocated or transferred to another place.  This is a condition that is most often associated with brain injury.

Delusions of reference: An individual may believe that seemingly normal, insignificant events or occurrences have significant meaning.  An example would be finding a penny on the ground and believing that it is a sign that the person is guaranteed to win the lottery.  Another example would be watching a TV show and thinking that the host of the show has included specific messages just for them (e.g. seeing the color blue and believing it was preplanned because it’s the person’s favorite color).

Somatic delusions: A somatic delusion is a false belief that relates to a person’s body (functioning, sensations, etc.) and/or physical appearance.  An example would be someone thinking that they are carrying a rare virus or that mites have burrowed under their skin and are eating their intestines.

Truman Show delusions: This is a delusional theme in which a person believes their entire life is staged on a reality show (e.g. The Truman Show).  Those with the condition may experience a sense of grandiosity, but often times a simultaneous sense of persecution.  This is another relatively rare delusional theme to experience, but one that has been documented.

How are themes of delusions classified?

The above delusional themes are classified based on one of the four types of delusions.  The majority of the aforementioned themes fit into a theme of “bizarre” delusions or “non-bizarre” delusions.  Should a person experience an emotional state as in bipolar disorder in which they are manic or depressive, and the delusion is related to their mood, it would be an example of a mood-congruent delusion.  Delusions that aren’t related to any emotional state are considered mood-neutral.

Bizarre delusions

  • Delusions of control
  • Nihilistic delusions
  • Thought broadcasting
  • Thought insertion
  • Thought withdrawal

Non-bizarre delusions

  • Delusions of persecution
  • Delusions of guilt or sin
  • Delusions of grandeur
  • Delusions of jealousy
  • Delusions of mind being read
  • Religious delusions
  • Somatic delusions

Causes of Delusions (List)

It is often difficult to pinpoint the specific causes of delusions for every person.  Some people may have a mental illness (e.g. schizophrenia) that causes the delusions, while others may experience delusions as a result of drug abuse.  It is important to realize that two individuals may experience the same delusional themes, but the root cause may differ.

  • Alcohol: Those that are heavy drinkers may be prone to experiencing delusions while intoxicated. Individuals that have struggled with alcoholism may experience delusions during alcohol withdrawal.  Generally alcohol-induced delusions are temporary and subside as long as the individual completes a detoxification and remains sober.
  • Bipolar disorder: There is evidence that those with bipolar disorder may be more susceptible to experiencing delusions than average.  It is speculated that those with bipolar disorder are more likely to experience mood-congruent delusions or false beliefs directly related to their depressive or manic/hypomanic state.
  • Brain injury: Research has demonstrated that individuals with brain injuries, particularly to the frontal lobe and right hemisphere is capable of causing delusions.  Brain injuries can lead to cognitive impairment, which overtaxes the non-injured regions.  This overcompensation among non-injured regions (particularly the left hemisphere) can be a direct cause of delusions.
  • Bullying: While getting bullied doesn’t always cause delusions, those that get bullied experience profound changes in brain functioning if they are unable to cope.  Extensive bullying causes changes in brain activity, which can lead to mental illness and in some cases, psychotic symptoms such as delusions.  Children who are bullied are significantly more likely to experience delusions as teenagers than others.  Kids that are bullied experience delusions at a two-fold rate compared to others.
  • Cognitive impairment: Those who are cognitively impaired are also more likely to experience deluded thinking.  Poor cognition can lead to dysfunctional and distorted perceptions of environment, circumstances, and the self, making delusions more likely to occur.
  • Culture: Some cultures may be more likely to experience delusions than others.  There is also evidence that certain cultures are more prone to specific delusional themes than others.  In the West, people are more likely to experience delusions of guilt or sin, whereas in the Middle East, individuals are more likely to experience persecutory delusions.
  • Depression: Those experiencing severe depression may become so depressed, that they experience delusions.  When a person experiences delusions from depression, it may be related to neurochemical changes, a medication that the individual is taking, social isolation, and/or neurological changes as a result of long-term depression.  Delusions are more common among those with psychotic forms of depression.  In cases of depression, the delusions may have a depressive theme and thus be mood-congruent.
  • Drugs: Many cases of drug-induced psychosis have been documented as a result of illicit stimulatory drug abuse (e.g. cocaine).  While many delusions are experienced as a result of stimulant psychosis, delusions can also be experienced as a result of general drug-induced psychosis from non-stimulants like LSD.  Delusions are also commonly experienced upon discontinuation of illicit drugs.
  • Genetics: There is evidence that those with certain genetics are more prone to experiencing delusions than others.  Those with close [first-degree] relatives that have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, delusional disorder, or have experienced delusions are more likely to experience delusions themselves.  Exact genetics causing the delusions may differ based on the individual.
  • HVA levels: There is some evidence that levels of HVA (a dopamine metabolite) may cause delusions in some individuals.  Currently more research is warranted to back-up the initial findings that speculate HVA may be a causal factor.  Compared to individuals without delusions, those with abnormal levels of HVA were more likely to experience delusions of persecution and jealousy.
  • Social isolation: Those that isolate themselves from society for extended periods of time are more likely to experience delusions.  Social isolation is capable of changing regional activity in the brain, activating/deactivating certain genes (epigenetics), and altering neurotransmission.  Extensive social isolation alone may be a direct cause of delusions.
  • Medications: Those that are taking pharmaceutical drugs, especially those that affect the brain are more likely to experience delusions.  These pharmaceuticals alter neurotransmitter activity and receptor activation.  Particularly those that are taking high doses of ADHD medications (like dopamine reuptake inhibitors) may experience delusions directly as a result of excess dopamine.
  • Neurotransmitter dysfunction: Those that have a neurotransmitter or receptor imbalance may be more likely to experience delusions.  It is thought that high levels of dopamine in certain brain regions may directly cause delusions.  This is why individuals with excess dopamine are given antipsychotics to reduce dopamine levels, thus decreasing the delusions.
  • Personality disorders: A preexisting personality disorder or temperament may make a person more likely to experience delusions.  Environmental and genetic influences are thought to sculpt the personality, and may also make an individual more likely to experience delusions.  Influence of a person’s personality is thought to be high in regards to causing delusions.
  • Psychosis: Those that have experienced psychotic episodes, particularly those that were organic (e.g. non-drug induced) are likely to also experience delusions.  Psychosis is commonly associated with schizophrenia and is thought to be a result of dopamine dysfunction and stemming from genetic abnormalities.
  • Schizophrenia: People with schizophrenia are likely to experience delusions.  Delusions are considered a hallmark positive symptom of this disease (the other being hallucinations).  The specific types of delusions experienced may differ based on the specific type of schizophrenia.
  • Sensory deficits: Those with delusions are thought to often have sensory deficits such as: poor hearing, poor vision, or a combination of both.  Sensory deficits are known to alter brain functioning, perhaps in ways that make an individual more prone to delusions.  The sensory deficits may also lead to excess stress, which is another influential factor.
  • Stress: Excessive stress is known to cause delusions.  Stress increases stimulatory neurotransmitters and may actually kill brain cells if we aren’t able to calm down.  While a little stress every once in a while isn’t bad, harboring chronic stress and anxiety can alter the brain, making us more susceptible to deluded thinking.
  • Trauma: Those that have been through a traumatic experience may end up dealing with delusions as a result.  Trauma triggers off a high stress response and alters the way we think and our neurotransmission.  Not being able to turn off the fight-or-flight response can lead to a cascade of changes such as sleep deprivation, poor diet, etc. – which influence delusions.
  • Withdrawal: Those going through drug withdrawal may experience delusions.  Particularly those that have taken a drug at high doses and are tapering too quickly may be more prone to delusions.  It is also common for those that have taken drugs affecting dopamine levels to cause delusions upon withdrawal (e.g. Adderall withdrawal).

Treatment for Delusions

Not all cases of delusions require pharmaceutical treatment, some may just require an abstinence from illicit drugs.  That said, many people benefit from taking medications to keep their delusions at bay, particularly those that are caused from a mental illness or neurotransmitter dysfunction.

  • Antipsychotics: The most commonly administered treatment for delusions is that of antipsychotics.  Atypical antipsychotics are generally preferred compared to older “typical” ones due to the fact that they are effective and have less severe side effects.  Antipsychotics work by blocking dopamine receptors, thus inhibiting dopaminergic activity and decreasing delusions.
  • Psychotherapy: In addition to antipsychotics, those suffering from delusions often benefit most from psychotherapy.  This helps restructure their thinking and distinguish reality from their false perceptions.  While therapy isn’t an overnight success, it is a great long-term option for those suffering from delusions.  With therapy, individuals are able to learn various coping techniques and may be able to alter their behavioral responses when a delusional thought occurs.

Have you ever experienced delusions?

If you’ve ever experienced delusions, feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.  Discuss the specific type of delusion(s) that you experienced as well as the more specific theme.  To help others understand your situation, you may also want to include what you believe caused you to experience the delusion (e.g. mental illness, drug abuse, withdrawal, etc.).

Many people have experienced delusions at some point throughout their lives.  Those that experience chronic delusions as is the case with schizophrenia often require pharmaceutical intervention to get them under control.  How long did your delusional state last and how did you cope with the delusions?

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{ 47 comments… add one }
  • matt September 25, 2018, 1:18 am

    I have a combination of Truman Show Delusions and Religious Delusions. I always feel that god can hear my thoughts and he watches everything I do. I feel like I’m under his constant radar.

  • JW September 18, 2018, 4:08 am

    I have this delusion that I am stuck in right now and is actually making me nervous to post this that I am actually being tested on and watched by the government. On top of that, I am afraid I secretly want to kill someone and will without knowing or be blamed for a murder and so the cops know what I know and which is also why the government is experimenting on me and watching me.

    Everyone around me is part of the experiment to keep me here so I go with it because if they can hear my thoughts, then they will know that I know. I have been searching my room for cameras, but I know they are watching me and using the people around me to help them.

    I don’t know how else to explain it, but even if they see this, I don’t care right now. I want them to know I know.

  • Maggi August 30, 2018, 4:10 am

    My husband was diagnosed as being paranoid, AKA delusional disorder. After years of trying to understand and keep him happy, I was gutted with not the diagnosis but the lack of treatment. He had to get a handle on it. Oh, yay! He would not continue therapy, because the therapist was against him.

    He has destroyed my closest friendships as well as his own. These are people who stuck with us through horrific medical chaos. He thought his friend of more than 10 years was suddenly after me. He just turned his back on our next-door neighbor because he showed interest in me after I got out of the hospital.

    He has imagined a lurid affair between me and a former friend of his. He ambushes me almost daily, “So are you and X effing while I’m gone? Or is it the gardener?” This weekly torment is my cross to bear, because I didn’t listen to my therapist. She met him and after speaking with him, she said “Run don’t walk out of there. There is something wrong with him and it’s directed at you.”

    Just great and that’s what his therapist told me, since she was worried about me, as well. He actually believes that there are people in the trees watching us. The “tree people” is what our family calls it making a joke of it.

    Underneath the joking is the fact that it doesn’t make them any less real to him. Oh, and when we moved apparently the tree people came, too. So, to be a bit more succinct, he is all over the place from jealousy to persecutory delusions.

  • Hans April 25, 2018, 12:04 am

    I have this very strange delusion. Maybe you can tell me what it means. I don’t know, because my doctor and my family tell me I should get over it, and I know that I should, but I haven’t been able to yet. My delusion is that there’s this website that is trying to manipulate me by pretending it’s real when I know it isn’t.

    I know that’s hard for people to understand, and it’s hard to explain, but there’s a lot of fake things on the web and I hope you will know what I mean. It’s like they know all about me and they’re just telling me what they want me to think, but at the same time the whole thing is fake. It’s a website about mental illness.

    I can tell that it’s fake because there’s no way that one person could actually put together all that information on their own, and I can tell that it’s fake because every single person who comments says almost the same thing, the same way. It’s like there’s this whole group of real people who are pretending to be a whole bunch of fake people and that they want to convince me they’re real for some reason.

    I think that they might work for a pharmaceutical company or a supplement company or something like that. It’s kind of like being trapped in a nightmare where you take a mask off someone’s face and there’s no real face behind it, just some sort of grinning, evil thing that came from Hell, and sometimes I’m afraid that I’m going to end up being just like it.

    Does that make sense? Have you ever heard of anything like that?

    • Ann June 18, 2018, 11:47 am

      Post the link to this website that you think is about you. You can at least realize that it’s not a real website if you can’t post it. Part of my delusion also has the theme that “everyone is in on it” trying to fool me. It is sad, because it has changed my closest relationships.

      Sometimes I can’t even talk to my family because I don’t see them the way I used to or I feel like I can’t act natural. I know my delusion isn’t real, at least most of the time. But then for that split second that it feels real I start to question everything again.

      And then I feel unnatural… self conscious… anxious. My delusion is that I have created a simulation for myself, for my mind. And I’m playing a game in this simulation. My family members and everyone is just another one of my creations. Nothing is real except my true form, which I sometimes take.

      And when I take my true form I can see that this “life” is just a fake material world used as a distraction to keep me entertained. But my true form is very lonely, and wants the eternity of it to all end. But there is no end for my true form. It will live forever. At least that’s what I fear…

      You know this isn’t real. I just wish my brain never had those glitches that made me think it was real for even a moment. It all started with a bad trip on LSD years ago. I avoid all drugs and alcohol now and still have issues, though more rare. Definitely stress and hormone related.

  • Lorelai b March 18, 2018, 6:48 pm

    Okay, so I have this weird belief that god has set up an algorithm that people can use to get what they want. It is all very hard to explain, but basically the algorithm goes like this: If I say something is going to happen, it will not happen, and vice versa.

    I have found so much evidence of the algorithm, it’s not even funny. It exists, and some divine power has set it up so that it doesn’t have to make all of the decisions. I’m diagnosed with OCD and I don’t know if delusions can be triggered by OCD.

  • Lauren February 16, 2018, 2:47 pm

    I have always been paranoid since puberty when I suffered from a terrible depression, but when I got on meds my paranoid thoughts still lingered. I think people can hear my thoughts, think every one who touches me is are attacking me (especially doctors), and I like to be wrapped up in lots of clothing layers and sunglasses so I can be invisible.

    All I want to do is crawl under my desk at work and eat crackers. My psychiatrist thinks I’m schizoaffective but I believe I don’t have the negative symptoms for that diagnosis. I believe I have psychosis NOS.

  • Noelle February 9, 2018, 6:49 pm

    I’ve been paranoid for a while that I could broadcast my thoughts and others could hear them. It made me anxious especially around people who I cared about and didn’t want them to hear my often rambling and uncontrollable stream of thoughts. I don’t think it was a major delusion (it didn’t cause any significant changes in my life) and I don’t have any of the causes either that I’m aware of. Is that… typical?

  • JAMIE March 16, 2017, 9:31 pm

    A Science Fiction Author who was a contemporary of Asimov, Phillip K Dick, suffered from Schizophrenia and was an active amphetamine user in his later years. He wrote some books that have become famous for their movies, Blade Runner (“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”), Minority Report (from a short story with the same name), A Scanner Darkly, Total Recall (“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”) to name a few.

    Phillip K Dick experienced all sort of delusions and turned them into his novels that documented ideas such as the belief that you are not real (Blade runner – the main character is hired to track down androids that look exactly like humans. The new line of androids are so real looking, they even have false memories of growing up and are unaware that they are not human). For psych students studying this, check him out.

  • dave March 16, 2017, 3:53 am

    My wife has an extreme case of persecution type delusions. They were triggered when her wonderful step father died unnecessarily. She did not sleep for days, heard commanding voices in her head, became psychotic delusional and didn’t get help for years. She deprived herself of food and got down to 80-90 lbs. I begged her to get help but she refused.

    Finally when she “hit bottom” and couldn’t stand it any more she agreed to go to the hospital and then see a psychiatrist who gave her medication. She is much better, but still delusional. Her good days correlate 100% with getting a good night’s sleep. If she sleeps less than 8 hrs in a night, she always has an episode that can start upon waking or not until late afternoon.

    She then gets so worked up and emotional for about 2 hrs, after which she seems to come back to reality. Sleep is so important for my wife. It seems that it somehow recharges her brain or helps replenish needed brain chemicals that help her function normally.

    I feel that if she had gotten help as soon as she began hearing the commanding voices that her recovery would have been pretty quick. My advice to anyone who gets into this situation: seek psychiatric help for the person ASAP by whatever means possible.

  • Janice January 3, 2017, 4:08 pm

    I submitted to treatment as a young woman in 1979, for psychotic symptoms relating to depression. The depression was related to child abuse, also sexual abuse by close relatives. You might say I was like a poster child for mental illness. I am now 57 and still coping with psychotic symptoms.

  • george probeyahn December 23, 2016, 10:17 pm

    Is there any evidence of possible link of hormonal imbalance and delusional disorder?

  • Kthorn December 14, 2016, 4:09 am

    My 22 year old son believe Rihanna’s latest album was dedicated to him and she’s in love with him. He told me about helicopters following him. A new job he started was really run by the mafia. And “they are waiting for him to put an album out.” My question: Can this be a temporary thing? Will he ever be ok? Yes he just started therapy, but refuses medication.

  • Cade November 8, 2016, 7:51 pm

    This is very bizarre, but sometimes, especially upon waking up in the middle of the night, I will be completely convinced that time works differently than it really does. For example, I’ll believe that there are only a few hours in a day instead of 24; or that 2:00 is the only hour, and that once the clock hits 2:59 it will just go straight back to 2:00 again.

    Even when it becomes 3:00, the belief doesn’t fix itself. I don’t realize until the next morning that it’s completely insane to think any of this. I’ve never heard of anybody else having delusions like this.

  • Brandi October 31, 2016, 6:03 am

    I found this site trying to pinpoint what is going on with me. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had another child. There is no record of this child. I know that my last pregnancy was twins, though there is no hard evidence of it. My brother remembers me having twins, as does his wife and my husband has a vague feeling that we had a 4th child as well.

    His memory is not very good, though so it would be fairly easy to rewrite his memory, but not mine. I remember things to a T for years and years. This has been eating me alive for 2 years. I don’t know what to do and I’m afraid if I tell my therapist, he’ll have me committed. I’m afraid to go too much into detail for fear of being flagged by someone but I absolutely believe my child is in a parallel universe.

    I have felt his presence in my home for 2 years now, but he is nowhere to be found. Only in my memory and residual memories of others. I mostly ignored the gnawing pain until my brother and I were on the phone (he lives in another state and we don’t talk often as we can barely get along) and he asked about the kids. When I finished, he said “I thought you had 4 kids? (Wife) and I had a conversation about you having twins when you were pregnant.

    Are you sure?” It hit me like a ton of bricks. I am not crazy. I remember what someone wants me to forget.

  • Emily October 27, 2016, 6:20 pm

    This past summer I had extreme delusions. I thought I was the Virgin Mary, the world was about to end, a few people wanted to marry me, the paparazzi were following me, objects with eyes had actual souls inside of them, I had super powers, and that I was a vampire! This lasted from June to the end of September. I’ve been back to reality for a few weeks now and life seems so different now.

    I feel like I don’t belong here and everything seems strange. I chased all of my friends away. Thank God for my family! Whoever is going through Schizophrenia or had episodes in the past, please know you’re not alone and do not feel ashamed.

  • John October 17, 2016, 5:34 pm

    After nearly passing out one day, I visited my doctor and blood tests revealed I had low b12 levels. 3 weeks of intra-muscular b12 injections and my mental health has improved. Most noticeably, the B12 has allowed me enough insight to realise that I most likely need help and I have an appointment with a mental health team next week.

    My thoughts typically centered around humanity being changed or taken over by aliens, through content in television programmes. This was achieved by the aliens placing a symbol (a small circle within a larger circle) at the start of and during television programmes and films. (If you actually watch films and TV programmes, you will see that the small circle within a larger circle really is there a lot so my thoughts had at least some wonky evidence).

    My belief was that this symbol switches off the logical part of the brain, allowing television and film content to be received unconsciously. I thought that these aliens were slowly changing people through the media and that I was being changed into one of them and that I could also infect other people. Often a stranger would look at me and I’d think that they ‘knew’ that I was an alien. Usually this would be whilst I was shopping for food.

    Music also took on an ominous quality and I believed some music artists were aliens and had been taken over by an all-seeing-alien who would use music lyrics to mock those who were not aliens. Both Michael Jackson and Dido were aliens. Other celebrity ‘aliens’ include Mark Wahlberg and Brad Pitt. The Queen of England was also one. Other experiences include somatic or very tangible feelings of movements of energy.

    The sensation of an entity taking control of my body for example, and seeing through my eyes. Someone / something crowding around my head as if to protect me and then unscrewing something from the top of my head. With this experience, I heard a voice saying do not be afraid and there was a real sensation of pain with this. I also once had what I call a ‘donnie darko’ moment where it felt like a bubble of fluid energy burst out of my chest area and moved about in front of me, like it was exploring.

    If you’ve seen the film, ‘Donnie Darko’ you’ll know the scene I mean. There have been many more experiences. To me, these experiences were just ‘normal’ everyday experiences and since the B12, the hardest thing to come to terms with is that my thinking has been so ‘off’. What a wake up call!

  • Anne Beal October 12, 2016, 3:34 pm

    My mother-in-law abruptly developed reduplicative paramnesia. Nothing in particular showed up on scans but she had problems with blood pressure like Shy-Drager and her gait and tremors indicated Parkinsonism. We never did get satisfactory answers. She suffered with hallucinations, really bad ones, toward the end of her life.

    Both my mother and sister had imaginary friends when they were young. Both recalled the “friends” as being VERY real. How common is that? I guess I should add that my mother-in-law’s delusions and hallucinations began after she was put on Sinemet for her Parkinsonism. We always wondered if that was the cause, I thought the dopamine information was really interesting.

  • Rosary October 3, 2016, 4:39 pm

    The belief that my relationship was going to be better. The level of physical abuse lessened greatly but it did not stop the emotional, financial abuse, and stagnancy. It is NOT moving forward.

  • Susan C September 9, 2016, 3:49 pm

    It is a sign that I am becoming depressed when I start thinking that people don’t like me. Now I realize that no one is liked by everyone, and there probably are some folks who don’t care for me in reality; however, I’m talking about the feeling that no one likes me. This is not real, and I get myself out of it by going through the list of friends and people at work that I KNOW logically that do like me. I also take a low dose of Prozac, which is very helpful.

  • Shari August 16, 2016, 9:49 am

    This isn’t a comment as much as it’s a complaint. While it’s true that I’ve suffered erotomania in the past (around 2006-2010), for the past six years, through therapy, I’ve learned to distinguish fantasy from reality. My therapist told me it’s okay to have fantasies, as long as one keeps them separate from reality. However, too many times I’ve seen the scientific/medical communities sticking psychotic labels on people or spiritual beliefs they don’t understand.

    And since they don’t understand it, therefore it must be dismissed as so much nonsense, and the “patient” is a delusional wack-job. When what might actually be the case is that they’re simply exercising their right to worship whatever deities or “higher powers”, however and wherever they wish, as long it doesn’t break the law. I myself am Wiccan/Pagan, and subscribe to many tenets that most people think are very weird.

    Shrinks just love attacking us in particular as “crazy,” simply because they can’t necessarily explain, prove or disprove our beliefs. So they lock us in the loony bin and throw away the key–often literally. And why? Just because someone has a faith that can’t be explained away or proven with science.

    This falls dangerously close to religious persecution and prejudice, and I thought that had been dealt with a long time ago. So, bottom line? I refuse to be labeled by a bunch of shrinks too lazy to try figuring something out, but instead classify us as lunatics in their ponderous journals (all the jargon and polysyllabic words aside, I’ve actually read through nearly half of the DSM-V. And THAT’S what I call psychobabble), and better yet, mock us.

    People are always mocking who or what they don’t understand, because it allows them to feel better about their ignorance and shallowness. If people would take off their blinders, they would realize that lots of incredible things happen that science can’t explain. These are called miracles. And yet a great deal of those are respected. So why aren’t those of us who simply follow a different path?

    • Marlene November 4, 2016, 4:02 am

      I’m sorry that you felt like the DSM-V mocked you. It, like a few earlier editions, clearly state that if the beliefs are part of a person’s religious, ethnic, or cultural beliefs, then they are NOT delusions. One of the requirements for every diagnosis in the DSM is that it causes clinically significant distress for the individual.

      I think almost all of the diagnoses in the book are normal behaviors, or experiences, that most of us have, at least at some point, so it is only diagnosable if it is causing the person problems in some area of their life. For example, almost everyone hears their name being called when no one is around, or hears music when there is none playing nearby.

      We all feel sad at times, and even depressed for a period of time at some point in life. We may have periods were we are more energetic and don’t, or can’t sleep. We all get anxious at times. We all may believe something that isn’t true at some point, such as being scared and hearing or seeing things in the dark outside when we are alone, or even in the house after watching a scary movie.

      We all have some area in our life where we want things to be a certain way and if it’s not the way we want it, we get anxious. Couples who argue over toilet seats being up or down or toothpaste caps being put back on, or the toilet paper roll being on the holder in the correct way. Some obsessively organize one thing or area in their house, but may let other things that are less important to them go.

      My ex had his things he was OCD about, and expected me to do those things his way, yet he had no respect for the things that I was OCD about and refused to do them my way. I won’t go through the whole list, but I covered a lot of them, at least the general categories. Again, I’m truly sorry if the DSM or any psychiatrist has ever made you feel that they were mocking you. That is the opposite of how you should be made to feel.

      I try to explain to anyone that asks for a diagnostic “label” what I stated above. I don’t want any of my clients to feel like they are crazy, but instead that they have a normal behavior or feeling that, for some reason, has escalated to where it is distressing for them, and we can work to get it back to where it is bearable for them. I hope you find someone who can treat you respectfully.

  • Shelby Theis August 8, 2016, 10:24 am

    I believed the delusions my ex had, he thought he was satan and I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone or I would be murdered and so would be the people I told by one of his demons. There is much much much more to the story, but it’s too depressing. Most things can trigger me from it and it sucks. 6 months of it and now I’m free, I thought I was going to be killed and sent to hell many many times but I’m alive.

    Those delusions I believed caused delusions of my own. Like, the government is watching me. There was a red car parked on the side of the road and I was walking to school so I just went a different way so he wouldn’t see me. No idea who it was. The parked car then saw me, drove ten feet away from me in a parking lot and parked there. He looked like an FBI agent. I stared at him for about ten seconds while he stared at me and I waved hello slowly then ran off.

    He drove away shortly after. The day before my ex was saying, “they are coming for me,” and he was talking about how he heard men laughing and it was the government coming to kill him for his power. So that’s why the red car freaked me out so much. Keep in mind I live in a small town that has like 5,000 people in it and most of us are teenagers and the elderly. Even though I am free now, I still feel like I’m being watched.

  • Casey Burnet July 18, 2016, 10:28 pm

    I experience a delusion regarding communication. Has anyone else experienced this? People sending you secret messages with words, or double meanings in words? For instance I always think people on facebook who capitalize certain letters in words are referring to a person whose name starts with that letter. I asked my mother about this and she basically says it’s not true.

    I believe her but then I go online and it continues… for the most part I thought people were trying to emphasize who it is they find attractive? Or intelligent, based on whatever’s being implied. I understand it may be a simple coincidence but people simply continue to do this on and on. I ask myself why would they care about such things?

  • [email protected] June 26, 2016, 6:07 pm

    My husband believes the bed shakes only when I get in it. That I also hide a vibrator up my private areas and I hide them throughout the room when he’s not looking. Also that I masturbate throughout the night. I’ve studied Sexsomnia but the reason I’m not convinced I have it is because of the vibrator. He believes I can keep it inside me all day and night and that I have blocked it out of my mind. Please help!!

  • Amy June 14, 2016, 2:41 pm

    Question…Is there any way to tell if the roots of the delusions come from one thing or another? Like do the stories change each time if from one cause, i.e. drugs, but if they are from a brain disorder they may be the same story over and over again? And if they are drug induced do you only have them when you are under the influence?

  • Teresa K Rhodes June 12, 2016, 4:05 am

    Wow. You can really learn alot about yourself when reading this. Very helpful. Thank you.

  • jeff June 9, 2016, 5:31 am

    I believe the gov is using me in some type of experiment. They have put several tracking devices in my body. Sometimes they show me things on the television just to see what I will do. They park campers and vans near my house and watch me. They inject people into my life, always nurses that become my friends so they can monitor me.

    The transmitter unit makes my ears ring and sometimes I hear signal patterns and people talking although I cannot make out what they are saying. The ones in charge orchestrate certain situations to see how I will react. I see some that I recognize frequently following me. When I was a teenager they kidnapped my parents and replaced them with decoys. I realized what was going on and was able to escape but was later captured by the police and put back in the program.

    In my twenties I went to the university dental school to have some dental work done at that time they put a device into one of my teeth. I later removed that tooth with some pliers. I have removed a small circuitboard from my left thumb, one from my right arm and had a surgeon remove a wire antenna from my chest. The doctor wouldn’t let me keep it or show it to me. Now they have implanted a device in my pacemaker and another one in my back.

    They frequently sabotage my vehicles, just for fun I think to see my reaction? Sometimes I think that maybe I have some information that they are interested in, but I don’t know what it is. I have studied and experimented with a type of device with which I can see into another dimension or possibly the future. I have photographic evidence of this and will not go into the details of this discovery for obvious reasons.

    They don’t like me talking about this stuff and they are really making my head hurt right now so I will stop. Okay back to it. The radio thing is real and the air conditioners pick up signals through atmospheric resonance. There is a complete mirror type of reality existing simultaneously with this one and certain individuals are able to pick up on this alternate dimension, I believe it is electrochemical, which is why people on certain drugs become aware of this.

    I don’t know why I am aware other than I did take a lot of chemicals when I was younger, and I supposedly have some lesions in the brain. I take several different medications which mostly keep me from thinking about looking into the window, but I’m not sure if maybe I’m supposed to be looking and studying these phenomenon as I believe there could be something really important that I’m supposed to discover.

    Any speaker is a microphone and vice versa. Also blower motors, especially older furnaces and refrigerators, can pick up on the resonance. Most days I know that none of this should be possible, but other days with the cardboard sky and just to many odd coincidences put me right back in the program.

  • Edd May 18, 2016, 2:21 am

    My mothers family suffer with mental health issue and I have never been ‘right’ in the head, and I suffer from the aforementioned delusions. I believe that I am different and that one day I will rule. I also have delusions of grandeur and believe that I have special abilities, even though writing that felt like the stupidest thing I have ever written. I believe myself to be the cause of many of the world’s problems and I do not know why, and that with my death it will all stop.

  • Butters May 4, 2016, 6:59 am

    I got sober from alcohol a few years back, about ten years of heavy drinking and had no idea it caused delusions. The second day I would just be sitting there in complete fear of the people hiding in my house. In closets, cabinets, especially in dark shaded areas of a room like beside the couch. Then I started to hear them talk in the other rooms… not long after that, I was terrified. Luckily someone came by and got me hospitalized, a week later I was back to normal mentally. It was very real, and very scary at the time though.

    • Marlene November 4, 2016, 3:23 am

      I got stuck picking up someone from a medical hospital when he had been in there for 3 days. He was a heavy alcoholic, and in that 3 days, all the alcohol had left his system. He was so psychotic when I got to the hospital, I couldn’t believe that they couldn’t just medicate him with something strong enough to knock him out for his own safety.

      He was seeing and talking to people in the room that had been dead for 3 to 10 years. He was smoking an imaginary cigarette. After coming out of it, he insisted that they gave him something that made him psychotic. I had to let him stay with me for the night until I could get enough alcohol in him to bring him out of it. He was seeing people in the house, grandkids and strangers.

      At one point, he grabbed a knife to go after someone in the living room, but it was a candle on top of a cabinet. I had him tell me where they were and then showed him that it was not really a person. He tried giving a beer to Ozzy Osbourne. He wouldn’t drink it. I was terrified to sleep. I was so glad when he came out of it and went home.

      It didn’t seem to bother him afterward. He was supposed to gradually wean off the alcohol to avoid the D.T.’s but just went right back to drinking every day instead. He is probably delusional while drinking, too. Just not to the scary extreme. So preventable. I work in mental health, too. And no, it was not a client.

  • Christine April 29, 2016, 2:58 pm

    This is a wonderful work and presentation of the topic. I work as mental health therapist, and often time I come into contact with individuals who experience, stress related delusions. This article as well as the comments from individuals here help me to maintain my belief that delusion can be a one time occurrence, and that medication may not be for life. Real life stories here are incredible.

  • jojo March 23, 2016, 9:44 pm

    When I was working I believed my coworkers were conspiring to get me fired. I believed they were taking notes on everything I did and said as proof of me being incompetent. I swear I knew they could see my thoughts but needed proof to show the principal (I was a teacher’s aide and worked with mentally and physically disabled children). I would get so depressed I put myself down.

    Didn’t feel worthy of positivity which only made my paranoia worse. I am bipolar 1. When I’m depressed these delusions rule my world. When I am manic I believe nothing can hurt me and I get very angry at people who are down as they “want to steal my happiness”. Not sure where that falls… I get many ideas when manic and when they don’t work out I get angry the universe is out to get me like I’m the only one that is singled out.

    One more delusion I have is that the radio DJ is reading my thoughts and plays my favorite songs because I want them too… Never thought about all this until today. Thanks for the article.

  • Natasha January 29, 2016, 6:32 pm

    Back in 2005 my computer was hacked and I was stalked by a group of individuals who triangled me into a situation I had no idea I was being dragged into. I was very naive and fairly new to the Internet. The stalking put me into a major state of fear and anxiety which in the course of a few days led to acute anxiety based psychosis.

    My delusions consisted of many of the ones you so accurately described. Interesting how the brain can switch so drastically. Long story short, I was 5150’d and ended up in the hospital for 3 weeks on heavy doses of Zyprexa and Depakote. Once out I was fortunate enough to connect with a brilliant and amazing Psychiatrist who explained exactly what happened to me.

    He assured me it was a one time event based on my history and he took me off all meds. Almost 10 years later and not one new episode, nor any fear it will happen again. That said, I do not regret the experience, as it really opened my eyes to those who suffer this type of mental illness on a regular basis. The mind is an incredible machine. Thank you for posting this. It is very thorough.

  • sarah January 13, 2016, 2:45 pm

    I got very depressed after a prolonged stressful time at work. I experienced a delusion where I was convinced work had implanted a tracking device inside my head, which monitored all my movements and thoughts.

  • Izz November 16, 2015, 5:13 am

    I have schizophrenia, (which I believe was triggered by severe bullying I experienced as a child) and I have had some pretty far out delusions. At one point, I believed that it was my “destiny” to save the world and that someone would try to stop me by killing me; I’ve believed that I was from another planet and that it was my “mission” to study them and eventually “they” (my alien people) would take me home to my planet.

    I felt pretty devastated when I realized “they” weren’t coming back for me; I’ve often found it to be emotionally painful to “wake up” from delusions into reality. I’ve believed that people could hear my thoughts and that inanimate objects were spying on me and stealing my thoughts; but the hardest delusion I’ve ever woken up from was when I believed that I had a friend.

    I saw him and would hang out with him frequently- this kept up for months- until one day, he said “I’m sad” I asked why he was sad, and he said “Because I’m not real. But you knew that didn’t you?” I had never hated myself more than in that moment. The scariest part of having a delusion is not knowing where you are or what you are doing; something that was your reality turns out to be false, and when you wake up from it, the real world is a strange and frightening place.

    The worst part of being insane are the short intervals of sanity that come with self hate, guilt, and the struggle towards an unattainable normalcy. Anyways, that’s my take on it.

    • anna February 5, 2016, 7:17 pm

      Thank you for sharing this.

      • Psycher March 19, 2016, 9:27 pm

        Aw, that was sad to hear. I’m a psych NP student. Good to hear real stories like this.

        • Sylvia May 18, 2016, 1:06 pm

          Thank you for sharing your touching story. I’ve never considered how people with delusions felt about them… sounds disturbing and very sad indeed.

    • Jill June 21, 2016, 4:28 pm

      Thank you I am dealing with delusional thinking as well. It takes all the courage I have to admit it. What you had to say took courage. My own subconscious has been fueling (or fooling) itself. I too feel devastated that this person is not coming back for me, when logic or clarity demands that I confront it. I feel so very stupid – but I think I will be okay after admitting it.

    • Tya August 2, 2016, 12:48 am

      After a breakup from a former boyfriend, I have turned myself towards someone from work. I was convinced we would end up having an affair. So I have planned everything around it, getting closer slowly over time. He reacted very well so I thought I was getting closer to my goal. Then I started to come back to reality 6 months later. My eyes started to see the reality as is: he was just being nice to support me in a difficult time, nothing more. I thought I had a special friend so waking up and realize he never done anything that indicated we were more than coworkers, it hurts! I think the biggest danger about delusions is when you “wake up”. You feel like everything is crumbling around you.

  • Amna November 9, 2015, 11:44 pm

    Since you mentioned people from the Middle East having persecutory delusions… I’m Iraqi and I was convinced for years that the government was watching me and even had cameras in my house!

  • C. Edward Pitt October 22, 2015, 1:16 pm

    Kudos to the author of this post. Very comprehensive and very useful.

  • Bradley Foster September 4, 2015, 2:13 am

    I found this to be a very thorough description of the types of delusions found in mental health. Great work! I am working with a bipolar client right now who has several of these types of delusions and as you said, psychotherapy isn’t overnight but once in a while the penny drops for my client. I find a lot of his delusions wrapped up with wishful thinking, and we are unpacking them one at a time.

  • former nurse May 8, 2015, 1:01 pm

    I believe there might be another cause for delusions – hormonal imbalance. Being a woman with severe PMS/PMDD can be quite interesting, and not very pleasant (as far as I can tell :) ).

    • george August 7, 2016, 1:30 pm

      I believe that my wife is experiencing this. Can you share more of why you believe this is true?

    • Emma October 6, 2016, 8:50 am

      Thank you former nurse. Here a former EMT I want to agree with you. A former EMT with horrible PMDD.

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