Understanding and Coping with My Delusions
For millions of Americans, delusions are an everyday fact of life. That’s true whether you have schizophrenia, OCD, or a delusional disorder. For many, those delusions can be completely life-altering, ranging from beliefs in paranoid or jealous concerns to beliefs in the supernatural or clearly impossible happenings. Whatever the case, a delusion is marked by the fact that you believe it, at least during the episode, with unshakeable certainty.
At the same time, many of us with delusions understand that they are just that. When not in the grip of a delusional episode, it may be difficult to believe that you thought something was real. You may believe something is real, even though you’re logically convinced it’s fake. And, you may be able to step back and recognize delusions for what they are. Learning to understand and cope with those delusions can be an important part of getting your life back.
At Compassion Recovery, we can help you to understand your mental health, to mitigate symptoms of mental health problems, and to improve how you deal with mental health problems like delusions. However, treatment will heavily depend on the underlying causes of delusions and why you struggle with them.
Why Do Delusions Happen?
Delusions are often a side-effect of a mental health disorder. However, there are dozens of reasons you might be having delusions. For example:
- A delusional disorder in which one experiences erotomaniac, grandiose, jealous, persecutory, somatic or other delusions with no separate identifiable cause
- Substance abuse
- Brain damage or tumors
Without a checkup and diagnosis, it’s impossible to specify why delusions specifically happen to you. However, in most cases, delusions are a side-effect of changes in the brain or a state of the brain, resulting in an inability to separate reality from fantasy.
Signs and Symptoms of Delusional Disorder
Delusional disorders are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders. In order to receive a diagnosis, you must have at least one month of delusions with no other symptoms of psychosis and no significant brain injury or substance abuse that could otherwise explain the problem.
Here, symptoms include:
- Unusual persistence in an idea or belief, despite contrary evidence
- That idea has unusual or unwarranted influence on your life or has led you to make significant life changes
- You may find yourself hiding or keeping your belief secret
- You may be unable to have a sense or humor or be very sensitive about the idea or belief
- You accept beliefs or ideas with no questions, no matter how unlikely or unrealistic they are
- You have a strong emotional reaction to attempts to counter the belief or prove it false. You may get angry or hostile, even without intending to do so
- Your ideas and beliefs may clash with your other beliefs, religion, or culture
- You’re significantly emotionally invested in the idea or belief, and it may overwhelm your other beliefs
- Beliefs or ideas may cause you to act out of character
- People in your life regard the belief or idea as uncharacteristic and strange and are worried about you
These symptoms point to a delusional disorder if:
- There is not an overlapping psychological disorder
- The symptoms persist for at least one month
- Symptoms keep coming back, even if they go away sometimes
- Delusions are logically constructed and internally consistent. E.g., not a random fantasy
- Delusions don’t interfere with your ability to reason outside of those delusions. E.g., you can still make good decisions based on logic and fact
- You may experience a sense of heightened significance in any moment where the delusion is raised
If you have other symptoms, it’s very likely that you have a different psychological disorder. For example, significant drug and alcohol use often cause delusions, especially as a side-effect of addiction. Therefore, if you’re abusing drugs or alcohol, you may have to go through rehab, get treatment, and spend 3-6 months clean or sober before you can get a diagnosis for a delusional disorder. If you’ve had a recent accident or brain trauma, you’ll also likely have to wait for a full recovery in order to get a diagnosis, as it’s very likely that the trauma can cause the symptoms as well.
Can I Mitigate or Control Delusions?
Mitigating delusions normally means taking antipsychotic medication, such as that used to treat schizophrenia. In fact, a significant portion of the medical community is pushing to have delusionary disorder reclassified as a light form of schizophrenia. However, delusional disorders may not interfere with your life, except that you may change your life to accommodate the delusion.
However, you can almost always take significant steps to improve your behavior and mental health around delusions. These include:
- Talking to people including mental health professionals
- Seeking out mental health treatment including behavioral therapy
- Exercising 30-60 minutes per day to improve your mental health and energy
- Getting social support from peers, family, and friends
- Investing in coping mechanisms, such as distractions or someone to talk to when delusions strike
- Finding ways to delay acting on delusions until you can talk to someone
- Taking care of your home and space so that you’re less likely to be triggered
- Figuring out triggers and working to mitigate them or to avoid them
- Journaling and recording delusions and how often they happen, so you can more accurately share your mental state with a therapist or clinician.
Eventually, controlling delusions is unlikely to happen without medication. However, if you can work to improve your mental health, you can improve your ability to manage your emotions and reactions around those delusions. While that won’t reduce the delusions it will improve your reaction, which will help you to continue to live your life.
Eventually, most delusional disorders cannot be remediated without antipsychotic medication. If you’re experiencing delusions, it’s important t see your doctor, to consult with a mental health professional and to get help.
If you or you loved one need help with mental health treatment, drug rehab, or alcohol rehab Compassion Recovery Center is here to help. Contact us to ask about our mental health programs and how we can support your specific requirements as you move into treatment. Our team of clinicians can work with you through diagnosis, customizing treatment to meet your needs, and through behavioral therapy to help you cope with and minimize symptoms and side-effects of your disorder.