Delusional Disorder


Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Delusional disorder is a distinctive psychological disorder characterized by false beliefs that endure despite evidence to the contrary. These non-bizarre delusions and hallucinations, often bewildering and distressing, can significantly impact an individual’s thoughts, beliefs, and mental health.

What Is Delusional Disorder?

Delusional disorder is a mental health condition characterized by the presence of persistent and non-bizarre delusions 1 13 books longlisted for Booker Prize 2023. (n.d.). Retrieved August 26, 2023, from . Delusions are false beliefs that are held despite evidence to the contrary. In this disorder, individuals firmly hold onto these false beliefs and are often unable to be convinced of their inaccuracies, even when provided with contradictory evidence.

The delusions experienced by individuals with delusional disorder are typically not culturally or socially accepted, and they can cause significant distress and impairment in various aspects of the person’s life.

The delusions can cover a wide range of themes, such as being persecuted, having a special power, being infested with parasites, or having a romantic relationship with someone famous.

Despite these unusual beliefs, individuals with delusional disorder can often function relatively well in their daily lives, as the delusions are usually limited in scope and do not necessarily lead to a complete disruption of their cognitive and social functioning.

Classification In DSM-5

In the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition), delusional disorder falls under the category of “Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Primary Psychotic Disorders.”

It is distinguished from other psychotic disorders 2 Opjordsmoen S. (2014). Delusional disorder as a partial psychosis. Schizophrenia bulletin40(2), 244–247. by the presence of persistent delusions without the prominent hallucinations, disorganized speech, or disorganized or catatonic behavior that are characteristic of schizophrenia.

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Prevalence Of Delusional Disorder

Delusional disorder’s global prevalence stands at 0.02% 3 Joseph, S. M., & Siddiqui, W. (2023). Delusional Disorder. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: , a rate relatively lower than that of other psychotic disorders like schizophrenia. The varying rates are further influenced by region and population.

Typically emerging in adulthood, mostly middle to late stages, the disorder rarely begins before 18. Gender differences 4 González-Rodríguez, A., & Seeman, M. V. (2020). Addressing Delusions in Women and Men with Delusional Disorder: Key Points for Clinical Management. International journal of environmental research and public health17(12), 4583. exist among its sub-types. Men are considered more prone to developing any type of delusional disorder, but certain sub-types are prevalent in higher rates in women.

For example, the “erotomanic” sub-type, where individuals believe a higher-status person is in love with them, is more prevalent in females than males.

Delusional Disorder Symptoms

Research 5 Joseph, S. M., & Siddiqui, W. (2019, June 4). Delusional Disorder.; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: attributes the common delusional disorder symptoms to the following:

  1. Persistent delusions: False beliefs that remain despite contradictory evidence.
  2. Non-bizarre delusions: Beliefs that, although implausible, could be possible.
  3. Limited impact on functioning: Generally, daily life functioning is not severely disrupted.
  4. Different delusion types: Various themes like persecution, grandiosity, jealousy, or somatic concerns.
  5. Lack of hallucinations: Hallucinations are not prominent, unlike other psychotic disorders.
  6. Insight variability: Some awareness that beliefs might be unusual, but conviction remains.
  7. Emotional distress: Anxiety, depression, and other emotions related to delusions.
  8. Social isolation: Difficulty maintaining relationships due to false beliefs.
  9. Rarely seeking treatment: Many resist treatment due to belief in their delusions.
  10. Impaired occupational functioning: Delusions might impact work-related activities.

Types Of Delusional Disorder

The common 6 Rootes-Murdy, K., Goldsmith, D. R., & Turner, J. A. (2022). Clinical and Structural Differences in Delusions Across Diagnoses: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in integrative neuroscience15, 726321. types of delusional disorder include:

  • Persecutory: Belief of being targeted or harmed by others.
  • Bizzare: Eccentric and implausible convictions.
  • Grandiose: Exaggerated sense of personal importance or power.
  • Erotomanic: False conviction of being loved by another, often famous person.
  • Jealous: Belief of a partner’s infidelity without evidence.
  • Somatic: Belief of having a medical condition despite contrary evidence.
  • Religious: A complex interplay of faith and delusion.
  • Nihilistic: An unsettling world of delusions of negation.
  • Paranoid: Unfounded beliefs of persecution or conspiracy.
  • Reference: Obsessively finding personal significance in neutral events or objects.
  • Mixed: Combination of various delusion types.
  • Unspecified: Doesn’t fit into specific categories.

Causes Of Delusional Disorder

The different 7 Sm, J., & W, S. (2022, January 1). Delusional Disorder. PubMed. Available from: causes of delusional disorder include:

  1. Genetic predisposition: Family history of psychotic disorders increases risk.
  2. Neurochemical imbalance: Disruptions in brain chemicals may contribute.
  3. Brain structure abnormalities: Changes in brain regions related to perception and belief processing.
  4. Stressful life events: Trauma or stress might trigger or exacerbate delusions.
  5. Cognitive factors: Distorted thinking patterns or biases can influence belief formation.
  6. Isolation and loneliness: Limited social interaction can amplify delusional beliefs.
  7. Substance abuse: Drug misuse, especially stimulants, might trigger or worsen symptoms.
  8. Cultural influences: Cultural context can shape the content of delusions.
  9. Adulthood onset: Most cases emerge in middle to late adulthood.
  10. Personality traits: Traits like suspicion or introversion could contribute.
  11. Sensory impairments: Vision or hearing deficits might contribute to delusions.

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How Can Delusional Disorder Affect Mental Health?

Various types 8 Noel, J., Krishnadas, R., Gopalakrishnan, R., & Kuruvilla, A. (2014). Delusional disorder: an unusual presentation. Indian journal of psychological medicine36(4), 444–446. of delusional disorder affect regular mental health functioning in the following ways:

  • Sustained false beliefs can challenge reality perception.
  • Anxiety, depression, and anger may arise from delusions.
  • Social and romantic relationships can suffer due to unusual beliefs.
  • Isolation and withdrawal from social interactions to avoid conflicts.
  • Job focus and performance is hindered by delusions.
  • Stress and emotional challenges diminish overall life quality.
  • Others’ unpleasant reactions contribute to social stigma.
  • Resistance to treatment due to strong convictions.
  • Severe cases might lead to self-harming tendencies and suicide ideation.
  • Varying awareness that different beliefs are unusual, affecting one’s self-concept.

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Mental Health Condition That Are Associated With Delusional Disorder

Common mental health conditions 9 Kiran, C., & Chaudhury, S. (2009). Understanding delusions. Industrial psychiatry journal18(1), 3–18. associated with different types of delusional disorder include:

  • Anxiety disorders: Delusions can trigger anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety, panic, or social anxiety.
  • Depressive disorders: Delusions’ distress can lead to co-occurring major or persistent depression.
  • Substance use disorders: Delusion-related distress may contribute to substance misuse.
  • Personality disorders: Traits like suspicion might make individuals prone to delusional disorder.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Overlapping obsessions and delusions can occur.
  • Other psychotic disorders: Delusional disorder might precede or coexist with more severe psychoses.
  • Adjustment disorders: Stressors triggering delusional disorder can also cause adjustment issues.
  • Somatoform disorders: Somatic delusions might overlap with somatic symptom disorders.
  • Complex interplay: Comorbidities can complicate diagnosis and treatment of delusional disorder.

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Diagnosis For Delusional Disorder

Diagnosing 10 ‌Joseph, S. M., & Siddiqui, W. (2022). Delusional Disorder. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: the various types of delusional disorder involves assessing symptoms against DSM-5 criteria, considering delusion themes and impact. Clinical interviews, psychological testing (like the Brown Assessment of Beliefs Scale or BABS) 11 Phillips, K. A., Hart, A. S., Menard, W., & Eisen, J. L. (2013). Psychometric evaluation of the Brown Assessment of Beliefs Scale in body dysmorphic disorder. The Journal of nervous and mental disease201(7), 640–643. , and cultural factors aid in accurate evaluation.

Differentiating from other conditions and ruling out alternative causes is crucial. Collaborative efforts and comprehensive documentation enhance diagnosis reliability.

Treatment For Delusional Disorder

The common methods 12 Skelton, M., Khokhar, W. A., & Thacker, S. P. (2015). Treatments for delusional disorder. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews2015(5), CD009785. of treatment for delusional disorder include:

1. Medicine:

Antipsychotic medications are essential in delusional disorder treatment, targeting symptoms like delusions. Atypical antipsychotics are often preferred due to fewer side effects, working by altering brain neurotransmitters to reduce delusion severity and enhance functioning.

2. Psychotherapy:

Psychotherapy, especially Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is vital. CBT challenges and modifies irrational beliefs, teaching adaptive thinking. Supportive psychotherapy equips individuals with coping strategies and emotional aid, fostering better management of the disorder’s impact.

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3. Alternative Therapies:

Alongside medical and psychotherapy, alternative approaches can benefit. Family therapy involves loved ones, promoting understanding and support. Art and music therapy offer creative outlets for expression and stress reduction.

Mindfulness techniques like meditation aid emotional regulation, enhancing overall well-being. Customized combinations of these treatments maximize effectiveness.

Overcoming Delusional Disorder

Building effective coping strategies for delusional disorder symptoms is crucial. Developing awareness of delusions’ irrational nature 13 Bell, V., Raihani, N., & Wilkinson, S. (2021). Derationalizing Delusions. Clinical psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science9(1), 24–37. is a key step. Engaging in reality-checking with trusted individuals can help challenge distorted beliefs. Practicing mindfulness techniques fosters emotional regulation.

Utilizing support networks and engaging in activities that bring joy and purpose contribute to a more balanced life. Progress might be gradual, but with persistence, individuals can enhance their well-being and manage their symptoms effectively.

How To Help Someone With Delusional Disorder

Consider the following measures 14 González-Rodríguez, A., Monreal, J. A., Natividad, M., & Seeman, M. V. (2022). Seventy Years of Treating Delusional Disorder with Antipsychotics: A Historical Perspective. Biomedicines10(12), 3281. on how to help someone with delusional disorder:

  • Listen: Understand their perspective without challenging beliefs.
  • Stay calm: Maintain a composed and non-confrontational demeanor.
  • Empathize: Show empathy for their feelings and experiences.
  • Encourage treatment: Suggest professional help for managing symptoms.
  • Respect boundaries: Avoid forcing them to confront delusions.
  • Provide reassurance: Offer reassurance and emotional support.
  • Educate: Share accurate information about the disorder.
  • Maintain patience: Understand progress might take time.
  • Stay connected: Keep communication lines open.
  • Monitor safety: Ensure their well-being and safety.


Delusional disorder presents complex challenges, encompassing various types, symptoms, and associated conditions. Availing timely treatment and diagnosis, as well as support from friends, family, and professionals play a pivotal role in managing the disorder effectively and improving overall quality of life.

At A Glance

  1. Delusional disorder is characterized by persistent and non-bizarre false beliefs, causing significant distress and impairment.
  2. The prevalence, symptoms, causes, and types of delusional disorder vary.
  3. It often emerges in adulthood with specific gender differences.
  4. Delusional disorder symptoms affect mental health, relationships, and functioning, and is associated with co-morbid conditions.
  5. Accurate diagnosis for the types of delusional disorder involves assessing symptoms against DSM-5 criteria.
  6. Treatment for delusional disorder combines medication, psychotherapy, and alternative therapies.
  7. Measures on how to help someone with delusional disorder require understanding, empathy, and patience, fostering their well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is an example of a delusional disorder?

An example of a delusional disorder is when an individual firmly believes they have a special power that others do not possess.

2. Can delusional disorder be cured?

Delusional disorder can be managed and treated, but a complete cure may not always be achieved.

3. How is a delusional disorder different from a psychotic disorder?

A delusional disorder primarily involves persistent false beliefs (delusions), while a psychotic disorder encompasses a broader range of symptoms, including hallucinations and disorganized thinking.


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