Delusions are false beliefs an individual believes to be true. Despite one’s personal and familial history, there is no concrete basis for his or her delusions. There are several types of delusions, from persecutory, which is the belief one is being conspired against by another individual or group, to grandiose, characterized by an unrealistic exaggeration of one’s self-importance. Other types of delusions are based on physical or mental functions or religious beliefs. It is important to understand that for someone with delusional disorder, there is absolutely no question as to the validity of his or her belief; it is steadfast truth.
Individuals who hold the belief that they are being stalked or targeted by others are said to have persecutory delusions. It is not uncommon for persecutory delusions to be episodic, meaning the individual does not feel constantly threatened. Situations can arise where the person may feel he or she is being watched by others and act on that feeling. In some cases, one’s persecutory delusions are combined with other types of delusions, making the situation more complex. One of the most common forms of persecutory delusion is a fear of authority or one’s government.
Erotomania is a delusional disorder where a person truly believes a well-known or famous individual has feelings for him or her. People with erotomania will try to initiate contact with the person so they may share their feelings with them. John Hinkley Jr.’s obsession with Jodie Foster is a prime example of erotomania. In the 1980s, Hinkley stalked Foster through letters and phone calls and viewed his assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan as an act of love that would win Foster’s affection.
Delusions of reference involve falsely held beliefs in the importance of things of insignificant value. For instance, a person with delusions of reference may believe their favorite radio personality is sending messages exclusively intended for him or her over the airwaves. The tone and meaning of the message can vary depending on the individual. Frequently, individuals with delusions of reference will hold other delusions simultaneously, such as persecutory or grandiose, which can make the situation all the more complex.
There are some types of delusions based on the mental and physical functions of the body. Mind reading and somatic delusions fall into this category. Individuals can develop a falsely held belief that their mind is being invaded by friends, family or strangers. The person feels his or her thoughts are not private, which he or she views as an ultimate violation. When one’s delusional focus centers on his or her body, the person may think he or she is sick, infectious or exhibiting physical traits that make him or her stand out from everyone else.
Grandiose and religious types of delusions often go hand in hand. A person may hold exaggerated notions about his or her ability, influence or lineage. When religion enters the picture, the person may exhibit tremendous guilt over what he or she perceives to be sins he or she has committed against God or believe he or she has been chosen by the Creator as an intended messenger. Religious and grandiose types of delusions are often exhibited by individuals with schizophrenia. In a similar vein, nihilistic delusions involve an exaggerated, yet firmly held, belief the End of Days is occurring.
Delusions of jealousy involve one’s falsely held belief that there are issues of infidelity within his or her marriage or relationship with a significant other. A person with a delusion of jealousy will often read meaning into innocuous situations or objects to make his or her case. One’s jealously is often pervasive, meaning the person sees evidence of the other’s dishonesty in every action, conversation and interaction with those outside the relationship.