A delusional disorder is a form of mental illness that involves the inability to distinguish between the real and the imagined. The disorder can cause both audio and visual hallucinations as well as strong beliefs that something imagined is in fact real. The key factor in a delusional disorder, also known as psychosis, is that any emotion or action being imagined could potentially occur in real life. A delusional disorder will typically fall into one of five major categories.
The first two types of delusional disorders, erotomanic and jealous disorders, focus on blurred lines of reality involving emotions and relationships. People with an erotomanic disorder have the false belief that someone else is a strong admirer. This often manifests as feeling that someone famous is in love with or obsessed with the sufferer of the disorder. Jealous disorders often cause spouses or significant others to believe that their partner is having an affair or is pursuing an emotional relationship with someone else.
The next two varieties, persecutory and grandiose disorders, involve issues with the feelings an individual has about or towards himself. Victims of a persecutory disorder believe that someone is essentially out to get them. Commonly known as paranoia, this particular disorder can either be passive, where the victim believes someone is following or watching them, or aggressive, in which the victim believes someone is trying to do them physical harm. A grandiose disorder creates a false sense of self-worth, leading the person to believe that he is much more important, intelligent, or talented than he actually is.
The fifth delusional disorder, classified as a somatic disorder, is sometimes commonly referred to as hypochondria. It involves the belief that the victim is physically ill or in some way deformed. Studies have shown that if this false belief in an illness is allowed to progress long enough, the body will actually begin to manifest the actually symptoms of the phantom illness, further encouraging the delusion.
It is also quite common for individuals to suffer from mixed delusional disorders, incorporating two or more of the various types of disorders listed above. A delusional disorder can exist as a stand-alone condition or be a symptom of a more complex disorder, such as schizophrenia. They are believed to be genetic in nature, making it more likely for an individual to develop a delusional disorder if there is a history of occurrences in the family already. A person suffering from a delusional disorder is typically able to carry on at a high level of daily functioning and is most often treated with a combination of prescription medication and psychotherapy.