What is Delusional Disorder?
Many humans suffer from the psychotic mental disorder known a delusional disorder. This disorder is characterized by persistent delusional beliefs. Delusions are irrational beliefs, held with a high level of conviction, that are highly resistant to change. Delusions are plausible to the patient, but are most definitely not reality (1).
As defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are several sub-categories of delusional disorder (2):
• Grandiose: The patient believes they have a distinguished role, extraordinary powers or abilities, great unrecognized talent, special insights, connections with important persons, prophetic power, overinflated sense of worth and knowledge, made an important discovery, and so on. Cult leaders typically have the religious form of grandiose delusion disorder.
• Jealous: The patient believes that his or her spouse or sexual partner is unfaithful.
• Religious: The patient is an expert at rationalizing delusional beliefs with nonsensical reasoning. This person has unquestioning belief of leaders and accepts as facts events based on hearsay. Patients make inferences about events based on less information than non-delusional people use. This jumping to conclusions bias leads to delusional interpretations of ordinary events. For example, this rationalization allows patients to conclude books such as the Bible, Book of Mormon, Koran, Lord of the Rings, and Cat in the Hat are based on real events.
• Political: Strongly believes in nonsensical positions of the far right or far left politcal groups. The far right political delusion disorder is closely associated with relgious delusional disorder. The patient may actually advocate a theocracy type governmental system, claiming that God dictates their beliefs and that the government should enforce concepts such as: the definition of marriage, sexual orientation, a woman’s right to make decisions regarding reproduction, encorporating relgious teachings into schools, massive spending on wars and defense, and so forth. Like all forms of delsional disorder, the patient isn’t aware that they have the disorder, and no amount of logic or reasoning will disuade them from their beliefs. This form of delusional disorder is also known as a social conservative or a member of the Tea Party.
• Erotomanic: The subject believes that someone famous is in love with them. Erotomanic delusions may prompt stalking the love object and even violence against the beloved or those viewed as potential romantic rivals.
• Persecutory: The subject believes that someone is following them to do harm, ridiculing their belief system, following them, plotted against, poisoned, mocked, or deliberately prevented from achieving goals. A patient who becomes resentful may lash out against the alleged offender.
• Somatic: The person believes that they have a disease or medical condition. They have excessive concern and irrational ideas about bodily functioning, which may include worries regarding infestation with parasites or insects, imagined physical deformity, or a conviction that one is emitting a foul stench when there is no problematic odor.
• Mixed: Persons having features of more than one prior subtypes.
The following are symptoms of delusional disorder (3):
1. The patient expresses an idea or belief with unusual persistence or force. They believe in the delusion without regard to any conflicting evidence.
2. That idea appears to exert an undue influence on the patient’s life, and the way of life is often altered to an inexplicable extent.
3. Despite his/her profound conviction, there is often a quality of secretiveness or suspicion when the patient is questioned about it.
4. The individual tends to be humorless and oversensitive, especially about the belief. Religious people don’t laugh much when questioned about their delusions.
5. There is a quality of centrality: no matter how unlikely it is that these strange things are happening to him, the patient accepts them relatively unquestioningly.
6. An attempt to contradict the belief is likely to arouse an inappropriately strong emotional reaction, often with irritability and hostility.
7. The belief is, at the least, very unlikely. Like American Indians are of Israeli descent, the Garden of Eden is in Missouri, polygamy was ordained by God, your leader talked with an angel, God had sex with Mary, Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers, green tea is bad, God punishes people by turning their skin dark, 2nd coming of Christ right around the corner (for the last 180 years), Aaronic priesthood holder has more power than U.S. president, okay for 3 nephites to retrieve cats from trees, tatoos are bad, devil owns the waterways, and so forth.
8. The patient is emotionally over-invested in the idea and it overwhelms other elements of their psyche.
9. The delusion, if acted out, often leads to behaviors which are abnormal and/or out of character, although perhaps understandable in the light of the delusional beliefs.
10. Individuals who know the patient observe that the belief and behavior are uncharacteristic and alien.
The exact cause is unknown. It is believed that genetic, biochemical and environmental factors play a significant role in the development of delusional disorder (4).
Treatment of delusional disorder is very difficult because:
• The patient often vehemently denies that they have a problem.
• Patients are often intelligent and capable of functioning well in society. This type of illness is often not seen as a threat to society and therefore often goes undiagnosed.
• Treatment involves extracting the patient from the delusional environment for a period of four weeks. If the patient lives in Utah, there is virtually no chance of extracting them from the LDS religious delusional environment.
In some cases agitation may occur as a response to severe or harsh confrontation when dealing with the existence of the delusions. Be alert for expressions of denial, projection, and rationalization. Once delusions become firmly entrenched, patients will no longer seek to justify their beliefs.
Delusional Disorder Often Inbred into Religious Groups
Joseph Smith displayed classic symptoms of the grandiose form of delusional disorder. He was successful at attracting other people with delusional disorder and convincing them of his visions. This core band of nascent Mormon leaders (all suffering from delusional disorder) were successful at passing on the delusional gene to their children through widespread polygamy in the early Mormon church years. If your ancestors contain Mormon pioneers, then most likely delusional disorder can be found in your family tree.
Implications for Politicians like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman
If a politician suffers from delusional disorder, then they can be dangerous because they are capable of believing in events that never happened. Obviously nobody wants a president in charge of nuclear weapons who is also capable of believing in delusions. Before running for president, every candidate (whether Mormon or not) should be evaluated to see if they suffer from delusional disorder.
Many Facets of Religion Explained by Delusional Disorder
You may know religious people who are successful and intelligent. You may wonder how a smart person can believe in what appear to you to be obvious delusions? Once you understand that delusion disorder is a real, then you can begin to understand following scenarios:
• People suffering from religious delusional disorder firmly believe in their delusion. They cannot understand why others don’t believe in the delusion. The converse of this is also true, people who don’t believe in the delusion can’t understand why somebody could so strongly believe in what is obviously delusional.
• Why some cults don’t perceive themselves as a cult and don’t understand why they’re not accepted by mainstream religions.
• Why religious followers can easily believe in mystical events, such as the three Nephites helping fix flat tires, communication from God via a the hat and stone, ancient golden plates, white salamanders, and so on.
Delusional Disorder Impact on Families
Patients with delusional disorder tend to marry others who suffer from the same delusions. In this way, religious families can be kept together forever as long as every member fully believes in the delusions. Problems arise when a partner discovers that they are not delusional. When family members refuse to accept the delusions the result is often a breakup of the family unit. There is often no middle ground for a delusion believer and a non-delusion thinker.
If you find yourself in this situation you can begin to deal with it by understanding that your family members actually believe in the delusions. The delusion believers may say hurtful things and engage in behavior that harms you emotionally. Keep in mind that it’s not you that they hate; don’t take it personally. It’s the delusion that causes them to be oblivious of their bad behavior. When referenced from the delusional standpoint, any behavior is acceptable.
Therapy for Delusional Disorder
Therapy for delusional disorder can be difficult because the patient often vehemently denies that there is a problem and refuses to seek treatment. Direct confrontation seldom works. When a patient is confronted with their delusion, this oftentimes re-enforces the delusional belief. They operate on feelings and delusional beliefs in their minds which they know absolutely are true. No amount of logic or reason is going to persuade them to think otherwise.
Early in the therapy, it’s vital when dealing with this disorder not to challenge their system of beliefs. This will get you nowhere. Sarcasm is often misinterpreted as an attack. Patients suffering from delusional disorder cannot be reasoned with. Logic does not work. You must realize that it’s not you. The patient has a mental disorder that they don’t recognize and won’t admit to and won’t seek help for.
If the person refuses to believe they are delusional, then you have limited options. The more you confront them on the delusion, the more entrenched the delusion becomes. If you have to live with the person, try to ignore their delusions, minimize confrontations, redirect the conversations when they bring up the delusions.
Here are some guidelines for dealing with a delusional disorder family member or friend:
1. Seek professional help. Find a psychiatrist or psychologist who has dealt extensively with delusional disorder. Even if the patient refuses to seek professional help, the doctor should be able to give you advice on how to deal with family and friends suffering from delusional disorder.
2. Recognize the patient has a true mental illness.
3. Recognize the delusions. Be able to identify delusions.
4. Redirect the conversation when the patient starts talking about the delusions.
5. Find a support group. Learn from the experiences of others who have dealt with family or friends who suffer from delusional disorder.
6. Educate yourself. There are numerous online resources available for delusional disorder.
Keep in mind most people with delusional disorder never seek help, they deny that there is a problem, and get angry when you suggest they have a problem. Direct confrontation seldom works.
Little work has been done thus far regarding prevention of the disorder. Effective means of prevention have not been identified.
Mormon Word of Wisdom and Dilusional Disorder
Early Mormon leaders recognized that many of the flock suffered from delusional disorder. The delusional disorder Mormons were the most faithful believers. Early Mormon leaders also noticed that drinking coffee or tea or alcoholic drinks had a severe detrmimental impact on the health of the members who had delusional disorder. This was not good for the health of the Mormon community. Therefore Mormon leaders decided to put in place doctrine that prevents Mormons from cosuming strong caffeinated drinks and alochol. Later research by psychologists has confirmed that avoiding caffeine and alcohol does indeed help with the mental health of a patient suffering from delusional disorder (5).
Advice to Religious Missionaries
People suffering from delusional disorder are your most golden contacts. Specifically seek and convert people who suffer from delusional disorder. People with delusional disorder make the best members; they are often highly functional in society and once they believe in the delusion, they become the bedrock of the religion.
Founding Fathers’ Wisdom
When the founding fathers crafted the United States constitution, they must have known that at about two thirds of the U.S. population suffers from delusional disorder. One third are delusional social conservatives, one third are delusional social liberals, and one third are able to think and rationally make deicsions (independents). The founding fathers therefore wrote into the constitution the separation of church and state. Also added were careful checks and balances to ensure that the delusional wings never dominate for long periods of time. The founding fathers were not inspired by God, but rather were inspired by years of abuse suffered from European governments. This experience gave them the wisdom to create a form of government that might have a chance of surviving regardless of the high number of people suffering from either religious delusional disorder or political delusional disorder.
3. Munro, Alistair (1999). Dilusional disorder: paranoia and related illnesses. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.