The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lists six types of delusional disorders: erotomanic, grandiose, jealous, persecutory, somatic, and mixed. Each of these disorders is explored here to aid in its recognition. And remember as you learn more about these disorders that the mind is an incredible force and is capable of many strange imaginings that it then insists are real
1. Spot the signs of erotomania. Erotomania is characterized by a belief that someone is in love with the individual. This is especially common in the case of believing that a famous or high profile person is in love with an individual despite no signs confirming this and often in the face of hardly knowing or not even having met the person! Signs a person may be suffering from erotomania include:
•A mere gesture, smile or kind word is turned into a belief that the person is secretly in love with the erotomania sufferer. An innocent gesture may be misinterpreted as a sign or hidden love or as a romantic advance from the one delivering the gesture.
•A need to interpret special "signs" that this person is communicating a desire to be with the sufferer.
•Avoiding social life or being with other people because the sufferer is spending time amassing objects or performing actions that confirm their belief that the object of their desire loves them. For example, a person may rent all the movies of a movie star they're in love with and stay home to watch these over and over again in order to bring this love to life – doing this in place of going out and living life.
•The sufferer may try to send messages or gifts to the object of their erotomania. They may even take to stalking this person.
2. Look out for people with persistent feelings of grandiosity. These types are frequently egoistic in nature. They move about daily with the conviction that they have great unrecognized talent or some special ability that simply hasn't yet been acknowledged by the wider community. Signs that a person may be suffering from grandiosity include:
•The person believes that they have an undiscovered or special gift or talent or they have made an amazing discovery that others don't get.
•The person believes they can save the world by using simple, innocuous, repetitive behaviors. They possess an unrealistic view of their contribution to causes.
•The person believes that they have a relationship with some important celebrity, such as a king, prince, State President, a celebrity, Mythical or Supernatural beings, etc. In their minds, they truly believe this special relationship is a reality. An ideal example would be of someone waiting besides the phone, believing that a call from Elvis Presley or some other rock star will be coming in, or that God is talking personally to them.
3. Treat extreme bouts of jealousy as a possible disorder rather than a run-of-the-mill reaction. Most people have suffered a bout of jealousy now and then in their lives but most people find this is a fleeting experience and soon replaced by rationalizations that allow them to get over it and get on with life. However, for the sufferer of jealousy as a delusional disorder, both the intensity and the duration of the experience of jealousy do not let up. Signs of this can include:
•A person is convinced that a spouse, lover or partner is being unfaithful or is cheating on them. Even if no evidence points in this direction, these types are never convinced. They develop a mindset and the decision is final.
•The delusional sufferer may go to incredible lengths to prove that they have a reason to be jealous, including following their spouse or partner and having them investigated.
4. Be conscious of those suffering paranoia concerning persecution. At times in life, being reticent to trust someone is an important way of not being taken in by con artists or people intent on harming us. However, most times our trust radar is able to help us realize that most people are intrinsically good and that we create a better network through trust. For those suffering from persecutory delusions though, trusting others is nigh on impossible at any time. This type is certain that someone or a group of people is out to get them, no matter how erroneous this belief. Some of the signs of this disorder include:
•The delusional sufferer is convinced that others are always plotting against them. They constantly hold others with suspicion and a watchful eye.
•The level of lack of trust in others is quite obvious and stands out against the norm of wariness. An ideal example would be of someone who constantly believes that the conversation of others has to be about something negative concerning them.
•The sufferer believes that others are intent on harming, undermining or even destroying them in some way. Sometimes these imaginings can even lead the sufferer to physically lash out against their imagined conspirators, making this disorder potentially violent and dangerous.
5. Understand people who suffer from somatic complaints. In simple terms "somatic" refers to anything concerning the physical body, not so much the matter of the mind. These people have convictions that there is something wrong about their body. It is important to note that this disorder goes well and truly beyond the beliefs found in a hypochondriac who always feels sick in some way. Signs of this disorder include:
•The person is deeply worried that they're emitting a foul body odor, or that they're infested with parasites or insects, etc.
•The person is obsessed with being malformed or ugly.
•The person raises these issues frequently in conversations, forming a central part of what they talk about, an approach that is clearly apart from normal communication patterns.
6. Help delusional sufferers get professional therapy. These people could be members of your family, colleagues at work, or members of your local sports team. Spotting these delusions before they ruin people's lives is important because on the whole, these delusions tend to alienate the sufferers from everyone else and they lose jobs, friends and even family ties as a result of suffering from them. Not only is it essential that help is sought for the sake of the person suffering but in the event of violence, stalking, confrontational actions, and so forth, other people also need protection from possible harm. The sooner you seek help for the delusional sufferer, the better because the longer it is left untended, the more likely that the sufferer may commit some harm toward others.
•Be aware that delusional sufferers rarely seek psychological help of their own choice. Remember that they believe in what their mind is telling them; they truly think their imaginings are real.
•Take the necessary steps to prevent the sufferer from self-harm, committing violence or abuse or neglecting themselves or others in their care.
•If you're not directly responsible for the person, speak to the family, friends or other people in that person's life who are. They may need to have their understanding increased.
•If you're in a vulnerable position in relation to the delusional sufferer, get help to keep you out of harm's way. Don't hesitate to call the police, a doctor, a helper etc. if you are attacked or confronted – your safety comes first and then the treatment for the sufferer can be instituted after your safety is assured.
7. Recognize that if you're responsible for someone suffering from a delusional disorder that there will likely be periods of hospitalization. This means that you and your family need to have plans in place to ensure that the sufferer's external life is cared for and that family members and friends take up the person's responsibilities for the duration of the stay.
•You may need to help the sufferer make decisions about primary care givers and treatment options.
•You may be required to help the sufferer take treatment reliably. Work out a system for doing this; it could involve a series of family members and friends checking in on the sufferer regularly. Helping the sufferer comply with the treatment will take some effort but is worth it.
•Be ready to help the sufferer set their legal affairs in order too but only do so when the sufferer is in between a delusional period so that they're fully aware of anything they're agreeing to.
•Help other family members and friends understand the disorder better. Find information about the disorder (including asking the patient's doctor for good sources of information) and talk to them about the disorder so that others are not afraid or compelled to dismiss the sufferer through jokes, insults or ignoring them completely. Knowledge will help everyone to be more compassionate and available for the sufferer.
Resource: Psychology Today