Why Some Delusions Can Be So Persistent
A delusion is defined as a firmly held belief or impression which is contradicted by reality or rational argument.
As a person with schizophrenia, I’m more than familiar with delusional thinking. A major part of my experience living with the illness has taught me to be wary of any thought I have which doesn’t seem entirely real.
These thoughts can range from thinking that someone is talking about you to thinking that you are a god or a prophet. In each case, the delusions stem from both circumstance and a flawed sense of logic.
I can remember in the early stages of my illness when I thought I was an extremely important person because the media was sending me messages that only I could decipher.
When I’d talk to other people about these messages, they’d tell me I needed to see someone. It was clear to them that what I was experiencing was a delusion, but to me it was a truth that only I understood.
Delusions come in many forms and a person doesn’t need to have a mental illness to have them.
Sometimes they’re trivial, unimportant beliefs that for one reason or another someone continues to believe. Sometimes they’re far-reaching and take those who are experiencing them outside the scope of reality altogether.
In each case, they’re persistent. It takes work to distinguish between a delusion or a fact of reality, especially for a person in the throes of mental illness.
My most persistent delusion — the one that keeps climbing up on my shoulder and whispering in my ear, despite my rigorous regimen of self care and medication — is that people are making fun of me.
This delusion has caused me to be hyperaware of my surroundings and note anyone in a new room as either a threat or a non-threat. When I hear laughter over my shoulder, I always look for the source and note whether the person has any awareness of me. Even if they don’t, sometimes I think that they do.
Many times this delusion results in panic. Although I know my beliefs are not rooted entirely in reality, that it’s more likely that people aren’t laughing about me, the possibility still exists that they are. That ambiguity fuels the delusion and the resulting paranoia.
I know from my experience growing up that sometimes people who have low self-esteem make fun of other people or laugh about them behind their backs. Sometimes the cycle doesn’t end after high school and particularly insecure people will continue to make fun of others into adulthood. This is basically the definition of gossip.
Sometimes people are mean to each other. I’m well aware that it happens, which is why I can’t dismiss the possibility that my delusions may hold some truth. Essentially, as long as there is a hint of truth in a belief, dismissing it completely will never be on the table, and it’s important to know that that will happen from time to time.
Delusions lacking evidence or basis in reality — thinking you’re God, for example — are easier to dismiss when faced with the facts.
It’s easier to get used to something that may or may not be real than it is to treat it as entirely real or entirely untrue. If you can’t be sure, you can’t be sure.
Getting used to the delusions is just part and parcel of the schizophrenic experience.
Hedrick, M. (2014). Why Some Delusions Can Be So Persistent. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 29, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/05/27/why-some-delusions-can-be-so-persistent/