A delusion of grandeur is the fixed, false belief that one possesses superior qualities such as genius, fame, omnipotence, or wealth. It is most often a symptom of schizophrenia, but can also be a symptom found in psychotic or bipolar disorders, as well as dementia (such as Alzheimer’s).
People with a delusion of grandeur often have the conviction of having some great but unrecognized talent or insight. They may also believe they have made some important discovery that others don’t understand or appreciate.
Less commonly, the individual may have the delusion of having a special relationship with a prominent person (such as being an adviser to the President). Or the person may believe that actually are a very prominent and important person, in which case the actual person may be regarded as an imposter.
Grandiose delusions may have religious content, such as the person believes he or she has received a special message from God or another deity.
Sometimes, in popular language, this disorder may be known as “megalomania,” but is more accurately referred to as narcissistic personality disorder if it is a core component of a person’s personality and identity. In such disorders, the person has a greatly out-of-proportion sense of their own worth and value in the world. People with this issue can also sometimes have a taste for the finer, more extravagant things in life.
Sometimes drug use or abuse can intensify or bring on episodes of delusion of grandeur. People who take phencyclidine (PCP) or amphetamines are especially at risk. People who are high and experience a delusion of grandeur may be at increased risk for physically harmful behavior. For instance, if you believe you are capable of flying after taking PCP, and try to jump off a 10-story building based upon that false belief, you may be at serious risk of death.
Example: A woman believes she has been selected by a deity for eventual elevation to divine status; she goes around blessing people.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Jan 2012