Delusion

By Renée Grinnell

An unshakable theory or belief in something false and impossible, despite evidence to the contrary.

Examples of some of the most common types of delusions are:

  • Delusions of persecution or paranoia – Belief that others — often a vague “they” — are out to get him or her. These persecutory delusions often involve bizarre ideas and plots (e.g. “Russians are trying to poison me with radioactive particles delivered through my tap water”). Click here to learn more about paranoid delusions, or here to learn more about persecutory delusions.

  • Delusions of reference – A neutral event is believed to have a special and personal meaning. For example, a person with schizophrenia might believe a billboard or a celebrity is sending a message meant specifically for them. Click here to learn more about delusions of reference.
  • Delusions of grandeur – Belief that one is a famous or important figure, such as Jesus Christ or Napolean. Alternately, delusions of grandeur may involve the belief that one has unusual powers that no one else has (e.g. the ability to fly). Click here to learn more about delusions of grandeur.
  • Delusions of control – Belief that one’s thoughts or actions are being controlled by outside, alien forces. Common delusions of control include thought broadcasting (“My private thoughts are being transmitted to others”), thought insertion (“Someone is planting thoughts in my head”), and thought withdrawal (“The CIA is robbing me of my thoughts”). Click here to learn more about delusions of control.

Example: The patient believes he is able to communicate telepathically with the U.S. President and no one can convince him otherwise, although he admits he’s never actually tried it.


    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Sep 2011