Mental Health and Delusional Disorder
What Are the Symptoms of Delusional Disorder?
The presence of non-bizarre delusions is the most obvious symptom of this disorder. Other symptoms that mighty appear include:
- An irritable, angry, or low mood
- Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there) that are related to the delusion (For example, a person who believes he or she has an odor problem may smell a bad odor.)
What Causes Delusional Disorder?
As with many other psychotic disorders, the exact cause of delusional disorder is not yet known. Researchers are, however, looking at the role of various genetic, biological, environmental or psychological factors.
- Genetic: The fact that delusional disorder is more common in people who have family members with delusional disorder or schizophrenia suggests there might be a genetic factor involved. It is believed that, as with other mental disorders, a tendency to develop delusional disorder might be passed on from parents to their children.
- Biological: Researchers are studying how abnormalities of certain areas of the brain might be involved in the development of delusional disorders. Abnormalities in the functioning of brain regions that control perception and thinking may be linked to the formation of delusional symptoms.
- Environmental/psychological: Evidence suggests that delusional disorder can be triggered by stress. Alcohol and drug abuse also might contribute to the condition. People who tend to be isolated, such as immigrants or those with poor sight and hearing, appear to be more vulnerable to developing delusional disorder.
How Is Delusional Disorder Diagnosed?
If symptoms of delusional disorder are present, your doctor will likely perform a complete medical history and physical exam. Although there are no lab tests to specifically diagnose delusional disorder, the doctor might use various diagnostic tests, such as imaging studies or blood tests, to rule out physical illness as the cause of the symptoms.
If the doctor finds no physical reason for the symptoms, he or she might refer the person to a psychiatrist or psychologist, health care professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for a psychotic disorder. The doctor or therapist bases his or her diagnosis on the person's report of symptoms, and his or her observation of the person's attitude and behavior. The doctor or therapist then determines if the person's symptoms point to a specific disorder. A diagnosis of delusional disorder is made if a person has non-bizarre delusions for at least one month and does not have the characteristic symptoms of other psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.