Delusional Individuals–What to Do
by: James Serio M.A.
When I was working at a residential treatment program, I once interviewed a middle aged woman: She appeared in good spirits. She told me she was a “special angel.” When I asked her what that was, she replied: “I can’t tell you; I’d have to kill you if I did.”
The word delusion means simply a false belief. If you want a more clinical definition, it is provided in the next paragraph.
Delusion: A false personal belief that is not subject to reason or contradictory evidence and is not explained by a person’s usual cultural and religious concepts (so that, for example, it is not an article of faith). A delusion may be firmly maintained in the face of incontrovertible evidence that it is false.
Delusions vary a lot. They range from irrational confidence in the stock market to beliefs far more bizarre that that of being a “special angel.”
There are three causes of delusions:
1) Medical reasons.
2) Psychological reasons.
3) Spiritual reasons.
First: Medical reasons
Delusions can be the result of the use of illegal drugs, exposure to environmental toxins and sometimes, prescription medication. These delusions usually go away when the drug is no longer present.
Delusions can be the result of head trauma. The brain–as a result of the injury–is no longer able to clearly distinguish reality from fiction.
There are undoubtably other medical issues that may cause delusions. However, the aforementioned are the ones I am aware of.
Second: Psychological Reasons.
All of us–to some extent–have delusions or false beliefs. The human mind is logical until a strong emotion becomes involved. Then, human reason tends to give way such as to accommodate the emotional desire. The Bible says as much: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV).”
Every one of us has the ability, to some extent, to engage in self-deception. If we want to believe something bad enough, we can.
This article will emphasize delusions outside the realm of typical human experience. Here are some psychological causes of delusions.
Delusions can be the result of a lack of common sense. That is why the bible says “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5 NIV).”
Delusions can be the result of a defense mechanism. That is, if reality is too painful or frightening, we can choose to believe something untrue–but more comforting. One example: Elderly people–near death–often engage in regression–they behave much like a child. They find it comforting to believe someone wiser than them is in control and will take care of them–just like when they were much younger.
Delusions can be very voluntary: People can and do make a voluntary decision to deceive themselves–and stay deceived. Drugs and alcohol can be used to aid in the delusion.
I want to comment on this last item. One client–who was homeless–told me how he coped with life on the streets. He told me, when he was sober, his life on the street seemed unbearable. So he made a point of staying drunk. As long as he had alcohol etc. in his system, he could believe that he was someone really important and that “this world is wonderful.”
When people did help him, he was able to believe “They should be grateful I’m in their life.”
This client said that he was not alone in his self-deception. Women, who he had sex with while on the street, were really trading sex for drugs. But they too engaged in self-deception. Drugs and alcohol helped these women believe that they really were in love with him. Reality, the client said, would have been too painful for them. “They couldn’t deceive themselves without being drunk.”
The foregoing types of delusions are not the kind that cause the biggest problems. It’s the next kind that cause the most trouble in our lives.
Third: Spiritual reasons.
Consider this Scripture: “Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants (2 Timothy 2:23-26 ).”
You probably don’t need a clinical explanation of “difficult people.” And I doubt you really need any examples.