It sounds like something completely made up but delusions of grandeur is a ‘thing’. In fact, if you Google the definition of it, you will find this:
“a false impression of one’s own importance”
For some people, the delusions of grandeur are barely more than a fleeting stage, the patient continuing to fit in with everyday life normally with no behavior displayed which could be considered as eccentric, odd or bizarre. For others however, the condition can be life-destroying, taking over every part of every day life and leaving them unable to function as they normally would.
Delusional disorder itself is rather rare and tends to happen more in middle aged men and women, females often being the most affected.
Delusions of Grandeur – Symptoms
A person suffering with this condition is likely to believe that they are important, somehow more important than everyone around them, even thinking they are powerful, rich or famous even when they are none of those things. This is a common symptom of those suffering with various delusional disorders in which they cannot determine between which is real life and which is fantasy – something completely fake or created in their head. This condition was once referred to as a paranoid disorder and is considered to be a ‘psychosis’, also deemed to be a very serious mental health disorder.
There are a number of ways in which patients suffering with delusions of grandeur might display symptoms, and the following are among the most popular and commonly reported:
Identity – the patient believe that everyone DOES or SHOULD know who they are. They may believe they are famous, and they may even expect complete strangers to recognize them.
Power – the patient believes that he or she is in a position of power, perhaps a consult to the president or similar. They may believe that they have the power to do certain things that are not possible such as ‘winning a war with a country’ or having supernatural superpowers. Some may believe they are the CEO of a large corporation or company.
Money – the patient believes that he or she has a bank balance filled with funds, often coming hand in hand with power – thinking they own a company.
Knowledge – the patient believes that they know everything, that everything coming out of they mouth is the truth and no one can argue with it. If you have ever seen The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper is a prime example of this – he thinks his knowledge is more superior than everyone else’s, also believing himself to have been born a genius and above everyone else around him, including family and close friends.
Self-worth – the patient believes that he or she has the right to get whatever they want, whenever they want it. They may refuse to wait in line at a restaurant for example, or maybe even refuse to pay for something at a shop believe ing it is their right to have that item or items for free because of the status they have given themselves.
Celebrity attachments – the patient believes he or she knows someone famous, perhaps being famous to the Queen of England or Angelina Jolie. Sometimes the patient might believe he or she is directly linked or related to a God or to Jesus.
Delusions of Grandeur – Associated Medical Conditions
Delusions of grandeur is classed as a subtype of a type of delusion, generally happening in patients with existing psychiatric problems. These may include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and particularly those suffering with manic episodes, and even those with delusional disorder and substance abuse patients.
It has been reported that up to three fifths of patients who suffer with bipolar disorder will experience these delusions, and during their manic episodes will experience a sensation of being above and beyond everyone else, perhaps somehow having a fictional attachment to a famous or very wealthy person.
Patients with major depressive disorder have a 21% chance of suffering with these delusions, although this is believed to be down to a combination of mind-altering medications and neurochemistry.
Narcissistic personality disorder, otherwise known as NPD, is a disorder in which the patient already suffers with an overblown sense of ego and self-worth but one doesn’t always have to come hand in hand with the other. It is possible to suffer with NPD and not have Delusions of Grandeur. At the same time, you can suffer with the delusions and not have NPD.
Drug abuse and even alcohol dependency can cause these delusions, chemicals within the drugs changing the way the brain works, altering the neurotransmitters, receptors and even regional activity, all of which can create these delusions from nowhere as well as actually killing off brain cells.
Patients with diseases considered neurodegenerative such as Alzheimer’s, Huntingdon’s, Wilson’s or Parkinson’s Disease may also experience these delusions, and although the risks are slight, they must not be forgotten about. There are a number of reasons why these neurodegenerative diseases can cause delusions of grandeur and it is thought that neurotransmitter deficiencies, brain volume loss, and even damage to the brain wiring system can all be contributing factors.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD often comes with similar symptoms to bipolar disorder and just as those suffering with bipolar disorder can suffer with these delusions of grandeur, so can PTSD patients. With this condition, the wiring in the brain simply will not let the brain relax and it turns into a hypersensitive version of itself, exaggerating things in a massive way. This can lead to an inflation of self-worth and in turn, these delusions.
Over 50% of all schizophrenia patients also experience grand delusions, mostly because the main symptom of the disorder is a complete detachment from what is reality, often living with episodes in which things are completely made up in the head. Delusions and hallucinations are common, both of which can lead to delusions of grandeur – hearing a voice and believing you are talking to Jesus or God, for example.
Delusions of Grandeur – Treatment
Treatment for this kind of mental disorder will normally involve a combination of counseling and other therapies alongside medication. It is not a condition that will have formed overnight and it is not one that can be treated overnight either, often with a number of medications tried and tested before one can be found that works for the patient and everyone involved safely.
The first thing that should happen wis a full medical investigation to find the root cause of the problem. If it is a condition such as Wilson’s disease that is causing the delusions, medication will be required to get the underlying problem under control before the other symptoms can be dealt with. Otherwise, the treatment itself could prove counter productive.
The treatment for the delusions of grandeur will often depend on the root cause. Patients with schizophrenia for example, would be treated with anti-psychotic medication which will caused the delusions to subside by proxy, and in some cases, therapy is the answer.
CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of treatment that involves using therapy to ‘re-wire’ the brain into thinking about things differently. The treatment can be used to successfully treat a number of mental health conditions, and delusions can also be helped with this and medications.
Mood stabilizers can help when there isn’t a serious, treatable underlying condition.