In detail

Delusions, what types exist?

Delusions, what types exist?

Luisa is 63 years old. She lives with her husband in a block of neighbors. When Luisa sees two or more neighbors talking in the landings, she thinks they are conspiring against her. The same thing happens when he hears noises at the neighbors' house, he immediately states that they do it to annoy her and that she cannot rest. Her husband tries to convince her that nobody goes against her, but Luisa is determined that her neighbors want to harm her. He even went to the police and left there saying that the agents were complicit in their neighbors. Why does Luisa believe that everyone goes against her? Possibly suffer persecutory or paranoid delusions.

In the case of Luisa it is persecutory or paranoid delusions, however, the range of delusions is very wide. Throughout the article the concept of delirium will be addressed and the most common delusions will be exposed. Let's get started!

What are delusions?

A delirium is a false idea that a person maintains over time with great conviction. This idea is not modifiable either by empirical evidence against or by logical arguments. Delusions have two characteristics: irreversibility and incorrigibility. Both characteristics make reference to the fact that the person believes in his delirium and has no doubts about his truthfulness. On the other hand, although the person is shown with objective evidence that his delirium is false, it will not be altered, and finally, the subject's experience will hardly modify the delirium.

For the misconception to be considered delusional, it will be necessary that it cannot be justified by a political, social, religious or cultural context and that it is not shared by the different members of the cultural or social group to which it belongs. The delirium causes discomfort in the person's life and interferes significantly in their day to day. For example, he is able to not leave home because he thinks he may be the target of a conspiracy to steal his ideas. The difference between delirium and obsessive ideas is that the person who possesses a delusional idea does not try to avoid these ideas or consider them meaningless. Delusions are met especially in psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia or delusional disorder.

Types of delusions

Delusions can be classified according to their content or theme. On many occasions, the content of delusions is usually fantastic or quite unlikely. It is important to keep in mind that differentiating one delirium from another can sometimes be complicated, as sometimes different categories can overlap.

Persecutory or paranoid delusions

The person feels that he is persecuted and may also feel threatened by people or institutions with the aim of causing him some harm. This type of persecution can be of two types: physical or psychic. Physical persecution can range from the belief of a death threat to both him and his family. Psychic persecution revolves around the belief someone wants to cause moral damage. The person may think that persecution strategies can range from hidden microphones, surveillance cameras, even through telepathy.

Reference or self-referential delusions

In this kind of delirium the person believes himself to be the center of everything that happens around him. He thinks that the action of others is directed at him. Anyone suffering from this type of delusions may think that the content of the news refers to him or that the closest neighbors speak badly about him behind his back. This delirium may have a persecutory nuance since the person may believe that others not only talk about him but also persecute him.

Religious, mystical or possession delusions

Who suffers this type of delirium may come to believe that he is God or that he is possessed by some demon.

Delusions of control or influence

The person suffering from this delirium may think that your thoughts, your feelings and your actions are controlled by an external force such as the FBI, the CIA, aliens ... This delirium can also be persecutory in which the person believes they want to do physical or moral harm.

Delusions of significance

It is a delirium in which the person gives special meanings to day-to-day events. Only the person knows what means what happens. One of the most common interpretations is that they are tests that must be overcome. The person can interpret that a large number of events that occur throughout the day have some meaning and must be deciphered to find out the special meaning.

Delusions of Capgras or illusion of Sosias

The person believes that the most significant people in their environment have been replaced by impostors who are double. As Strobbe-Barbat, Macedo-Orrego and Cruzado (2019) state: "There is a delusion that an imposter has taken the place of a known person, recognizing the physical similarity between the two, although emphasizing subtle differences between the two that allow the patient to distinguish one from the other suspiciously".

Somatic, body or hypochondriac delusions

The body is the center of this delirium. The person may believe that some of their organs are rotten, or that they suffer from an incurable disease. A special type of this delirium is that of infestation or zoopathic possession, in which the person believes that he is infected by small animals or insects that do not let him live normally. It can be observed or scratched, referring to the insects under the skin.

As the DSM-V (2014) describes: "the central theme of delirium implies functions or bodily sensations. Somatic delusions can appear in different ways. The most common are the beliefs that the subject gives off a disgusting smell, that there is an infestation of insects on the skin or under it, that there is an internal parasite, or that there are parts of the body that don't work. "

Delusions of denial, nihilist or Cotard syndrome

In Cotard's delirium the person may believe that they lack body parts such as the heart or the body itself, or you may even think that you have passed away. On the other hand, the person may also think that he is unable to die. The belief that others do not exist or that the world does not exist can also be included in this delirium.

Querulant or reinvindication delusions

The person strongly believes that your rights as a citizen are not respectedFor example, it is not respected in the health, judicial, etc. One of the most typical characteristics of this delirium is the number of complaints and claims that the person can make.

Celotypic or jealous delusions

The person feels jealous frequently because strongly believe that your partner is unfaithful or tries to be continuously. On the other hand, this type of delirium is often accompanied by the search for evidence to prove infidelity.

Erotomanic, erotic, love delusions or Clérambault syndrome

Who suffers it believes that he is loved by another person which, usually, is usually someone superior in the labor hierarchy or someone famous, for example, an actor. The person usually blames third parties that the relationship does not work. A behavior that is usually carried out by those who suffer from it is to try to get in touch with their "beloved", which can sometimes lead to legal problems.

Delusions of greatness or megalomaniac

Person is valued disproportionately and believes that he possesses extraordinary abilities, possessions or abilities. For example, you may come to believe that your beauty is dazzling or that you have an unusual intelligence.

Delusions of Ruin

The person suffering from it has the belief that he lives in a state of
economic poverty, without having the most basic needs covered even now
Not in the near future. Frequently, this state of ruin extends to the family.

Delusions of guilt or sin

The person thinks he deserves to have a punishment. The prevailing idea is that it is responsible for actions that are unforgivable and therefore deserve punishment, even the family may deserve punishment.

Delusions shared, induced or folie á deux

It's about a delirium shared by a third party or third parties. Usually those who come to believe delirium are usually familiar. It is a delusional idea that usually occurs in groups of socially isolated families and with delusions that have a certain logic and coherence.


American Psychiatric Association (2014). DSM-5 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Pan American Medical Editorial.

Strobbe-Barbat, M., Macedo-Orrego, L. and Cruzado L. (2019). Capgras syndrome: a brief review. Journal of Neurpsychiatry, 82(1), 55-65.

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