Are Delusions or Hallucinations More Dangerous for Society?

  • Thread starter Stephen Tashi
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In summary, the recent woman driver who was killed by police in DC for trying to get past security barriers was reported to have a delusion that President Obama was communicating with her in a secret manner. The technical definition of delusion involves a false interpretation of ordinary physical events with personal significance. This can vary in intensity and may be a symptom of mental disorders or physiological conditions. The woman's delusion may fall under the category of "ideas of reference," where ordinary events are interpreted as personally significant. It is important to note that delusions can exist without hallucinations and vice versa.
  • #1
Stephen Tashi
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The woman driver recently killed by police in DC for trying to get past security barriers was reported in some stories as having the delusion that President Obama was communicating with her in some secret manner. As I understand the technical definition of delusion, it is a false interpretation of ordinary physical events with some personal significance. It is not a belief in physically impossible events or a hallucination, which is the sensation of unreal things such as hearing voices. It's popular to speak of people who have unusual political beliefs, conspiracy theories etc. as "delusional", but I don't think the psychiatric definition of "delusion" applies to beliefs that don't have some personal significance to the patient.

I can see that people who hallucinate might often pose a danger to others or themselves. I wonder how many of the people in the recent headlines as shooters or being shot had hallucinations, vs how many had delusions vs how many had neither.
 
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  • #2
Stephen Tashi said:
As I understand the technical definition of delusion, it is a false interpretation of ordinary physical events with some personal significance.
No, that's only one kind of delusion.

In general:
delusion, in psychology, a rigid system of beliefs with which a person is preoccupied and to which the person firmly holds, despite the logical absurdity of the beliefs and a lack of supporting evidence. Delusions are symptomatic of such mental disorders as paranoia, schizophrenia, and major depression and of such physiological conditions as senile psychosis and delirium. They vary in intensity, extent, and coherence and may represent pathological exaggeration of normal tendencies to rationalization, wishful thinking, and the like. Among the most common are delusions of persecution and grandeur; others include delusions of bodily functioning, guilt, love, and control.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/156888/delusion

You seem to be talking about "Ideas of Reference," which is just one particular subset of delusions:

Ideas of Reference: Delusions where one interprets innocuous events as highly personally significant. Strongly held ideas of reference can indicate a sign of mental illness (schizophrenia, for example).

Example: A woman rarely leaves her house, because she experiences all conversation or laughter she hears as directed at herself.

http://psychcentral.com/encyclopedia/2008/ideas-of-reference

A person with "ideas of reference" believes that perfectly ordinary things around him refer to him, such as when John Nash thought the daily newspaper contained coded messages to him from space aliens.
 
  • #3
Okay, that confirms it- I am delusional*. Thanks zoobie, thanks very much.
*delusions of grandeur (and perhaps persecution?).
P.S.-Or in the least I'm delusional about being delusional.
 
  • #4
Terminology in the social sciences is usually a gray area!

zoobyshoe said:
You seem to be talking about "Ideas of Reference," which is just one particular subset of delusions:

http://psychcentral.com/encyclopedia/2008/ideas-of-reference

That source defines a delusion as

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

whereas the Wikipedia classifies 4 types of delusions, one of which is:

Non-bizarre delusion: A delusion that, though false, is at least possible, e.g., the affected person mistakenly believes that he is under constant police surveillance.

However, you're correct that I was indeed thinking that the woman in DC was afflicted with:

A person with "ideas of reference" believes that perfectly ordinary things around him refer to him, such as when John Nash thought the daily newspaper contained coded messages to him from space aliens.
 
  • #5
you can be deluded without hallucinating, you can hallucinate without being deluded.
 

Related to Are Delusions or Hallucinations More Dangerous for Society?

1. What is the difference between delusions and hallucinations?

Delusions and hallucinations are both symptoms of a mental disorder, but they are different in nature. Delusions are false beliefs that a person holds despite evidence to the contrary. Hallucinations, on the other hand, are sensory experiences that are not based on reality, such as seeing or hearing things that are not actually there.

2. What causes delusions and hallucinations?

There is no single cause for delusions and hallucinations, as they can be symptoms of various mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse. They can also be caused by certain medical conditions, such as brain tumors or degenerative diseases.

3. Can delusions and hallucinations be treated?

Yes, both delusions and hallucinations can be treated with medication, therapy, or a combination of both. The specific treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the symptoms. It is important to seek professional help for proper diagnosis and treatment.

4. Are delusions and hallucinations always a sign of mental illness?

No, delusions and hallucinations can also occur in people who do not have a mental disorder. They can be induced by certain drugs or medications, extreme stress or trauma, or even sleep deprivation. However, if these symptoms persist or interfere with daily life, it is important to seek medical attention.

5. Can delusions and hallucinations be prevented?

As mentioned earlier, delusions and hallucinations can have various causes, so it is not always possible to prevent them. However, practicing good mental health habits, such as managing stress, getting enough sleep, and avoiding drugs and alcohol, can help reduce the risk of experiencing these symptoms.

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