Medical Delusions vs Hallucinations

  1. Stephen Tashi

    Stephen Tashi 4,474
    Science Advisor
    2014 Award

    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.
  2. jcsd
  3. No, that's only one kind of delusion.

    In general:

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

    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.
  4. 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.
  5. Stephen Tashi

    Stephen Tashi 4,474
    Science Advisor
    2014 Award

    Terminology in the social sciences is usually a gray area!

    That source defines a delusion as

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

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

  6. you can be deluded without hallucinating, you can hallucinate without being deluded.
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