Delusions vs Hallucinations

  • #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.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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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
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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
Stephen Tashi
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Terminology in the social sciences is usually a gray area!

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

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