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What Are the Different Types of Delusional Disorder Treatment?

By Tara Barnett
Updated May 17, 2024
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A person who has delusional disorder, which is a mental illness in which a person holds one or more delusions but does not have other psychiatric symptoms, is usually treated with psychotherapy and drug therapy. It is often difficult to begin treatment on this type of disorder because the patient usually does not believe that his or her problem is psychiatric in nature. As such, one of the most important parts of delusional disorder treatment is convincing the patient that he or she has a problem that must be treated at all. Drug therapy and psychotherapy are typically used to reduce the impact of the delusions on the patient's life, but in many cases the treatment is worse than the disorder due to side effects. Generally speaking, delusional disorder treatment consists of convincing the patient that his or her beliefs really are false, which can be very difficult because they often seem reasonable.

People who suffer from delusional disorder do not suffer from strange and impossible delusions, but rather from somewhat more normal delusions. For example, a person might believe that he or she is under police surveillance or that he or she was adopted. The line between non-bizarre delusions and paranoia is usually thought to be one of degree, but the line between bizarre and non-bizarre delusions is much fuzzier. Particularly in the case of religious or cultural beliefs, what may be bizarre in one context may not be bizarre in another. Success in delusional disorder treatment depends on determining if in fact the person has a delusional disorder at all.

One of the most important steps in delusional disorder treatment plans is establishing that a problem exists from the perspective of the patient. When the person's delusions have interfered in the person's life to the degree that treatment is mandatory, he or she may have no choice but to face the delusions. In less severe cases, the person may refuse treatment and continue in the delusions, so this step is crucial.

Delusional disorder treatment involving drugs usually makes use of atypical antipsychotic drugs like risperidone and olanzapine. Other antipsychotics may also be used. Anxiety medications can reduce agitation due to confrontation and may make treatment easier, although these are sometimes not suitable for long-term use.

Psychotherapy is one of the most important parts of delusional disorder treatment because it addresses the specific logical fallacies in the patient's beliefs. It may be difficult to overcome the specifics of the patient's belief system because these delusions are often elaborate and the patients are often intelligent. In addition to this type of therapy, treatments that improve functionality in daily life may also be useful. Patients also benefit from meeting other people with delusions and also from learning more about this particular disorder.

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