Delusions are a symptom of psychosis. They involve strong beliefs in something that is not true. Certain mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and delusional disorder, often involve delusions.

Individuals with delusions firmly believe in something untrue. For example, they may believe that someone is trying to attack or kill them or that they are someone they are not, such as the president of a country.

Delusions are one of the main symptoms of psychosis, which is when someone loses contact with reality.

This article explores who may experience delusions, types of delusions, and other signs of psychosis. It also explores treatment for delusions and how to support those experiencing them.

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Psychosis may develop for a variety of reasons. These may include mental health conditions, substance use, trauma, or physical injury.

Individuals with certain conditions have a higher risk of experiencing delusions. Some of these conditions include schizophrenia, delusional disorder, and bipolar disorder.


Schizophrenia is a rare brain disorder that causes a range of symptoms. These may include delusions, difficulty with thinking, and hallucinations. People with schizophrenia can experience episodes in which they cannot distinguish between real and unreal experiences.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), in some cases, individuals with schizophrenia may develop delusions as a response to hallucinations. For example, they may believe they are hearing voices during a hallucination. They may then develop a delusion that someone is watching them or following them.

Delusional disorder

Another condition that involves delusions is delusional disorder. Individuals with this condition have at least one or more delusional thoughts for at least 1 month.

The delusions may involve situations that are not real but also not impossible. For example, someone with delusional disorder may believe that:

  • another person or group wants to hurt them
  • their romantic partner is having an affair
  • they have special talents
  • someone else, typically someone of higher status, is in love with them

Delusional disorder is extremely rare and shares some similarities with schizophrenia. However, research suggests that the delusions that those with delusional disorder experience tend to be more believable than those that people with schizophrenia experience.

Bipolar disorder

Individuals with bipolar disorder may also experience delusions. A 2022 review of research found that over half of people with this condition experience psychosis at some point in life.

Bipolar disorder involves manic and depressive episodes. During manic episodes, a person may experience extreme joy and high energy levels. In contrast, during depressive episodes, someone may feel so low that they cannot function or take any action.

The above 2022 review suggests that symptoms of psychosis, such as delusions, typically occur during manic episodes.

Learn more about bipolar psychosis.

Everyone who experiences delusions may have unique experiences. What type of delusion they experience may depend on a number of factors. These may include other health conditions, life experiences, cultural beliefs, and more.

However, a 2022 review of research indicates that delusions tend to fall into certain categories. Individuals with religious delusions may believe that they are a deity. People with erotomanic delusions might believe that someone else is in love with them. Those with delusional jealousy may wrongly believe that a romantic partner is unfaithful.

Somatic delusions involve physical sensations or bodily functions. For example, some people may believe that an external force is controlling their hand.

Research suggests that individuals with bipolar disorder are more likely to have delusions of grandeur. People with schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease have a higher risk of persecutory delusions, which may involve beliefs that another person or group wants to cause them harm.

Researchers have found that an individual’s social and cultural environment can influence their delusions. These strong beliefs may not be true but may develop from the life experiences an individual has had.

According to the NHS, there are three main symptoms of psychosis. These are:

  • confused and disturbed thoughts
  • hallucinations
  • delusions

Hallucinations may involve hearing sounds or voices or seeing things that others cannot. Signs that indicate a person is experiencing confused and disturbed thoughts may include:

  • disturbed speech, which may involve switching from one topic to another mid-sentence
  • fast and constant speech
  • losing a train of thought, which may cause a sudden pause in conversation or activity

Common warning signs that indicate psychosis may include:

  • paranoid thoughts or ideas
  • suspiciousness of other people
  • very intense or unusual thoughts
  • sleeping difficulties
  • difficulty communicating or confused speech
  • social isolation or spending less time with others
  • inability or difficulty thinking clearly
  • suddenly being unable to perform at work or in school
  • difficulties with personal hygiene or self-care

Anyone experiencing signs of psychosis should visit a doctor who can diagnose psychosis and provide treatment if necessary.

Treating delusions depends on their underlying causes. Treatments may involve medications, therapy, or a combination of the two.

Antipsychotic medications may help treat the symptoms of delusional disorder. Combining medications with psychotherapy typically improves a person’s response to treatment.

Treatment for schizophrenia may also involve taking antipsychotics and attending psychotherapy sessions.

Individuals with bipolar disorder may also experience delusions. Treatment for this condition may involve mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and psychotherapy.

Group therapy may be another treatment option for people experiencing delusions. A person may find meeting and talking with others undergoing similar experiences a useful source of support.

Anyone experiencing delusions should speak with a medical professional who can help determine what is causing these delusions. They may then recommend a personalized treatment plan.

Delusions involve believing in things that are untrue. However, these beliefs feel real and valid to those experiencing them.

Trying to talk someone out of a delusion is generally ineffective, as it can even make individuals hold faster to their delusions. However, people should also avoid reinforcing or legitimizing someone’s delusions.

When supporting someone with delusions, a person should try to remain calm and listen to what they are saying with an open mind. Individuals may ask questions about someone’s delusions and respond without supporting or criticizing the delusions.

People may also express concerns about the person experiencing delusions and may eventually suggest attending therapy together. Individuals should avoid expressing frustration with someone experiencing delusions.

People can also consult a healthcare professional to learn more about supporting those experiencing delusions.

Delusions are one of the main symptoms of psychosis. They involve strong beliefs in something that is not true. For example, an individual may believe that someone is trying to harm them or feel convinced that a spouse is having an affair.

Conditions such as delusional disorder or bipolar disorder can involve delusions. Treating the underlying condition may help manage delusions and other symptoms of psychosis. A person needs to consult a doctor if they think they may be experiencing delusions or other symptoms of psychosis.