How Is Delusional Disorder Treated?
Treatment for delusional disorder most often includes medication and psychotherapy (a type of counseling). Delusional disorder can be very difficult to treat in part because its sufferers often have poor insight and do not recognize that a psychiatric problem exists. Studies show that close to half of patients treated with antipsychotic medications show at least partial improvement.
Antipsychotic medicines are the primary treatment for delusional disorder. Sometimes, psychotherapy can also be a helpful adjunct to medications as a way to help patients better manage and cope with the stresses related to their delusional beliefs and its impact on their lives. Psychotherapies that may be helpful in delsional disorder include the following:
- Individual psychotherapy: Can help the person recognize and correct the underlying thinking that has become distorted.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Can help the person learn to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings.
- Family therapy: Can help families deal more effectively with a loved one who has delusional disorder, enabling them to contribute to a better outcome for the person.
The primary medications used to attempt to treat delusional disorder are called anti-psychotics. Drugs used include:
- Conventional antipsychotics: Also called neuroleptics, these have been used to treat mental disorders since the mid-1950s. They work by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter believed to be involved in the development of delusions. Conventional antipsychotics include Thorazine, Loxapine, Prolixin, Haldol, Navane, Stelazine, Trilafon, and Mellaril.
- Atypical antipsychotics: These newer drugs appear to be effective in treating the symptoms of delusional disorder with fewer movement-related side effects than the older typical antipsychotics. They work by blocking dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is another neurotransmitter believed to be involved in delusional disorder. These drugs include Risperdal, Clozaril, Seroquel, Geodon, and Zyprexa.
- Other medications: Tranquilizers and antidepressants might also be used to treat anxiety or mood symptoms if they
occur in combination with delusional disorder. Tranquilizers might be used if the person has a very high level of anxiety or problems sleeping. Antidepressants might be used to treat depression. which often occurs in people with delusional disorder
People with severe symptoms or who are at risk of hurting themselves or others might need to be hospitalized until the condition is stabilized.
What Are the Complications of Delusional Disorder?
- People with delusional disorder might become depressed, often as the result of difficulties associated with the delusions.
- Acting on the delusions also can lead to violence or legal problems; for example, a person with an erotomanic delusion who stalks or harasses the object of his or her delusion, could lead to arrest.
- Further, people with this disorder can eventually become alienated from others, especially if their delusions interfere with or damage their relationships .
What Is the Outlook for People With Delusional Disorder?
The outlook for people with delusional disorder varies depending on the person, the type of delusional disorder, and the person's life circumstances, including the availability of support and a willingness to stick with treatment.
Delusional disorder is typically a chronic (ongoing) condition, but when properly treated, many people with this disorder can find relief from their symptoms. Some people recover completely and others experience episodes of delusional beliefs with periods of remission (lack of symptoms).
Unfortunately, many people with this disorder do not seek help. It often is difficult for people with a mental disorder to recognize that they are not well, or they may attribute their symptoms to other factors, such as the environment. They also might be too embarrassed or afraid to seek treatment. Without treatment, delusional disorder can be a life-long illness.
Can Delusional Disorder Be Prevented?
There is no known way to prevent delusional disorder. However, early diagnosis and treatment can help decrease the disruption to the person's life, family, and friendships.