Monday, December 31, 2007

Can't you see, this is the land of delusion?

Delusion arises from anger. The mind is bewildered by delusion. Reasoning is destroyed when the mind is bewildered. One falls down when reasoning is destroyed.

              --the Bhagavad Gita

In listening to some of the conversations overheard in various airports during our trip, it's amazing--and sad--to see the extent that some folks believe their own faulty logic. Check this out:

A delusion is an unshakable belief in something untrue. These irrational beliefs defy normal reasoning, and remain firm even when overwhelming proof is presented to dispute them. Delusions are often accompanied by hallucinations and/or feelings of paranoia, which act to strengthen confidence in the delusion. Delusions are distinct from culturally or religiously based beliefs that may be seen as untrue by outsiders.

Delusions are a common symptom of several mood and personality-related mental illnesses, including schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, shared psychotic disorder, major depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder. They are also the major feature of delusional disorder. Individuals with delusional disorder suffer from long-term, complex delusions that fall into one of six categories: persecutory, grandiose, jealousy, erotomanic, somatic, or mixed.

From what I was hearing today, it was very much persecutory. I.e., it's "not MY fault," and "it's certainly not MY doing." Uh-huh.

Persecutory type:

*Patients believe that they are being persecuted and harmed (Fennig, 2005).

*In contrast to persecutory delusions of schizophrenia, the delusions are systematized, coherent, and defended with clear logic. No deterioration in social functioning and personality is observed (Manschreck, 2000).

*Patients are often involved in formal litigation against their perceived persecutors. Munro (1999) refers to an article by Freckelton who identifies the following characteristics of deluded litigants: determination to succeed against all odds, tendency to identify the barriers as conspiracies, endless drive to right a wrong, quarrelsome behaviors, and "saturating the field" with multiple complaints and suspiciousness (Munro, 1999).

*Patients often experience some degree of emotional distress such as irritability, anger, and resentment (Fennig, 2005). In extreme situations, they may resort to violence against those who they believe are hurting them (APA, 2000)

*The distinction between normality, overvalued ideas, and delusions is difficult to make in some of the cases (Fennig, 2005).

*Individuals with persecutory delusional disorder are plagued by feelings of paranoia and an irrational yet unshakable belief that someone is plotting against them, or out to harm them.

Psychiatric definition

Although non-specific concepts of madness have been around for several thousand years, the psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers was the first to define the three main criteria for a belief to be considered delusional in his book General Psychopathology. These criteria are:

*certainty (held with absolute conviction)

*incorrigibility (not changeable by compelling counterargument or proof to the contrary)

*impossibility or falsity of content (implausible, bizarre or patently untrue)

In the most recent DSM, a delusion is defined as "A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everybody else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary. The belief is not one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person's culture or subculture (e.g., it is not an article of religious faith)."

Some serious stuff. Such persecutorial delusions are the stuff of true mental disturbances, if not outright mental illness. Stories of false recollections are rampant. There have been many stories of false memories of sexual abuse and/or humiliation--often instigated by unscrupulous psychologists or psychiatrists--as well as incorrect memories or illusions of what constitutes the reality of things. Sometimes it's merely a matter of people lying to further their own agenda, maybe because they actually believe their own rhetoric. Either way, it's a seriously warped view of reality. I find it quite creepy.

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