The word ‘soma’ means ‘body’ in the ancient Greek language.
The term somatic delusion is used when someone has a firm yet false belief that they are suffering from some medical condition or a physical medical defect. The individual’s belief may extend to the outward appearance. Over time, and with a strong belief, such individuals are unable to differentiate between reality and imagination. It is this firmness in such false beliefs that results in most symptoms of somatic delusions.
Somatic Delusional Disorder: Treating Somatic Delusions
Somatic delusions are treatable irrespective of the underlying cause.
Individuals who suffer from a delusion disorder are quite firm about their symptoms, and thus it becomes a challenge to convince them of the falsehood of the symptoms they are experiencing. This in turn may result in violent reactions. Frustration is common in delusion disorders as the patient finds it hard to convince others about the condition which does not exist. However, one should not behave aggressively with patients of delusion disorder because their beliefs are sincere and unshakeable, and aggression may only lead to more challenges in countering the problem.
The treatment of somatic delusion requires a compassionate and non-judgmental approach. Physicians may plan a long-term treatment involving psychotherapy and medication. Symptoms of delusion disorder may cause severe mental and physical distress. The patient’s relatives and caregivers need to learn how to deal compassionately with the patient. Family therapy is a crucial aspect of treating somatic delusions. Cognitive behavior therapy is also helpful in the treatment of somatic delusions.
What are Delusions?
Earlier, delusion disorder was known as a paranoid disorder.
People with delusions often experience imaginary conditions. They mostly imagine routine situations that are possible in real life. In rare instances, one may imagine bizarre occurrences like seeing aliens or ghosts in the surroundings. People who suffer from delusions refuse to accept the fallacy of their beliefs. Sometimes, delusion may be the result of the symptoms of other psychotic conditions. To confirm the presence of delusion disorder, the person should be experiencing at least one type of delusion for over a month.
An individual with a delusional disorder exhibits an otherwise normal behavior in society, unlike a patient with other psychotic illnesses like major depression or delirium. A delusion may disrupt the life of the patient because of over-obsession with the belief. Delusion disorders are of different types, depending upon the nature of the delusion disorder.
Examples of delusions
People with a delusion disorder nurture beliefs that have no connection with reality. One may feel that insects are crawling all over the body or germs in the intestines. The individual may visit several physicians and complain that no doctor can diagnose the condition. Feeling that colleagues, friends, or relatives are hatching some conspiracy is also a type of delusion.
Sometimes a delusion can cause a person to take extreme steps like dialing emergency numbers to inform them about an attack on life. Delusion disorder can also cause a person to believe firmly that a partner is in an illicit relationship. In the grandiose delusion, the individual claims to be very rich and famous or claims that he has made some startling discovery. In contrast, a person may feel extremely poor or is going to lose everything.
7 Types of Delusions
There are seven types of delusions, according to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
- Erotomanic– An individual believes that a famous person or a celebrity is in love with him in erotomanic delusion.
- Grandiose– There is a strong belief that an individual is very famous and has grand achievements to his name, in grandiose delusion.
- Jealous– Jealousy can cause an individual to believe that the partner is in an extra-marital relationship. Othello syndrome is another name for this theme of delusion.
- Persecutory– In this type of delusion, an individual firmly believes that someone is planning an assault or is spying on them.
- Somatic– Individuals who suffer from somatic delusions believe that there is something wrong with their physical appearances or bodily functions.
- Mixed– Presence of more than one type of delusion.
- Unspecified– It is different than any of the above or lacks any predominant type of delusion.
What are Somatic Delusions?
Unusual physical appearance, irregular body functions, and loss of a limb are few common beliefs that may present as symptoms of somatic delusions. These beliefs are so strong that friends, family members, and doctors fail to convince the person that there is nothing wrong with him. Worm infestation is one of the most common examples of somatic delusion. The patient may experience physical sensations with no specific cause.
Somatic delusion may be associated with severe psychotic conditions like schizophrenia, dementia, major depression, and bipolar disorder. Patients of somatic delusion may suffer from excessive dopamine activity because dopamine is the main chemical that controls mood, learning, sleep, and cognitive ability. Improper blood flow to the brain is one of the causes of somatic delusions. Besides, somatic delusion may also be related to genetic factors because specific genes can stimulate delusionary feelings.
Defining Somatic Type Delusional Disorder
A somatic delusion is a firm but false belief that something is seriously wrong with the physical functions or personal appearance. It is hard to prove the presence of such irregularities and harder to convince the person about the misleading notion. The patient of somatic delusion disorder becomes aggressive if someone tries to prove that no such abnormality exists.
Somatic delusions are of two types. The patient has a bizarre somatic delusion disorder if he imagines something that is practically not possible. For example, someone may believe that a surgeon has secretly removed the kidney during surgery. In another instance, a patient may feel that there are parasites in the stomach. This delusion is non-bizarre because the scenario is not impractical. Symptoms of somatic delusion disorders are diverse since personal beliefs have no connection with reality.
Treatment for Somatic Delusional Disorder
A delusion disorder is a very stressful and overwhelming condition for the patient and family members. Persuading a patient to believe that there is nothing wrong with physical status is next to impossible. Disorders of somatic delusions are treatable irrespective of the underlying cause. Mental health professionals understand the patient’s psyche and know how to approach the individual tactfully.
The formal treatment plan may include the following:
- Psychotherapy– Cognitive Behavior Therapy to bring effective changes into the patient’s approach. It is a proven technique to ensure a positive outcome in patients with somatic delusions. The involvement of family members is also a vital aspect of psychotherapy.
- Medication- Mental health professionals use antidepressants and other specific drugs to reduce the severity of symptoms of somatic delusion. Close monitoring of the dosage of such drugs under medical supervision is crucial.
The somatic delusion disorder requires a long-term treatment followed by aftercare. Family members of the patient need to have patience till the achievement of the desired outcome.