Those who have observed people suffering from schizophrenia will notice that sometimes they “talk to themselves”. Unlike the usual mumbling to themselves, they can sometimes be involved in vigorous discussions as though they were speaking to someone else. In most cases they are actually talking to someone only they can see. Someone invisible to everybody else. Technically, this is referred to as a delusion.
A delusion is simply a false perception of reality. In other words, it is observing, smelling, hearing or feeling, or thinking something which in reality does not exist. People suffering from schizophrenia are susceptible to delusions because the condition impairs their cognition. There are many types of delusions in schizophrenia. However, the ones most commonly observed are the following:
According to the DSM-IV this is the most common type of delusion experienced by schizophrenics. The basis of this delusion is the feeling of being targeted by someone or something. Schizophrenics with persecutory delusions feel they are being tracked, harmed, poisoned, harassed, maligned or blocked from pursuing long term goals. An example is a belief of being hunted down by the FBI or a Mafia Hitman; or being haunted by evil spirits intent on harming them. A person with this condition is often angry and can turn violent against a perceived agent of the persecutor.
A schizophrenic experiencing this type of delusion thinks that they are someone of extreme importance. They may imagine themselves to be a famous celebrity or an important political figure. Because of this belief, they always demand to be treated with the level of importance and respect that befits their grandiose status. A case in point is of a schizophrenic who believed he was the British Prime Minister; and always insisted on being addressed as “Your Excellency”.
This type of delusion is commonly experienced by paranoid schizophrenics. It is characterised by egocentric interpretation of information. A person experiencing this kind of delusion basically thinks all people’s words, gestures and actions are somehow directed towards them. An example is of a schizophrenic who was convinced that they were the focus of song lyrics, best-selling books and television news reports.
This type of delusion is characterised by the belief of a special relationship with God. The schizophrenic imagines that God has given them a special mission or supernatural powers. They may state that God talks directly to them and commands them to carry out certain actions. In some cases, the schizophrenics actually believe that they are God. People suffering from this condition become extremely upset when their “God-given” words or actions are questioned or opposed.
This type of delusion involves an obsessive preoccupation with one’s body. Schizophrenics with this type of delusion often believe that they are suffering from some physical condition e.g. a tumor. However, they usually believe that the source of their malady is something that is medically impossible. A famous case was that of a woman who believed that her persistent stomach aches were caused by a serpent wound up inside her belly.
This type of delusion is characterized by a belief that some outside force is in control of a person’s thoughts and actions. Sufferers of this condition often believe that their minds have been taken over by something outside them. They can claim that the person or thing controlling them is stealing their private thoughts, and projecting other thoughts into their minds. This condition can also lead someone to believe that their bodies are being manipulated for perform certain actions. A good example of this condition is the Navy Yard Shooter – Aaron Alexis – who believed that his mind was being controlled using low frequency electromagnetic waves.