Would you know how to communicate with someone who has really strong beliefs that are difficult to deny, push against, or disregard?
In other words, are you able to express your disbelief of the other person’s delusion without getting into an argument?
If not, you are not alone. A lot of people who have delusional beliefs can be difficult to manage. In fact, many struggle to see things from another person’s perspective which creates a narrowed, fixated mind.
This article (and video) will discuss delusions and ways to cope with someone who isn’t easy to communicate with.
As difficult as it may be to understand, most individuals with delusions struggle with fear. Fear is often at the core of most delusions. It may be a fear of being found out, fear of being abducted or kidnapped, fear of being stalked or chased, fear of being watched without their awareness, fear of being harmed or hurt, etc.
During the early parts of my career, I worked in a rehabilitation program with adult clients diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders such as delusional disorder. I would go to the department at least 1-2 times a week to do “mini-assessments” which consisted of me asking a series of questions to ensure they were taking their meds, following instructions, and getting better in the program. During these assessments I found myself identifying a pattern of fear at the core of the paranoia and delusion(s). I learned to work with the underlying emotions rather than address the obvious psychotic symptoms.
Although the field of psychiatry and psychotherapy cannot fully explain psychotic symptoms enough to make sense out of it for ALL who suffer, research suggests that “rolling with the resistance” of the individual (who strongly believes in their version of the world) is better than fighting it.
In the video below, I discuss 8 ways to communicate with someone who has fixed, unstable, and erroneous thought patterns. You can’t just yell “stop! Please stop! We both know this isn’t true!” This kind of response will likely result in either an argument or a physical confrontation. I’ve seen very psychotic patients/clients get into physical altercations when their delusions were challenges by fellow patients/clients.
While everyone is different, it’s important to keep in mind that delusions are more about emotions and fear than “fantasy” or “wishful thinking.” Some delusions also serve a psychological purpose in the lives of those who are emotionally devoid.
Stay tuned for next week’s video as I discuss types of delusions and hallucinations. Below is a summary of the 8 ways to communicate with someone who has delusions:
- Pay attention to emotions
- Discuss the way you see the delusion/strong belief
- Express your concerns
- Ask them to attend therapy with you
- Ask why they see the situation like they do (Don’t address the delusion “head-on” (dispelling it or reinforcing it).
- Avoid getting frustrated and expressing it
- Research thinking errors
- Model engagement in reality testing
NOTE: The video says “10 ways…” My error!
What do you think about this topic? Have you had any similar experiences?
As always, looking forward to speaking with you.
Psychologytoday.com Delusional Disorder. Retrieved 1/17/18, https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/delusional-disorder.