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What Are Delusions of Grandeur?

A mentally ill person who thinks he's Napoleon is an example of someone with delusions of grandeur.
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  • Written By: Y. Chen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 March 2014
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Delusions of grandeur are the manifestation of a psychopathological condition in which a person has fantasies of power, wealth, and omnipotence. These people often also have an inflated sense of self-esteem, and may hold an obsession with grandiose or extravagant things or actions. Even when presented with evidence contradicting their delusions, they will still cling to their erroneous beliefs. The term is sometimes used by people to refer to someone who exaggerates the amount of power and importance that he or she has, but this downplays the seriousness of an actual medical diagnosis.

Characteristics

When a person has delusions of grandeur, he may believe that he has extraordinary powers or is famous. Some people with this condition think they are famous historical figures; the mentally ill person who thinks he is Napoleon may be one of the most common media references to this delusion. Patients who firmly possess such unrealistic beliefs may eventually harm themselves physically, mentally, or emotionally. A person who thinks he has special powers, for example, might jump off a building because he genuinely believes he can fly.

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Causes

In clinical terms, delusions of grandeur can be a symptom of a number of different psychological conditions. Also called megalomania, it is frequently associated with narcissistic personality disorder, a condition in which a person is extremely preoccupied with himself and has inflated feelings of self-importance. These delusions are also sometimes found in patients with varying degrees of dementia and psychotic or depressive disorders, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. In some cases, these delusions are accompanied by others, including those of persecution, in which the patient thinks others are out to get him, and of control, in which the patient believes an outside force is controlling his thoughts or actions.

Some drugs, especially phencyclidine (PCP) and amphetamines, may also contribute to episodes of delusions of grandeur. This is especially dangerous because users who are high may believe they have powers that will enable them to perform dangerous feats that a normal human being could not, such as flying off a tall building or stopping an oncoming train with one hand.

Treatment

Delusions of grandeur cannot be treated directly as they are typically a symptom of a larger illness rather than a condition in and of themselves. In order to treat delusions caused by a mental illness, a professional must diagnose the underlying condition and treat that, and the delusions may fade over time. Talk therapy is used in many cases, although people with this condition often feel they do not need the help. When caused by drug use, delusions and other psychological effects usually disappear over time after the drug wears off.

Public perception

Like other clinical terms, such as "anti-social," the term "delusions of grandeur" is often used non-technically and incorrectly. It is sometimes used to describe people who are disliked dictators of countries, prominent businessmen, or celebrities, since they may be seen as selfish and egotistical. Misusing the term in this way could mask situations in which actual delusions present a very real psychopathological threat to a person's health.

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Discuss this Article

anon300813
Post 14

Learned helplessness can cause dissociation from prolonged stress. Overcoming that may require targeting stress by using a method of hypnosis to remove and calm the person from the stress-causing agent, like meditation (non eastern).

Refer to the EMDR, EFT often used for Post traumatic stress.

anon300574
Post 13

The root of the problems can be dissociation from prolonged stress, being ungrateful and detached to the things they have and take for granted. Of course, some of the wealthy have friends with poor upbringing.

When a person perceives themselves as unique and a force that cannot be overcome, only to later test and identify like-minded, if not more skilled individuals in the competitive area, they either accept and continue improving, or accept the futility of their ambitions, and stick to whatever they are comfortable with (if there are any more paths please enlighten me).

The poor fantasize of the luxuries they cannot have. Doing this creates an illusory hope and depletes their ability to work their way up from their disposition in their reality. It can also inhibit learning and healthy neural activity.

Some good advice would be to consciously find a way to wean off the delusional dependency, and understand that their coping mechanisms do not change their reality, and if untreated can change their reality, posing harm to themselves and others who were able to process their reality normally and were disciplined not to rely on delusions to replace social connections with a dependency on rational mindset.

Socializing more, finding more group-related activities, and to diversify the group selections when one group is unavailable. The trick to this is not worrying about rejection and continually trying to stay connected and induce learning humbly.

Trial and error, not to isolate, but to broaden the possibilities, connections and such attempts to see the bigger picture might just be rewarded earnestly. Social ostracism does not exist in all sectors in society, so keep looking.

anon281039
Post 11

@anon129011: I can't believe your post. It describes exactly the way my best mate has been thinking. He is a noble and honest person, and I often find it hard (almost wrong) to dismiss his views about humanity and the world.

However, although the world is full of problems, it should not be his or your burden to carry. I fear that if he continues on this path, it will only cause him harm. maybe you could talk to my mate. Perhaps this would help.

anon262079
Post 10

I made up a new life in my head where I am uber rich and my family is full of famous people, unlike my real family, who are poor and from small towns. I have been doing this since childhood. They're lmost like imaginary friends. I pretend that the characters from my favorite TV shows are actually my friends or family.

No one knows this, but I talk out loud to the people sitting on my couch (who are not really there) or while I am alone. Occasionally, when life stinks, I will space out and live my dream world. My boyfriend just thinks I don't pay attention when someone talks to me.

I have always wondered why I do this, and of course, it can't be normal! Does anybody have a clue what's wrong with me?

anon224142
Post 9

To anon129011: I feel what you are going through. I am going through it as well. The hardest thing for me to do right now, is see that my thinking is wrong. I am trying to catch myself and hopefully realize that my perception of life is out of whack.

I spent four years trying to hide and cover it up, but now more than ever I am starting to realize again that it is just screwing my life up. I was really dead set on the fact that I could somehow change the end of the world. I started to think that I was meant for greatness. Maybe I am, but I am definitely not able to stop the inevitable.

Humanity is harsh. It is ugly. Once anyone gets a glimpse of the reality of humanity, it will make them sick to their stomach. It would make any normal person strive for a peaceful world. There were a lot of times that I felt like I was the antichrist instead of some savior. It is emotional torture.

I think the best thing for me to do now is to quit hiding from it and get help. I'm really not sure how you live with it. I have faith that if you do find a way to live with it with therapy and medication, then it will eventually end. Good luck! You are not alone and I'm glad I am not either.

anon221118
Post 8

@post 6: Knowing that you are unbalanced is a good thing. You know you're not Jesus. Next, you seem to be depressed. You are feeling the pain associated with severe depression. The best way to fix this is to maybe do some volunteering for an organization that will help you feel like you are trying to make some changes in this crazy world.

Don't blame yourself for the world's problems. Fix what you can and leave it at that. Do your part as best you can and don't overwhelm yourself. Be happy.

anon152746
Post 7

dear 129011: I have had this happen to me exactly the same. Same feeling and confusion. Any idea what is causing it?

anon129011
Post 6

I've been feeling like I'm the only person in the world who can change it or save it from destroying itself and feel hopeless at times because i feel like i can't do anything about it.

At times i feel like I'm the alpha being of the planet and feel like there's no one like me and no one will amount to anything i do. When i feel this way, i don't feel sorry for myself. In fact, it's the opposite. i feel sorry for everyone because they suffer and are dying because we as people as a whole are n justly killing each other and dominating each other.

and i feel like I'm the person who can stop it, only if i could be heard, if someone with power heard what i had to say they would help. i feel hopeless and at times feel like that my life is what is creating pain and hate and anger and suffering in this world and feel like if i kill myself all the pain and suffering will end -- as i commonly call it "being Jesus," since he died for our sins, while i feel like I'm supposed to die to stop the world's suffering.

i don't know what to do anymore. i feel lonely and lost and feel like no one understands where I'm coming from. i know I'm not mentally unhealthy, but i know I'm not fully stable either.

If someone could please help me on a personal level please, if someone can come to me with advice instead of seeking it, it is better.

anon85767
Post 5

Would a person who brags about graduating college and volunteering to do a speech for the class graduation ceremony, and it is a lie, be considered as having delusions of grandeur?

anon85110
Post 4

To anon84408: The only conclusion I can reach based on the info you provided is that you're way too simplistic. I hope I didn't hurt your feelings.

How old is your nephew? What the hell does his drunk father have anything to do with this?

And just to make sure I understand your question, you are seeking help from others regarding his completely accurate statement that one could become rich if he so desires?

Hmmm? Maybe you're right, just tell him that he can be whoever he wants by not wanting to!

anon84408
Post 3

my nephew, whose father was an alcoholic, believes that you can be rich if you want to. How can I tell him that is too simplistic without hurting his feelings.

anon52403
Post 2

the leading theoretical conclusion that imagination alone can't be the cause of delusions of grandeur because of the variable false belief that can't be explained by imagination is wrong.

imagination as a state of mind lacking rational thought causes self deception and the false belief. once the patient understands that their imagination must be controlled by their rational thought process and gains a better understanding that imagination can make you believe something is real when it's not, the delusions of grandeur will end.

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