What Are Grandiose Delusions?

Lee Johnson

Grandiose delusions, sometimes also called delusions of grandeur, are psychological manifestations that cause people to believe that they are more important or have more power and authority than they actually do. Most of the time these delusions are symptoms of other, usually more serious, conditions, commonly schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. No matter their specific source, though, all tend to stem from a disassociation with reality. They often come and go, with patients frequently displaying moments of lucidity and a strong grasp of reality one moment, then expressing outrageous beliefs about themselves the next. In milder cases these delusions can sometimes be mistaken for simple ego-centricism that is based on a high impression of the self, but most experts teach against grouping the two together. In order for a bold statement about the self to be a true delusion, the person at issue must actually believe its veracity despite reality and usually in the face of logic. In psychological circles, the “delusion” name is usually only given to beliefs that are much more than a person simply showing off, bragging, or exaggerating a truth that is known and recognized, even subconsciously.

Grandiose delusions and sensory hallucinations may be symptoms of a psychotic episode.
Grandiose delusions and sensory hallucinations may be symptoms of a psychotic episode.

Key Characteristics

The most basic definition of grandiose delusions is that they refer to any belief unfounded in reality or likelihood that makes the person holding them believes he or she is in some or all ways better than everybody else. A person could believe that he is a genius or has the power to read other people’s thoughts. This could also manifest itself as a belief that some kind of higher power thinks that the sufferer is important, or has presented him or her with a special mission or ability. Some grandeur-related delusions are simply based on the misinterpretation of social cues: for example, the belief that a person is being stalked because he happens to live and work in the same area as another person.

Delusional individuals are usually fixed in their beliefs and may not believe that they have a mental disorder.
Delusional individuals are usually fixed in their beliefs and may not believe that they have a mental disorder.

Role of Social Cues

Social cues can be picked up and interpreted correctly by most people. For example, if a man were to spark up a conversation with a woman about her life, the average woman would take this as a general interest or friendliness. A woman suffering from grandiose delusions, however, may take this to mean that the man is actually in love with her or is infatuated with her life. This is because the woman has an inflated sense of her own importance, and may have trouble believing that the conversation isn’t related to the fact that she is special.

Grandiose delusions may be symptomatic of a psychotic disorder.
Grandiose delusions may be symptomatic of a psychotic disorder.

Understanding the Underlying Psychology

Most medical experts view delusions of any kind as symptomatic of some sort of underlying psychological condition. People who frequently believe things that aren’t true are often suffering some classified mental illness, or could also be a symptom of a psychotic episode. This is essentially when a person loses grip on his or her sanity for a short period of time.

Natural talent might fuel grandiose delusions.
Natural talent might fuel grandiose delusions.

A man could be suffering from delusions of grandeur, for example, if he believes that other people talk about or pay special attention to him. This belief could be related to an inability to interpret social signals correctly, or it could be massively delusional — for example, if he believes he holds some mystical power over others. Delusions tend to ebb and flow in conjunction with other symptoms, and friends and family often notice that some days are better than others when it comes to an afflicted person’s grip on reality.

Extreme Examples

Not all grandiose delusions are simple to explain or even to understand. In extreme cases, people can believe outrageous things that can be potentially dangerous. For example, a person might believe that he or she has the ability to contact or revive the dead, or that he or she is in charge of a country. Some may believe that they are invincible, indestructible, or have super powers. People in these situations often in ways that can be harmful to themselves and others. While all people who display delusions about themselves or their abilities can benefit from care and therapy, those with extreme cases often need immediate care and intervention.

A psychotic episode may occur after a traumatic event.
A psychotic episode may occur after a traumatic event.

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Discussion Comments


We are talked about grandiose delusions in class this week.

Apparently, grandiose delusions are very common. It is the second most common type of delusion and affects people suffering from various different types of psychological disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Some of them actually have basis in physical disorders like Parkinson's disease or even vitamin deficiencies. So any condition affecting the function of the brain can actually lead to this type of delusion. It doesn't necessarily have to be a sign of a mental disorder.

Obviously, grandiose delusions are unhealthy, but they do have some benefits as well. For example, it boosts an individual's self esteem greatly. And some people actually develop it as a natural response to extremely low self esteem and depression. It can actually be very destabilizing to treat someone's grandiose delusions and can harm a person's psychology much more than the delusions.


@bluedolphin-- I'm not a doctor or expert, so I'm not qualified to answer this but I don't think that they are the same.

Although those with narcissistic personality disorder may act as though they are better than everyone else, they don't really believe in it. Those with excessive narcissism actually suffer from low self-esteem and behave the way they do to make up for it.

Someone with grandiose delusions on the other hand, sincerely believes that he or she is better. And the person's view of themselves will be highly exaggerated and unrealistic.


Grandiose delusions sound a lot like narcissistic personality disorder. Are they the same thing?

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