Delusions of Grandeur

We all have big dreams. Big visions that drive and motivate us to work and do better in our lives. I mean, a man without a dream is as good as dead, right? I always had big dreams for myself. When younger, I wanted to be a nurse and care for the sick and wounded; dunno why I never stuck to that path. In high school, I decided to put my noise making skills to good use and decided I wanted to do journalism. First of all, I wanted to be a famous news presenter, but that was quickly shattered by the fact that getting employment in this Kenya is an equal task as someone trying to mine for gold. So I decided, I want to be a writer, an author and a storyteller, and so far, so good. But my dreams of becoming a best-selling, renowned writer are alive and well. Very rife, very present! That is my big dream. Pretty neat, right?

But what happens when a dream no longer fits the dream description? What if that dream becomes so wild that it turns out to be a delusion? A delusion that blinds an individual’s life that all is left is a very thin line between what’s real and what’s not.

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Peter, a third-year student at the university, always had great plans for himself. He always aspired to be the president of Kenya and was so diligent and focused that he was always a prefect in primary and high school. But by the end of high school, his visions had turned into delusions and always felt like he was better than other students and became rude and authoritative towards his teachers. This was played off as a late adolescent stage by his teachers who punished and let him be.

In his first year at the university, he had this delusion that he was a big and powerful politician and that those around him should honor and respect him. He ran for student body president but did not win, which made him fall deeper into his delusions. Everyone avoided him and characterized him as egotistic and just full of himself. In his second year, he started claiming that there were people following him and wanted to kill him. He was in too deep that no amount of reasoning and conviction would help him make sense. He stopped going to class, claiming that people wanted to kill him because he was a big politician. While most of his fellow students scoffed at him, his roommate recognized that something was wrong and informed his parents, who took him to a psychiatrist who was able to determine what was wrong with him. Peter was suffering from delusions of grandeur.

A delusion is a false belief held by an individual. These beliefs can become very rampant and affect the day to day life of an individual. A person mostly considers themselves to be someone they are not, e.g., a celebrity, a superhero, a rich person, a religious leader etc. An individual may also have the belief that they have powers or special abilities. Although not all persons who have delusions of grandeur suffer from mental health issues, a good number are always seen to be suffering from mental health disorders. Some disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar, dementia, narcissistic personality disorder can all lead to delusions, which make an individual unable to tell what’s real and what’s not.

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Signs and symptoms

Although we all have delusions once in a while, these delusions often affect an individual and his relationship with others. A person with delusions of grandeur will often feel powerful, important, the smartest of them all, have supernatural abilities etc.

Grandiose delusions are usually eccentric and mostly have a scientific, religious or supernatural theme. Individuals tend to have heightened and exaggerated beliefs of ;

  • Power
  • Ability
  • Self-worth
  • Knowledge

These beliefs are often not real, incorrect and unreasonable. Other symptoms include;

  • Not getting along and getting angry with people who do not believe in the delusions
  • Difficulty relating to those around you because of the delusions
  • Persistent attempts to make others believe you

Causes

Mostly, individuals with grandiose delusions have two main causes for their symptoms;

  • Mental illness
  • Delusion-as-defense: defense of the mind against lower self-esteem and depression.
  • Emotion-consistent: a result of exaggerated emotions.
  • Stress
  • Drug abuse
  • Brain injury

Although the causes of delusions are not fully known, the above causes are seen to cut across many individuals.

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Diagnosis

Although hard to diagnose a person suffering from grandiose delusions, some factors can help a doctor make a diagnosis. For example,

  • An individual has constant delusions almost daily that it affects their day to day lives.
  • The person is also suffering from psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar
  • Your behaviour and character  becomes weird to those around you

Treatment

It is difficult to treat an individual with grandiose delusions since they perceive it to be normal for them. Often, individuals will resist treatment as they believe in their delusions and do not want to let go of their ‘reality’ as it makes them feel powerful, important and untouchable. But just like other mental illnesses, delusions of grandeur are often treated with medication, therapy and even hospitalization if a person poses a threat to himself or others.

It is important to note that delusions of grandeur are not just feelings of very high self-esteem or inflated egos. These delusions often lead to a disconnect with real-life where an individual cannot tell what is real and what is not. These persons are not aware that their realities are false and should be handled carefully so as not to exasperate their feelings further. With the correct diagnosis and treatment, people with grandiose delusions often end up leading healthy normal lives.

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