Those who suffer from delusions hold their beliefs with strong conviction despite extraordinary evidence to the contrary. Delusional disorder is a mental health condition in which a person cannot discern what is real from what is imagined. Delusions are not necessarily bizarre in nature. People who suffer from delusional disorder have delusions of ordinary situations that could occur in normal life, such as being followed, watched or loved from afar. Delusional disorder is classified as a type of psychosis. Other symptoms of psychosis include hallucinations, which are similar to delusions but are primarily visual in nature.
Substance abuse may contribute to the development of delusional disorder, but more commonly delusions exist as symptoms of addiction. Someone who suffers from an addiction may believe that his or her compulsive habits are causing no harm, despite evidence such as ruined personal relationships, deteriorating health and increasing financial problems. This delusion is known as denial and is fairly common among drug users. Continued substance abuse can cause delusions to increase and worsen over time.
Examples of Delusions Caused by Substance Abuse
An alcoholic’s tendency to experience delusions can escalate as his or her drinking increases. Alcohol users may begin to experience blackouts, and as a result, they may recall entire events or conversations that never occurred. Alcoholism can also lead to paranoia. Some alcoholics even believe themselves to be well-known, prominent historical figures. When alcoholics have a co-occurring mental health condition such as schizophrenia, it can be difficult to determine the source of the delusions, as the delusions may be caused by the alcohol simply aggravating the symptoms of a preexisting mental health problem.
Another example of a substance induced delusion is delusional parasitosis, also known as Ekbom’s syndrome, which is commonly associated with the use of cocaine and methamphetamine. People who suffer from delusional parasitosis believe themselves to be infected with a parasite, even when no such infection is present. Sufferers commonly complain that there are bugs or insects crawling under their skin. They even feel physical sensations of the presence of the bugs or insects and physically injure themselves in an attempt to remove the imagined creatures from under their skin.
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