Delusions are beliefs that you hold despite considerable evidence to the contrary. They're this feeling that you know a fact to be true even if others have more proof that the fact is actually false.
Delusions are linked directly to psychosis, but not all delusions are that extreme. In fact, anxiety commonly causes delusional thinking, simply because of what it's like to deal with anxiety.
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Different Anxiety = Different Delusions
Every anxiety disorder is characterized by different fears and symptoms, which means that it's also prone to different types of delusions. These symptoms are more common in severe anxiety. If you haven't taken my free 7-minute anxiety test yet, try taking it now to learn more about your anxiety severity.
When we talk about delusions, we're not talking about believing that the CIA is monitoring your home, or that aliens have abducted your parents. Those are paranoid delusions that often occur in mental health disease that cause psychosis, and in these cases, you would never know that you're suffering from the potential of delusions because you will have lost touch with reality.
But that doesn't mean that delusions still do not occur. Let's share a few examples, and you'll see why these are still delusions:
"There is Something Wrong With My Health"
This is probably the most common delusion that happens with anxiety. It especially affects those with panic attacks/panic disorder since the disorder has so many physical symptoms, but it can affect those with other anxiety disorders as well.
The belief comes almost entirely from the physical symptoms of anxiety. These physical symptoms mimic those of terrible diseases, like:
- Heart Attacks
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Brain Tumors
- Lyme Disease
The physical symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks are nearly identical to many of the symptoms of these disorders, and so ultimately the person suffering from these symptoms starts to fear that their health is in danger.
The reason this is a delusion is that seeing a doctor rarely helps. You can see a doctor and get tested for nearly every disease, but you'll often find that you simply "cannot believe" that your symptoms are caused by your mental health. They feel too real, cause too much fear, and cause too many symptoms to be something that isn't actually health related.
People sometimes experience similar fears just about their anxiety. When you suffer from intense anxiety it becomes hard to believe that your brain would do that to itself. So health fears become common, and even after a doctor rules out some of those health fears it's not uncommon to either believe the doctor was wrong or believe that some other disorder is occurring.
"X is Dangerous/Scary"
Another common delusion that affects not only phobias, but also those with generalized anxiety and more, is the idea that something specific in life needs to be avoided or deserves the fear placed upon it.
The easiest way to understand this is with phobias. Someone with a fear of birds, for example, convinces themselves that something about the bird is going to result in fear - whether the birds will attack, or the birds carry disease, or something similar, they convince themselves despite all available evidence that birds are to be feared.
It's the same with other phobias, like a fear of spiders or a fear of dogs. It's also common with those that have obsessive compulsive disorder, where they may fear germs, disorder, or even their own thoughts. Those with OCD may fear that they left the oven on even though they know they turned it off until they're compelled to check it. Even those with post-traumatic stress disorder may fear that the trauma may happen again, no matter how rare it may be.
Every anxiety disorder has its own fears, and often these fears can become delusions when they start to control your thoughts.
"I Can't Be Helped"
Another delusion has to do with treating anxiety. It's caused by the difficulty in treating anxiety in terms of recurrences and setbacks. Even the most effective treatment will occasionally have some setbacks and problems working. In addition, very few people actually choose effective treatments (most fall for marketing scams), and one of the symptoms of anxiety is a belief that you're stuck with it and that the anxiety is natural.
All of those issues combine into this feeling as though your anxiety isn't treatable. It causes people to give up and ignore potential options, and in some cases it causes people to drop out of effective treatments early simply because of a setback.
This is a delusion because numerous studies have shown that anxiety is one of the most treatable mental health conditions on the planet. There's no one size fits all approach, so it can take a long time to treat anxiety, but in almost every case it's possible to treat your anxious condition.
Despite numerous studies essentially proving how treatable it is, many people find their anxiety convinces them that they can't get rid of it. This type of thinking is a delusion, because it goes in the face of evidence and people seem to hold onto this belief incredibly strongly.
Avoiding Anxiety Delusions
In rare ways, the delusions can be a bit more complex. For example, anxiety may cause you to believe that your coworkers are trying to get you fired or that your son/daughter is doing something behind your back. They may not always be so "paranoia sounding" but no matter what, in nearly every case, there are some delusions that continue to feed into your anxiety.
You need to make sure that you address these delusional thoughts by committing to some type of effective anxiety treatment. Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to find some of the most effective natural ways to cure your anxiety.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Apr 13, 2018.