Teen delusional psychotic disorder is an illness in which teens usually have one single severe misconception that they’re unable to escape. This delusion is so strong that often teens feel that they must conduct themselves according to it, which may entail risky or dangerous behavior. Furthermore, the necessary pressure to “answer to” the delusion can be so overwhelming that it disrupts a teen’s ability to function healthily.
Grandiose Delusions - Characterized by a teen believing they have an above-average ability or skill, such as great intelligence or strength.
Erotomanic Delusions - Characterized by a teen believing that a celebrity is paying special attention and great interest in them.
Persecutory Delusions - Characterized by a teen suspecting that either they, or someone they love, is going to be harmed.
Jealous Delusions - Characterized by the strong belief that a sexual partner is cheating on them, which causes them extreme levels of jealousy, leading to severe behaviors.
Somatic Delusions - Characterized by the teen having the delusion that they suffer from some sort of physical disease or ailment which can’t be medically proven.
Mixed Delusions - Characterized by one or more of the above subtypes present in one person.
Genetic factors – while not completely understood, there seems to be a genetic link between people who have delusional disorders. A variety of delusional disorders may be rooted in a specific unique brain structure, that may be genetic. While having close relatives with delusional disorders isn’t a sign that you or your offspring is guaranteed to struggle with delusions, it does increase the chances of the same issue cropping up in the family.
Environmental factors – certain unique environmental factors are more likely to breed delusions, particularly in individuals who are more likely to develop them due to unique brain abnormalities or genetic predisposition. Being socially and physically isolated, experiencing something traumatic like the loss of a sense (sense of hearing, sense of sight) or being thrust into a completely different culture with no way of understanding the language or customs of said culture can all impact a person and cause them to see things not as they really are, but in a haze of fear and suspicion, developing into a disorder.
Severe stress – a traumatic experience is more likely to set off a person’s delusions, and perhaps trigger a psychotic episode if they have not had one yet. While stress doesn’t mean someone will develop a delusion, a person with a genetic proclivity for delusional disorders may come to experience their first episode after a particularly stressful time in their life.
of the US population suffers from delusional disorders, making them very rare. In the developed world at large, it is estimated to be at 0.2%
of patients diagnosed with a first psychotic break are later diagnosed with a persistent delusional disorder
of patients recover through the use of antipsychotics. Therapy is also effective
Learn more about your teen’s delusions and understand the nature of their disorder – vehemently denying what your teen is going through will only serve to further alienate you and remove you from your teen’s list of trusted people. Don’t tell your teen that you downright agree with their reality but let the understand that you understand what it is they are thinking, and why they might be thinking it. Then, work through the details with them. Instead of contradicting or judging your teen, ask them about their thoughts and beliefs. Working through the delusion might help your teen conclude that they’re not actually being followed, or that what they believed isn’t true. You don’t have to go that far – it helps enough to simply convince your teen that whatever they might think, you’re there to help them, and that you truly love them. Again: don’t attack their delusion or ignore it. Be there for them, and simply ask to further understand it. Ask for more information, without judgment or an obvious angle. Be genuinely curious. And work with professionals to help find ways to move forward.
Learn to take care of yourself – like many other mental disorders, delusions can be chronic and recurring, and it takes a lot of work and dedication to keep them in check and live a normal life. There may be setbacks for your teen going forward and dealing with them is not bound to be easy. Keep in mind that you need to exercise patience and be careful with how you interact with your teen, so you maintain a strong bond of trust. That might mean venting and finding ways to release stress quite often. Be sure to take care of yourself and practice self-love in whatever ways you find most helpful and least destructive.
Seek professional help – a single program can do your teen a lot of good, but it is likely that someone with a legitimate delusional disorder will require a therapist and a psychiatrist with a regular prescription of medication to keep their delusions in check. Therapy against delusions is complex and needs to be built around each individual’s unique realities and forms of psychosis, so it’s important to seek professional help early on and find people you can rely on to help your teen.
The most successful teen delusional psychotic disorder treatment is a combination of talk therapy and medication. Though delusions can take time to treat, because a certain amount of resistance can be present, it’s very possible for a teen to return to proper life functioning, even if the delusion persists. Depending on the individual, sometimes delusions may subside altogether, and other times, the delusion may persist, but the teen learns to live a life, no longer negatively affected, or limited by its presence.
Teen delusional psychotic disorder treatment looks different for each teen and is specifically designed according to the delusion(s) present, but often therapists will work with teens to help them recognize and understand the presence of the delusion, and then the falsity of it. Therapists help to provide teens with an objective point of view, from which the teens can begin to address their delusion as a separate entity, rather than being controlled by it. In a sense, therapists provide teens with a factual boundary to compare their experience with, which many times helps the teens to begin to separate themselves, and their thoughts, from the delusion. In time, this can help them to become free from it.
Prescription medications, such as antipsychotic drugs, can be extremely helpful for teens, both in treating the delusion directly, as well as alleviating stress and harmful effects caused by the presence of the delusion, such as providing relief from depression, anxiety, or insomnia.
Antipsychotics come in different variants, usually as conventional antipsychotics, and atypical antipsychotics, newer atypical antipsychotics, and select other medications that may work for treating delusional psychotic disorder, including antidepressants, tranquilizers, or sedatives.
Aside from various forms of talk therapy, other effective ways to helping teens with delusional disorders include family therapy – to help their family develop a more welcoming and treatment-conducive environment for their teen – and various forms of alternative therapy, including music and arts therapy, sports therapy, aromatherapy, various relaxation techniques and residential programs that help teens further identify and resolve their delusions.
Paradigm Malibu offers complex, individualized treatment within several treatment locations throughout the Malibu area, with a professional staff dedicated to helping a small group of teens address their own issues and work through them in a way that would usually be impossible from home. Through a brand-new environment, one wholly dedicated to teen mental health treatment, teens can expect to make a lot of progress during their stay.
A Place for Treatment
Treating teen delusional disorders is complex and requires a very specific kind of therapy targeting a teen’s beliefs and helping them ultimately conclude that their delusions may in fact be delusions, and not the reality they expected. Dealing not only with the dissolution of delusions but also with the aftermath of coming to terms with reality can be difficult, and it’s important to help teens better cope with their life and learn to identify thoughts that might not be completely rational.
Getting the Family Involved
It is critical that the family understands what it means to support a teen with a delusion. A very strong delusion is difficult to break, and without the right environment, it can grow and fester due to being ignored or attacked. Family therapy is a big part of Paradigm Malibu, while helping families gain access to further resources to continue to help their loved one combat their delusions after the program has ended.
This is a top-notch organization with extremely talented therapists, clean and safe
facilities and a staff that genuinely cares about its patients. Our teenaged son was quite honestly a lost cause - or so we thought. He had a dual-diagnosis and was suffering from depression, bi polar disorder and was self medicating with marijuana and pain pills. Now, as a direct result of the people at Paradigm, he is doing so very well. He is clean and sober and is an active participant in his life!
- Brian T.
What if I’m a parent who’s worried that my adolescent has delusional psychotic disorder?
We understand that any signs or symptoms of this disorder can be extremely overwhelming. This isn’t something you have to handle alone. The first step you can take as a parent, is to bring your teenager in to see a professional medical doctor and psychiatrist, to be evaluated and diagnosed. It is also a good idea to approach a therapist. Our advice, from the first step onward, is to just try to be as supportive as you can, and to watch out for your own needs as well. Helping a teen through this period can be very difficult, and you’ll need a lot of patience and the means to handle frustration and stress. Maintain several ways of dealing with stress and be prepared for setbacks or trying times.
What if a teen refuses treatment?
It is not particularly uncommon for teens who struggle with psychotic and/or delusional symptoms to refuse treatment, sincerely believing that they’re wrestling with situations that are completely real, convinced of their own reality, and afraid of outside help. You need to convince your teen through a strong bond of trust, one that is strong enough that your teen will actively question what they come to see as reality, and work to identify inconsistencies and falsehoods that help them differentiate and distinguish what’s going on in their head from what’s really happening.
It’s important to approach a professional and speak to them about your teen’s condition, in order to get help for a specific, individualized approach and possible opportunities for intervention.