Three Delusions You Never Knew Existed
Have you ever thought that your instructors at school were possessed by an evil spirit for giving you so many assignments to tackle in a short amount of time?
It is true. We all feel a little weird at times but sooner or later – thankfully – we come back to our senses. Moreover, we can assign meaning to our experiences (e.g., I got mad at my friend because he stood me up and not because he secretly shape- shifted into a wolf) and build a usually sensible reality out of them. Still, for some folks, “reality” remains an elusive construct which fails to get validated by the outside world.
Below are three of the most peculiar and rare cases of delusional thinking that will make you question the way you perceive the world:
Capgras: “You look like my boyfriend but there is something fishy here!”
Think about how you would feel after viewing a picture of your boyfriend/girlfriend’s face. Most likely, you will feel your heart pumping a little faster than normal and butterflies fluttering in your stomach. However, this is exactly what a Capgras patient lacks with regard to emotional arousal elicited by a familiar face.
Capgras is the delusion that someone emotionally close to you such as your mother has been replaced by an impostor. French physician, Joseph Capgras was the first to describe the condition, hence the name “Capgras.” What is so peculiar regarding this syndrome is that patients recognize that the person in front of them looks exactly like their loved one, but the emotional connection between them is missing.
Lycanthropy: “I am a wolf”
We have all seen terrifying werewolf movies in which a dazzling young actor enthralls his audience through an excruciating transformation into a flesh-eating beast underneath the hazy light of the full moon each month. Werewolves surely belong in movies but for some, the extraordinary transformation is not a figment of imagination.
Lycanthropes have the irrational belief that they have either transformed into a wolf, or are in the process of such transformation. Clinical cases also show that the affected individuals not only feel like a wolf, but also behave like one. For example, people who have this odd diagnosis may growl, creep or even howl.
Though “lycos” is actually the Greek word for “wolf,” the imagined transformation from man-to-animal is not just restricted to wolves, as people have reported having turned into various other animals, even bees and frogs.
Delusional parasitosis: “My body is infested with insects”
Do not let the psychiatric lingo scare you!
Imagine that you continuously itch and feel insects all over your body but no one, not even the dermatologist you visited last week can find evidence of insect bites. Thinking that nobody believes you, you spend most of the day swatting away mosquitos and applying protective oil to your body multiple times a day in hopes of finding some relief.
Delusional parasitosis can paint such a dire picture in which patients hold the unshakable belief that they are suffering from insect infestation despite contrary evidence from the experts. It is important to note however, that DP can be caused by Vitamin B12 deficiency, hepatic and renal disease, though other psychiatric conditions (e.g., schizophrenia) may also precipitate DP symptoms.
Is it just an irrational thought?
Does delusional thinking simply represent a failed effort at thought control? Studies actually provide us with contrary evidence regarding the nature of delusional thinking. In his penetrating exploration of delusional belief, cognitive scientist Max Coltheart of Macquarie University (Australia) cites numerous studies which point to the idea that irrational beliefs are usually accompanied by some kind of damage to the right side of the brain (Especially regarding Capgras syndrome). In other words, hallucinations and delusions do not exist in a vacuum. They might be by-products of brain wiring gone awry.
Essentially, all of these rare cases afford us the opportunity to explore the eccentricities of our minds in more depth. Through scientific analyses and case studies of such rare psychological conditions, we learn more about our imagined realities than the reality itself.
- 1. Coltheart, M. (2005). Delusional belief. Australian Journal of Psychology, 57, 72-76.
- 2. Garlipp, P., Gödecke-Koch, T., Dietrich, D. E., & Haltenhof, H. (2004). Lycanthropy - psychopathological and psychodynamical aspects. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 109, 19-22.
- 3. Sayar, G. H., Kağan, G. & Özten, E. (2014) Man transforming into wolf: A rare case of clinical lycanthropy. The Journal of Neurobehavioral Sciences, 1 (2), 50-51. doi:10.5455/JNBS.1401371806
- 4. Sawant, N. S., & Vispute, C. D. (2015). Delusional parasitosis with folie á deux: A case series. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 24, 97-98.