The Mental Health Solution . com
"The entrance of thy words giveth light (Psalm 119:130)."

Delusional Individuals

When I was working at a residential treatment program, I once interviewed a middle aged woman: She appeared in good spirits. She told me she was a "special angel." When I asked her what that was, she replied: "I can't tell you; I'd have to kill you if I did."

As a starting point, we'll start with a standard definition of the word delusion. It follows.

Delusion: A false personal belief that is not subject to reason or contradictory evidence and is not explained by a person's usual cultural and religious concepts (so that, for example, it is not an article of faith). A delusion may be firmly maintained in the face of incontrovertible evidence that it is false.

However, from a biblical perspective, delusions, as you will see, can sometimes include patently false beliefs that are subject to reason.

Delusions vary a lot. They range from absurd convictions of having been wronged with no rational basis to beliefs far more bizarre that that of being a "special angel."

There are three causes of delusions:

  • Medical reasons.
  • Psychological reasons.
  • Spiritual reasons.

First, medical reasons.

Delusions can be the result of dementia (Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Dementia etc.). When a person's reasoning abilities become compromised, delusions can result.

Delusions can be the result of head trauma. The brain—as a result of the injury—is no longer able to clearly distinguish reality from fiction.

Delusions can be the result of the use of illegal drugs, exposure to environmental toxins and sometimes, prescription medication. These delusions usually go away when the drug is no longer present.

Psychotropic drugs can reduce or eliminate delusions for periods of time—whether or not there is medical causation. They don't always work. Delusions can also be the result of the use of psychotropic drugs.

There are other legitimate medical issues that do cause delusions. So it is important that a doctor perform a medical evaluation to rule these out.

Second, Psychological Reasons.

All of us—to some extent—have delusions or false beliefs. The human mind is logical until a strong emotion becomes involved. Then, human reason tends to give way such as to accommodate the emotional desire. The Bible says as much: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)."

Every one of us has the ability, to some extent, to engage in self-deception. If we want to believe something bad enough, we can.

Here are some psychological causes of delusions.

Delusions can be the result of a lack of common sense. That is why the Bible says "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5 NIV)."

Delusions can be the result of a defense mechanism. That is, if reality is too painful or frightening, we can choose to believe something untrue—but more comforting. One example: Elderly people, near death, often engage in regression; they may behave much like a child. They find it comforting to believe that someone wiser than them is in control and will take care of them—just like they did when they were much younger.

Delusions can be very voluntary: People can and do make a voluntary decision to deceive themselves—and stay deceived. Drugs and alcohol can be used to aid in this self-deception.

I want to comment on this last item. One client—who used to be homeless—told me how he coped with life on the streets. He told me, when he was sober, his life on the street seemed unbearable. So he made a point of staying drunk. As long as he had alcohol etc. in his system, he could believe that he was someone really important and that "this world is wonderful."

When people did help him, he was able to believe "They should be grateful I'm in their life."

This client said that he was not alone in his self-deception. Women, who he had sex with while on the street, were really trading sex for drugs. But they too engaged in self-deception. Drugs and alcohol helped these women believe that they really were in love with him. Reality, the client said, would have been too painful for them: "They couldn't deceive themselves without being drunk."

The foregoing types of delusions are not the kind that cause the biggest problems. It's the next kind that cause the most trouble in our lives.

Third, spiritual reasons.

Consider this Scripture: "Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants (2 Timothy 2:23-26 NLT)."

You probably don't need a clinical explanation of "difficult people." And I doubt you really need any examples.

I believe all delusions not explained by the medical and psychological reasons mentioned earlier are demonic. Demonic delusions are never healthy. Rather, they all are consistent with the Devil's mission "to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10 NIV)." One reason for the differences: Some demons are capable of more evil than others (Matthew 12:43-45).

Demonic delusions occur within the context of spiritual warfare. They occur because the individual is unsaved and/or because of the existence of a spiritual foothold, usually due to emotional trauma, anger and fear. When these issues are effectively addressed, the delusion should disappear, at least temporarily.

Not all Christians are free of delusions. I've prayed for and with a number of Christians—and seen no improvement. However, I have also seen some remarkable successes.

While I was getting my Master's Degree, I worked in a residential facility for emotionally disturbed youth. One boy was particularly abusive. He would accuse me of wrongdoing and curse me repeatedly. It was impossible to reason with him. And no disciplinary consequence changed his behavior.

However, this boy had a Christian relative who had not given up on him. I don't know when this boy got saved. However, he did and, in time, he learned that I also was a Christian. I remember the incredibly cautious look on his face when he decided to reach out to me: He was studying his Bible and wanted to know what a word meant. To make a long story short, when he left the facility, he was on good terms with me and—as far as I could tell—free of delusions.

A second and even more dramatic example: At a Christian drug and alcohol facility where I used to work, there was an individual who everybody perceived as crazy—usually within hearing three sentences. He had schizophrenia. He became my client. His story follows.

Whenever this client talked, he made no sense. However, he was passionate in what he believed. Once, he accused his mother of lying and threatened to kill her.

I encouraged this client to read his Bible daily and pray for wisdom. When he insisted he had wisdom, I encouraged him to pray for more. I also prayed for this client on a daily basis.

I also got help from a staff pastor. The pastor stated that a turning point for the client was when the client learned, from Scripture, that Christians are to be joyful, not angry. He took this to heart.

Within about three months, there was a huge change in this client: He could carry on a conversation with no delusional content whatsoever! His perspective: "I feel like I got my mind back." I had never seen anything like it.

His improvement was not 100%, however. Whenever he talked about events in the distant past, there was still some delusional content. Nonetheless, for those of us who knew this client, the change was nothing short of amazing!

So, how do we deal with the delusional individuals in our lives? That depends on many factors.

If the person's delusions are of demonic origin and he/she is abusive, the most appropriate course of action may be to find a way of getting the person out of your life, if at all possible.

Other steps may also be necessary. Be sure to read the article on Anger Management.

If you have a delusional employee or co-worker, don't make the assumption that things will change. You just don't know what God will or will not do—or when. Walk wisely.

However, if the person is a family member, in your life to stay, or a person who you are voluntarily trying to help, consider the following ideas.

First, consider gentle persuasion. If the delusion is not of demonic origin, patient persuasion alone may yield results: "Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone (Proverbs 25:15 NIV)."

Even if the delusion is demonic, there is a role for persuasion. You cannot tell a delusional person that the person they are angry at really did nothing wrong; they will just get mad. However, you can express concerns on how anger is affecting their health. And you can suggest that, by forgiving, they can experience more peace and can prevent future health problems.

Second, consider sharing the gospel. Getting the person saved is a big step in the right direction. It may solve the problem by itself. This is not advisable in every situation (Matthew 7:6).

Third, pray for the individual every day. And keep praying until you get results. Try getting a group of people to lay hands on the individual and take turns praying for him/her. See if a change occurs.

Never underestimate the power of persistent prayer in getting results. I have seen a number of cases where delusional Christian husbands—whose behavior was egregious—returned to their families as responsible husbands as a result of persistent prayer. In my experience, it is not necessary to lay hands on these individuals to get results.

Fourth, firmly rebuke Satan in the name of Jesus while the person is delusional. Do this out loud. See if a change occurs.

One client told me she was able—after her daughter temporarily became detached from reality—to overcome the problem instantly by saying out loud something like this: "Satan, I bind you by the name of Jesus." This is the same thing.

I should note that the daughter later again became delusional temporarily, on a number of occasions, as a result of spiritual warfare and stressful events in her life.

When rebuking the Devil, make sure your rebuke sounds like a rebuke. Another client found temporary relief from her psychotic symptoms only after she yelled her rebuke of the Devil. However, you can effectively rebuke the Devil without being so loud that others hear.

Fifth, encourage the individual to live a life that God can bless. Try to get him/her to read the Bible daily, go to church, pray and obey Scripture. Teach them to use Scripture to deal with unpleasant events and emotions.

Sixth, be very cautious in confronting delusional individuals about their false beliefs. This can be dangerous. Wait until you feel it is safe and then do so gently.

Delusional individuals will react based on what they think is true, not what is true. So, if they conclude you are lying to them, they will react accordingly.

On the other hand, if the delusional person does trust your judgement, you can provide a valuable service by letting them know what is true and what is simply a delusion. It is very helpful to teach them not to believe a lie.

Seventh, be available, as much as possible, to provide emotional support, common-sense counsel and to address safety concerns as they arise. These are keys to recovery.

Also, in regard to safety, tracking software can be placed on cell phones.

Eighth, "It is not good for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18 NIV)." Delusional individuals are more vulnerable to spiritual attack when they are alone. There are also increased safety concerns.

Ninth, recognize that fervent prayer can be especially effective. I had one client who would repeatedly become delusional for periods of time for one reason or another. I got in the habit of praying with her, over the phone, each time this happened. Then, I would ask her: How are you doing? Usually, the delusion would disappear.

One time, though, a real crisis arose: This client called me after midnight and said that she was going to leave her apartment and go and live on the streets in order to be safe. She did reluctantly agree to pray with me, but the prayers did not work. She was still delusional and planning to leave her apartment. So I prayed again with her and I prayed fervently with her over the phone. It worked. The delusion lifted.

Even fervent prayer has its limitations. In her case, this was only a temporary fix. She was sexually abused and has issues involving anger, fear and demonic oppression that need to be effectively addressed using Scripture. And this could not be accomplished while she was on the psychotropic drugs that her psychiatrist insisted were necessary.

Tenth, when there are safety concerns, always consider supervision as an alternative to the use of psychotropic drugs (Mark 3:21). Psychotropic drugs are an undesirable last resort—and nothing more.

Both clients previously mentioned in this article were Christians and should never have been placed on medication. Though their circumstances were different, both were repeatedly hospitalized and both became seriously suicidal. Their symptoms could have been effectively dealt with—though not necessarily cured—by family emotional support, counsel and supervision.

The first client, prior to being placed on medication, was happy, outgoing and joyful. The medication made her feel so bad that she could not even be left alone—she became a suicide risk.

The second client was again hospitalized after her psychiatrist changed her medication, which she stopped taking. Before being again hospitalized, she was happy and smiling—though very much temporarily insane. While hospitalized and being "pumped up with drugs," she became assaultive and seriously suicidal. I don't think she needed to go through this.

In both cases, the drugs did not stop these women from repeatedly becoming delusional. Nor did the drugs provide any real benefits in terms of safety. The drugs made both of these women less safe. What the drugs did do is make it impossible for them to make any lasting progress using Scripture. You can rely on medication to control delusional symptoms or you can learn to rely on Scripture. But you can't do both.

Eleventh: Psychotropic drugs. These should generally only be considered if their is a safety concern that cannot be effectively addressed any other way—and the drugs actually do work.

Just because their is valid safety concern doesn't mean someone should be on drugs. The drugs themselves are dangerous, cause health problems and usually make it impossible to make progress using Scripture.

Getting someone off of psychotropic drugs can be dangerous. Discuss the issue with your doctor before you decide whether—and how fast—to make changes. One key question to ask a doctor is this: "If you were going to take your patient off of the medication(s), how would you do it? And how fast?"

One caveat: Doctors will normally view all psychotic symptoms as a medical issue—even if the cause is spiritual. And doctors will, in my experience, always insist that the drugs are necessary.

If someone with delusions is going to be taken off of psychotropic drugs, close family supervision is essential.

Twelfth: Prognosis. Even without the Bible, individuals with psychotic disorders usually do better when they are kept off of psychotropic drugs. I refer you to material published by psychiatrists Dr. Loren Mosher and Dr. Peter Breggin. This information is available on the internet.

Also, people with psychotic disorders can sometimes get better for long periods of time—even permanently. But only if they are kept off of psychotropic drugs.

Thirteenth, professional help. The Standard of Care for anyone with a psychotic disorder is psychotherapy and medication. Anyone with a license who advises against taking the drugs is taking a real risk in terms of licensure and litigation—and few are willing to take such a risk. Therefore, families—not professionals—are in the best position to actually help.

Licensed Christian therapists are in a real bind when it comes to psychotic disorders. They really have no choice but to make sure medications are taken and to send clients back to the hospital whenever they become temporarily insane.

Fourteenth: Family plan: Always have a family plan as to how the family will respond when the person becomes delusional for periods of time. And don't look for an absolute cure, which is not always possible. Instead, use biblical principles to make the delusions increasingly less frequent and increasingly less severe.

There are a number of useful articles on this website to help you deal with the challenges faced by delusional individuals.

In regard to safety issues, look for creative ways to ensure safety. For example, you might offer a delusional person's roommate free rent in exchange for monitoring.

In regard to licensed board and care facilities, they also have no choice but to ensure that clients continually take their medications.

Fifteenth: Synopsis: Unless there is some compelling reason why the delusional person needs to be on psychotropic drugs, this is the preferred treatment plan for delusional individuals.

  • Bible.
  • Emotional support and counsel.
  • Supervision and monitoring.
  • No medication.

Finally, if you are a young person and have a delusional parent, recognize that you may not be able to change their reality. Walk wisely; don't let your emotions take over. Forgive—don't get bitter. Bitterness will wreak havoc on your emotions. Recognize that, in their mind, they are doing nothing wrong.

Furthermore, God promises that you will be blessed your entire life if you can find a way to honor your parents. Remember this Scripture: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother'—which is the first commandment with a promise—'that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth' (Ephesians 6:1-3 NIV)."

This does not mean that you should sin—even if your parents tell you to. Obeying God always comes first.

So that's it. I hope this article has been helpful to you. Dealing with delusional individuals can be a very big challenge—as you may know all too well.

Note: It is suggested that you also read the article entitled: Is Mental Illness Caused by Demons.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Discuss your individual situation with a doctor before making any changes.

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