Mystical or messianic delirium: symptoms, causes and treatment

Each of us is unique and irreplaceable, and we have very different experiences and perceptions of the world and reality. Most are interpretations that allow us to make sense of what we are experiencing in a way that allows us to survive and adapt to the environment around us.

But sometimes there are alterations in the content of thought which they make us interpret reality in a concrete and inappropriate way and even harmful to oneself or the environment, preventing our proper adaptation and skewing our vision in such a way that we make false judgments about the world. This is what happens with delusions.

In delusions, we can find different typologies, differentiated by the aspect or the thematic to which they refer. One of them connects states of sensory alterations that are properly psychotic to beliefs of a spiritual type, making us consider, for example, a being with a divine mission or even a messiah. We speak of mystical or messianic delirium.

    What is mystical delirium?

    By mystical delirium is meant an alteration of the content of thought, the product of an abnormal interpretation of reality, of the religious-spiritual subject.

    However delusional it may be, it is an unchanging, fixed judgment or idea that persists with great intensity despite the existence of evidence against it, which usually generates a high level of worry or concern. anxiety in those who suffer (or prevents the person from his usual operation). ) and it is at least very improbable, having in addition a complete lack of social or cultural support for this idea. It is often the product of the interpretation of an altered perception (such as a hallucination), and generally leads to a certain break with reality.

    In this case, the delirium in question it has content related to spirituality and religiosity. An interpretation of the world, of oneself and of others is made solely on the basis of faith, seeing in all of this a confirmation of one’s beliefs and a consideration of one’s role in the world.

    They tend to regard most acts as sins and seek to atone for their own faults or those of others, in some cases even violently. It is also not uncommon for ideas of self-reference or even greatness to exist, viewing the subject as a superior being, a divine envoy, or even a deity.

    Difference between religious belief and mystical delirium

    For a person without religious beliefs, it can be relatively easy to attribute to people who have this type of delirium, since religious beliefs per se. they tend to be uneditable and self-explanatory (While most people consider these beliefs modelable and interpretable, others present them as adapted). But it does not, in the same way that having a good level of self-esteem does not imply an illusion of greatness: we are simply faced with a psychotic exacerbation of already basic beliefs.

    In mystical delirium, it requires the existence of a revelation and a mission, lived with ecstasy on the part of the sick person, in addition to the feeling of having a clear knowledge of the truth through revelation. Lifestyle abandonment is also common pursued until then and the total disinterestedness towards which they envisage their mission. All this separates the mystical delirium from the normative religious-spiritual belief, in which there is no confusion followed by the idea of ​​meaning of the hallucinatory experience.

    The causes of this delirium

    Mystical delirium, as we can see, has a strong religious and cultural influence as one of its main bases. However, the causes of the appearance of this delirium do not depend only on this factor but are multiple factors that contribute to its genesis. the delirium it is perceived as a rational explanation by the subjectOften used to justify the existence of a hallucinatory experience which disturbs them.

    Religion itself is a relevant but not necessarily determining factor (there are controversies depending on whether its role is fundamental or one more variable), although the specific religious beliefs of a person with this type of delirium often determine the type of delusional content. . For example, in the Christian religion, delusions related to guilt tend to be more numerous than in Judaism. there is generally more hallucinatory nocturnal experience associated with the night’s bonding with spirits.

    Of course, many people with this type of problem do not have specific religious beliefs, so not all of them will have an effect. Other relevant factors are the person’s level and type of education and marital status.

    Likewise, the existence of this type of mystical delusions has been mainly associated with the presence of drug, food or drug intoxication, certain medical or psychiatric illnesses (including psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia), pain acute or chronic (interpretable as a sign) or dementia. Usually it is typical of people who suffer from what Emil Kraepelin calls paraphrenia, a chronic psychotic disorder in which the delusions are relatively whimsical in nature and that, except in the subject in question, the persons do not present great alterations.

    Treatment of this type of delirium

    Treatment of any type of delirium is complex and relatively slow. And it is that we all tend to hold our beliefs more or less firmly. This causes delusional experiences, which for those who have them represent reality better than others, are perpetuated and attempts at direct modification are directly rejected. the same interpretative biases of the phenomena that occur they lead the subject to reinforce his delusional ideation.

    In all cases, it is first necessary to stabilize the patient if one is dealing with a psychotic disorder or to combat the infectious or toxic agent if one is confronted with an infection or any intoxication. Once the psychological process has started, one must first overcome the patient’s attitude of vigilance and aversion towards the therapist and gain his confidence, without making direct confrontation with his delusional beliefs. It seeks to promote the therapeutic relationship and access it little by little and as confidence in the core of the ideation increases.

    It is proposed that the patient gradually introspect and visualize what caused him to think in this way. Generate increased communication and gradually adjust thought processes to a more adaptive pattern of reality.

    The type of environment of the patient can also play an important role in his treatment, since in its early stages the symptoms can only be considered aversive after a long time. This increases the risk of chronicity and consolidation of delirium. In this sense, a little psychoeducation in the environment concerning the problem posed by the subject (always respecting the religious beliefs that he has), could be beneficial both for him and for the patient.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Bastidas, M. and Alberto, C. (2004). Validity of mystical delirium in contemporary semiology. Catalan Society of Psychiatry, vol. XXXIII (2): 172-181. Colombian Association of Psychiatry. Bogota, DC, Colombia.
    • Rodant, DE and Fuentes, P. (2013). Mystico-religious delusions: historical trajectory, current validity and cultural implications in its genesis. Clepios. 62. Journal of Mental Health Training Professionals.

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