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There are three components to the definition of a delusion:

  • the delusion is a belief which is held on unsatisfactory grounds
  • a delusion is not amenable to rational arguement
  • a delusion is not explicable in terms of the social or cultural background of the patient

A delusion is usually, but not always, a false belief.

A delusional belief may dominate the life of the patient e.g. a persecutory delusion may prevent the patient leaving their home. Alternatively, the patient may appear unmoved by what would seem to be a terrifying belief, this picture is most common in patients with chronic schizophrenia.

Delusions may be primary or secondary.


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