Recognizing Somatic Delusions: Examples, Side Effects, and What You Need to Know

For someone who suffers from somatic delusions, their experience of physical ailments is just as real as for someone who actually has those physical ailments. But their suffering is truly psychological. Examples of somatic delusions are diverse and unpredictable, but professional treatment options can address delusional symptoms and help someone to recover their life grounded in reality.

The word “somatic” relates to the body, to the physical, to the experiences of our physical bodies. Things can get confusing when we talk about mental health disorders and physical—or somatic—symptomology. But it’s important that we reach a greater understanding of the connections so that we can be aware enough to help those who are experiencing related distress. This is especially true since it’s very common for people to miss out on treatment options that could do a lot to relieve their suffering.

Somatic delusions are rooted in psychological imbalance, but the individual perceives them as true physical ailments, and these delusions can even manifest as physical experiences of symptoms. The original symptom of delusions often brings with it intense worry, anxiety, and confusion. This distress is further provoked when the person visits a doctor to address their physical symptoms and the doctor does not share their perspective of reality. In fact, someone with somatic delusions may visit many doctors in an attempt to find validation and help for the illnesses and injuries they perceive.

Layers of distress can develop over time as someone’s somatic delusions continue to struggle against the objective reality around them. The complicated mix of worry, anxiety, and confusion can get in the way of life, to say the least. Let’s look at some examples of somatic delusions and the options for treatment that can help someone reconnect with their health on all levels.

Understanding Examples and Side Effects of Somatic Delusions

Examples of somatic delusions can be very diverse. And because they aren’t based in reality, they can be quite unpredictable. It’s important to understand that, even though someone’s somatic delusions might seem transparently fictional to an outside observer, that person genuinely believes that they are suffering in this way. Therefore, the path toward healing depends on knowledgeable, professional treatment rather than simply trying to convince them that the reality is something other than they believe.

Typically, somatic delusions can be categorized as non-bizarre or bizarre. In other words, a person may have delusions that mirror real health conditions—such as broken bones—or they may believe they suffer from health conditions that aren’t based in science and reality—such as bones that are twisted around each other. Then again, because the range of possible delusions is so diver, sometimes somatic delusions may reflect a combination of bizarre and non-bizarre qualities. Take a look at this list of examples, but know that there are many other somatic delusions possible.

  • Broken bones
  • Twisted bones
  • Protruding bones
  • Deformation of body parts
  • Tumors or other growths in the body
  • Organs or other body parts that have stopped working
  • Paralysis—partial or total
  • Missing body parts, including organs, bones, and blood
  • Bumps, bruises, wounds, and scars
  • Pregnancy and/or abortion
  • Infestation by parasites, small bugs, or worms
  • Nests or eggs laid below the skin or elsewhere in the body
  • Infection with a virus
  • Foreign objects inside the body
  • Bodily odors

Especially without treatment, somatic delusions can significantly affect the way someone lives their life. They may attempt to hide their delusional deformations and even to isolate as a result. They may be driven to bathe excessively or withdraw to manage their body’s offensive odor. Someone’s somatic delusions may even lead them to harm themselves in attempts to address their perceived health problems, such as trying to remove an infestation or self-medicate in inappropriate and dangerous ways.

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What Kind of Treatment Is Necessary for Somatic Delusions?

Someone with somatic delusions may appear to function relatively normally apart from these delusional beliefs about their apparent diseases or injuries or bodily abnormalities. Then again, these delusions can begin to overwhelm their connection to reality in bigger ways. The preoccupation with their physical condition and the need for medical attention can intensify and block the path of psychiatric attention that they really need. After all, they genuinely believe that their problems are somatic rather than mental or behavioral. It can be a challenge to connect someone with the treatment that could ease their distress enormously.

The first important step on the path of recovery is an accurate diagnosis. There are many different sources and types of psychosis and delusions. And it’s important that clinicians narrow in on an individual’s unique psychiatric condition so they can also narrow in on the very best course of treatment. For example, somatic delusions may be caused by schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, substance use disorders, bipolar disorder, major depression, dementia, or others. Or this symptom may be a result of somatic symptom disorder. If you know someone who is suffering from somatic delusions, the sooner you can connect them with expert psychiatric attention, the sooner they can begin their healing journey.

Medication and therapy combined can help someone with somatic delusions to slowly recover their grip on reality. They can recover a life that is grounded and fulfilling. It’s time to stop struggling against the delusions and flow with the compassionate path of comprehensive mental health care.

BrightQuest offers long-term residential treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as co-occurring substance use disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.