15 Truly Bizarre Mental Delusions

When you are delusional, you lose the ability to distinguish reality from fantasy. Sufferers stumble through life, constricted by pseudo-worlds of their own making. Although the term was first coined in 1977, symptoms of delusion have been recorded for over 150 years.

Here are 15 of the most bizarre syndromes to be documented since that time. . .

1. Capgras Delusion


In the heat of an argument it’s normal to want to disown your parents or kids, but for the sufferer of Capgras delusions that feeling never goes away. It’s commonly caused when the “wire” that connects the visual section of the brain to the emotional section is damaged. As a result, the sufferer sees their loved ones but no emotional response is triggered; they truly believe that the person in front of them is nothing more than an imposter.


2. Internet Delusions


True story: A woman, suspicious of one ingredient in her chewing gum, took to the search engines to find answers. Instead, she found herself wrapped in a delusional conspiracy involving secret terrorist organizations, government espionage agencies and clandestine phone taps. Because of this case and others like it, the Internet is a growing concern due to its ability to trigger psychotic delusions.

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3. Truman Show Delusion


Since the 1998 release of the movie “The Truman Show”, smatterings of cases involving that movie’s plot have been occurring. According to Ian and Joel Gold (two Canadian doctors), the delusion makes the sufferer believe they are the star of a reality show which they can’t escape. This is, apparently, a twist on the more traditional delusions of grandiose and/or persecution.

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4. Life as Computer Game


Over the course of two years, one man’s mind slowly broke and made him believe he was actually a character in a video game. The object of this game, unfortunately, was to steal cars, kill people and avoid the police. He even felt the game spoke to him through the headphones, so he began to play incessantly. He managed to steal various cars at gunpoint (moving from “weaker” cars to more “powerful” ones to score points) before being arrested and eventually sent to the psychiatric facility.


5. Cotard's syndrome


This is thought to be a delusional affliction similar to Capgras delusions…except much worse. Whereas Capras syndrome is seen as a separation of visual processing from emotional responses, Cotard’s syndrome is the total severance of emotion from all external stimulus. The sufferer feels that they are already dead. They may even claim smelling their flesh rotting or feeling maggots on their skin.


6. Derealization


As the name implies, the symptom of derealization is the sudden feeling that everything feels unreal, unfamiliar and strange. This can affect hearing, taste, smell or sight and is best described as a dullness to perception...as if experiencing life through a thick fog.


7. Wendigo Psychosis


Wendigo psychosis is a form of cannibalism, whereby the sufferer has a burning desire to eat human flesh. This affliction was first documented in aboriginal communities, where witch doctors were used to heal it. If that didn't work, the sufferer was put to death. Today, there are questions about whether or not the syndrome actually exists but eyewitness accounts suggest that it does.


8. Depersonalization


Sufferers of depersonalization feel like they “fall away from themselves”…meaning, they “see” themselves acting but have no control over the situation. Life feels like a movie or a dream, and some people even chase this feeling through the use of illicit drugs. The difference is that for the truly afflicted, that “high” never goes away or comes at undesirable moments (like for some panic attack victims).



9. Delusions Of Grandeur


Delusions of grandeur involve patients who believe they are a famous individual, or falsely believe they know somebody who is. As an example, a patient may feel they are Alexander the Great...or Bill Clinton...or Ghandi. Alternatively, they may feel they are best friends with Stevie Wonder or Oprah Winfrey.


10. Super Human Delusions


As you could guess, this delusion makes one feel that they have superhuman abilities. This is a particularly dangerous syndrome, which can lead to injury (or worse) as patients attempt to exercise their delusional powers.


11. Fregoli Delusion


Fregoli delusion, which is named after the Italian actor Leopoldo Fregoli, is a condition that leads one to believe a specific person is using disguises to impersonate others you cross paths with. The first recorded case involved a female theatre-goer who believed two of the actors were secretly pursuing her by disguising themselves as other people she knew or met.


12. Reduplicative Paramnesia


Reduplicative Paramnesia is a strange affliction that makes the sufferer believes a specific place has been duplicated in a different location. One man, who injured his head in a fall, thought the hospital where he was being treated was located in a spare bedroom of his house...although logically understanding and being shown that it was miles away. The same symptom struck an elderly Alzheimer’s sufferer, who believed that the clinic treating her had been moved (with her in tow) to a different suburb.


13. Alice in Wonderland syndrome (AIWS) or Micropsia


This syndrome is also known as Lilliput Sight, and the symptom is a mental distortion of time, space or body image. In other words, certain items seem bigger or smaller than they are in reality. An ant, for example, may seem the size of a house or a passing man the size of a coke can. This can also apply to human body parts such feeling you have a much bigger...arm.


14. Clinical Lycanthropy

werewolf syndrome

Clinical lycanthropy is a psychotic delusion that makes the patient believe they can or have turned into a wolf. This term specifically applies to wolf-based delusions, and zoanthropy or therianthropy are applied for delusions based on other animals. Sufferers reportedly act like an animal, although no physical change is perceived by observers.


15. Erotomania


Erotomania sufferers believe that another person (who is usually a celebrity) is in love with them and told them secretly via a glance, special signal or telepathy. To return the sentiment, they start sending love letters and making phone calls. When these go unanswered, the sufferer grows angry and violent. Somewhere during this process, the authorities are called in to protect the object of affection.