Understanding, treating, and renaming grandiosedelusions: A qualitative study
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Louise Isham, Laura Griffith, Anne‐Marie Boylan, Alice Hicks, Natalie Wilson, Rory Byrne, Bryony Sheaves, Richard P. Bentall, Daniel Freeman. Understanding, treating, and renaming grandiose delusions: A qualitative study. Psychol Psychother Theory Res Pract. November 2019
Background.Grandiose delusions are arguably the most neglected psychotic experience in research. Objectives.We aimed to discover from patients: whether grandiose delusions have harmful consequences; the psychological mechanisms that maintain them; and what help patients may want from clinical services.Design.A qualitative interview design was used to explore patients’ experiences of grandiose delusions.Method.Fifteen patients with past or present experiences of grandiose delusions who were attending psychiatric services were interviewed. Thematic analysis and grounded theory were used to analyse the data.Results.Participants reported physical, sexual, social, occupational, and emotional harms from grandiose delusions. All patients described the grandiose belief as highly meaningful: it provided a sense of purpose, belonging, or self-identity, or it made sense of unusual or difficult events. The meaning from the belief was not synonymous with extreme superiority or arrogance. The meaning obtained appeared to be a key driver of the persistence of the beliefs. Other maintenance factors were subjectively anomalous experiences (e.g., voices), symptoms of mania, fantasy elaboration, reasoning biases, and immersive behaviours. Participants described insufficient opportunities to talk about their grandiose beliefs and related experiences and were generally positive about the possibility of a psychological therapy. Conclusions.We conclude that grandiosity is a psychologically rich experience, with a number of maintenance factors that may be amenable to a targeted psychological intervention. Importantly, the term ‘grandiose delusion’ is an imprecise description of the experience; we suggest ‘delusions of exceptionality’ may be a credible alternative.
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