What Are Persecutory Delusions? Examples and How To Help | MyParkinsonsTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up Log in
Resources
About MyParkinsonsTeam
Powered By

What Are Persecutory Delusions? Examples and How To Help

Medically reviewed by Andrew Turner, M.D.
Written by Joan Grossman
Posted on July 27, 2023

  • Persecutory delusions are the most common type of delusion in people with Parkinson’s disease psychosis (PDP).
  • In persecutory delusions, someone has a false belief that others are treating them badly or taking advantage of them.
  • Common examples of persecutory delusions in Parkinson’s include fears or suspicions of infidelity, theft, imposters, conspiracies, being lied to, or being attacked.

Persecutory delusions can be one of the most challenging symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD), both for people living with Parkinson’s and for their family members and caregivers. It’s something that many MyParkinsonsTeam members struggle with.

“Delusions, delusions, delusions,” wrote one MyParkinsonsTeam member who is a caregiver for a relative with Parkinson’s. “Off to a bad start 🙁.”

Delusions vs. Hallucinations

Delusions and hallucinations are two symptoms of Parkinson’s disease psychosis in which people with Parkinson’s have trouble distinguishing reality from things that are imagined. PDP consists of nonmotor psychotic symptoms that affect the mind rather than the body.

In hallucinations, people perceive things that are not there. They can involve all five senses: visual, auditory, smell, taste, or touch.

Alternatively, delusions are irrational beliefs in which someone strongly believes something that is not true or evidence-based. Researchers have found that persecutory delusions are the most common type of delusion in people with Parkinson’s. They’re characterized by someone falsely believing that others are treating them badly or taking advantage of them.

Delusions can take various forms and may include:

  • Delusions of grandiosity or self-importance
  • Delusions of jealousy and infidelity
  • Capgras delusions (believing an imposter has replaced someone)
  • Delusions of being persecuted, or persecutory delusions, in which a person believes that someone is trying to harm them or people around them

“I began to have delusions. I thought that my children were taking money from me,” one MyParkinsonsTeam member wrote.

Understanding Persecutory Delusions in Parkinson’s

Symptoms of psychosis occur in as many as 60 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease. Delusions occur in approximately 8 percent of people who have Parkinson’s. Delusions are often associated with Parkinson’s medication side effects and Parkinson’s disease progression. Cognitive impairment, dementia, depression, or sleep disorders are also risk factors. Delusions can also be caused by some types of infection and other health conditions such as stroke and heart attack.

Read more about what causes hallucinations and delusions in PDP.

In general, persecutory delusions are more common in males than in females, according to StatPearls. These types of delusions can create paranoid thoughts and fearful feelings. Some people with persecutory delusions may try to involve legal authorities if they believe someone is wronging them. People with Parkinson’s may have other types of delusions or hallucinations along with persecutory delusions.

“I’m the wife of a husband with advanced PD. It’s extremely difficult to deal with. He has delusions/hallucinations/paranoia. He has had PD for many years. The delusions started a little over a year-and-a-half ago,” a MyParkinsonsTeam member wrote.

People who experience persecutory delusions may exhibit outbursts of anger, agitation, or violent behavior. People may develop delusions of persecution not only from Parkinson’s but also drug use, other health conditions, and some types of mental illness or mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder. Researchers have linked persecutory or paranoid delusions to low self-esteem and negative thoughts.

Examples of Persecutory Delusions

Although persecutory delusions are based on false beliefs, they tend to involve situations that could be possible in real life, as opposed to bizarre delusions that involve circumstances that would be impossible and are based on outlandish situations.

Examples of persecutory delusions include:

  • A fear of being attacked
  • A feeling of being harassed
  • A belief that there’s a dangerous conspiracy
  • A belief that people are lying
  • A sense that something harmful is about to happen

One MyParkinsonsTeam member shared their experience with their husband: “He wakes up and thinks someone is grabbing him or something.”

Another member said, “My mom has Parkinson’s and has been dealing with hallucinations and delusions for over four months. They’re so bad she’s scared to live at home.”

A third member described another example of persecutory delusions with Parkinson’s: “My mother had a severe delusional episode this morning where she accused me and the caregiver of trying to murder her. We ended up taking her to an urgent care clinic where she was diagnosed with a UTI (urinary tract infection). Had to keep her from opening the car door to get out while driving her there. Fortunately, she calmed down while at the clinic, but she was so out of control. I’m not sure if her regular caregiver will stay with us for much longer.”

Managing Persecutory Delusions

If you or someone you care is living with Parkinson’s and experiencing persecutory delusions, there are steps you can take to help manage this difficult symptom.

First, it’s important to discuss delusions with a neurologist to determine whether a change in medication or other medical treatment may be warranted. A doctor can also conduct tests to find out if a person’s delusions are the result of another condition or an untreated infection.

In some cases, antipsychotic medication may be a treatment option for persecutory delusions. Some antipsychotic drugs are known to worsen movement and motor symptoms in Parkinson’s. A Parkinson’s specialist will help you weigh benefits versus risks of different treatment options.

A doctor may recommend counseling (talk therapy), such as psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. Sometimes counseling can help a person who is experiencing persecutory delusions gain some understanding about how this symptom affects family members, caregivers, and other relationships. Your doctor can provide a referral for a mental health professional.

Counseling and support can also help psychological well-being for caregivers and family members who are tasked with managing persecutory delusions with Parkinson’s.

What To Do When Someone Is Having a Persecutory Delusion

If you’re a caregiver for someone living with Parkinson’s, here are some things you can do to help manage a persecutory delusion when it occurs:

  • Stay calm and reassure them that everything will be all right.
  • Avoid arguing or trying to convince them that their belief isn’t true.
  • Ask them what they are feeling, and let them know you are listening to them so that they don’t feel threatened by you.
  • If they become agitated or physically aggressive, remain still and calm.

When They’re Calm

You can help keep your home safer for loved ones who have persecutory delusions, especially if they’ve ever become aggressive. Keep anything that could be dangerous, such as knives or heavy objects, out of reach. Additionally, clear out clutter and obstacles that could pose tripping hazards.

When a person’s delusion has subsided, sometimes it can be helpful to talk to them and calmly ask them about the experience. But if this type of conversation is disturbing for them, however, it’s best to avoid agitating them.

When a Persecutory Delusion Is an Emergency

If a situation feels dangerous and you’re worried about your safety or the safety of the person experiencing the delusion, call 911 or emergency services. EMTs are trained to perform interventions with people who may be experiencing a persecutory delusion and can help ensure that no one is harmed. In severe situations a delusional person may require hospitalization in order to be stabilized.

Find Your Team

MyParkinsonsTeam is the social network for people with Parkinson’s disease and their loved ones. On MyParkinsonsTeam, more than 98,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with Parkinson’s.

Have you or a loved one experienced persecutory delusions? Have you found effective ways to manage them? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on July 27, 2023
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

Become a Subscriber

Get the latest articles about Parkinson's disease sent to your inbox.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Andrew Turner, M.D. completed medical school at Creighton University School of Medicine. Learn more about him here.
Joan Grossman is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about her here.

Related Articles

People with Parkinson’s disease may develop a symptom called hypomimia, which is a loss or reduct...

Facial Masking (Hypomimia) With Parkinson’s Disease: Causes and Management

People with Parkinson’s disease may develop a symptom called hypomimia, which is a loss or reduct...
People with Parkinson’s disease may experience hallucinations and delusions caused by progression...

What Causes Hallucinations and Delusions in Parkinson’s?

People with Parkinson’s disease may experience hallucinations and delusions caused by progression...
What is real, and how can you be sure? For someone living with Parkinson’s, it can be difficult ...

Delusions vs. Hallucinations: 9 Differences To Recognize in Parkinson’s

What is real, and how can you be sure? For someone living with Parkinson’s, it can be difficult ...
If you are living with Parkinson’s disease, you might often feel run-down, out of energy, or eve...

Managing Fatigue and Parkinson’s Disease: 6 Tips for More Energy

If you are living with Parkinson’s disease, you might often feel run-down, out of energy, or eve...
Parkinson’s disease (PD) often comes on gradually with early signs and symptoms. Physical and me...

Early Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease (PD) often comes on gradually with early signs and symptoms. Physical and me...
While not everyone diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease experiences pain, research indicates that ...

Is Parkinson’s Painful? Describing the Experience

While not everyone diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease experiences pain, research indicates that ...

Recent Articles

Welcome to MyParkinsonsTeam — the place to connect with others living with Parkinson's disease. ...

Getting Started on MyParkinsonsTeam (VIDEO)

Welcome to MyParkinsonsTeam — the place to connect with others living with Parkinson's disease. ...
It’s natural to be afraid of the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the risks of gett...

Do COVID-19 Vaccines Worsen Parkinson’s Symptoms? What We Currently Know

It’s natural to be afraid of the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the risks of gett...
In a survey of caregivers on MyParkinsonsTeam, 88 percent reported feeling stressed watching thei...

Survey Results: Stresses and Rewards of Parkinson’s Caregiving

In a survey of caregivers on MyParkinsonsTeam, 88 percent reported feeling stressed watching thei...
Your body needs just the right balance of vitamins and minerals to function properly. When you’re...

Magnesium and Parkinson’s Disease: Are Supplements Beneficial?

Your body needs just the right balance of vitamins and minerals to function properly. When you’re...
Both Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease are progressive neurodegenerative disorders tha...

Parkinson’s vs. Huntington’s Disease: What’s the Difference?

Both Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease are progressive neurodegenerative disorders tha...
Yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, pickles — what do these foods have in common? They’re all fermented p...

Probiotics and Parkinson’s Disease: What You Need To Know

Yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, pickles — what do these foods have in common? They’re all fermented p...
MyParkinsonsTeam My Parkinson's disease Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close