Carlos and Beatriz are a married couple who have been married for twenty years and who live in a rural area that is quite isolated from the rest of society. Beatriz suffers from a disease that causes her to suffer from a psychotic disorder for which she commonly presents delusions. Beatriz affirms that the aliens spy on her and that is why she keeps almost all the windows and doors of the house closed. After a long time, her husband Carlos is totally sure that Beatriz is right and insists that the house remains closed since that way they feel safer. Carlos and Beatriz suffer from shared psychotic disorder, a disorder that we will talk about today. But first…
Psychosis is a state of perceptual and emotional alteration in which through symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and extreme mood swings, people can lose their sense of reality. This is something that occurs especially in disorders such as schizophrenia, a serious illness in which psychosis is a key factor in its development..
The main symptoms of psychosis are hallucinations and delusions.
Hallucinations are perceptual and sensory experiences that have no real basis; this is the case, for example, of people who hear voices or see other people or objects that do not exist.
Delusions are unrealistic ideas and beliefs that the affected person holds as true even though there is plausible evidence that the facts are unrealistic. This is the case of paranoid ideas that some people present or ideas related to a distorted own greatness.
When there is a shared psychotic disorder, also called folie à deux (madness of two), people who are psychologically healthy can share the delusions and disorders of a person with whom they have a close relationship and who suffers from a disorder psychotic This close person is usually the "inducer" of the shared psychosis and usually suffers from a primary psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia.
In shared psychotic disorder, the delusions transmitted by the "inducing" person are shared by the person / s around them, who begin to believe that they are real. This would be the case, for example, of a marriage in which one of them suffers from a psychotic disorder and has delusional ideas, such as, for example, that someone is trying to poison them because they have a very important secret. When the person who was psychologically healthy begins to share these ideas and to believe that they are real, living immersed in delusions, this person suffers from shared psychotic disorder.
As we explained, shared psychotic disorder commonly occurs within a close relationship in which one of the two suffers from a primary psychotic disorder and the other is influenced by the symptoms of the first. However, there are different subtypes of this disorder in which this psychological disorder can occur in different ways:
Shared psychotic disorder usually occurs within very long-term relationships, as well as relationships in which there is a close personal bond between those affected who often live in isolation. This can happen after periods of great stress.
They can also occur between groups of people who have an intense emotional relationship, this is the case of group psychosis that can occur in contexts such as religious sects in which if the leader suffers a psychotic disorder, his followers come to adopt and share the delusions although they wouldn't have if they weren't under the influence of this.
Normally, the person with primary psychosis tends to have a dominant character, while the person who adopts shared psychosis may be more passive or vulnerable to the influences of others..
Shared psychosis disorder is not a very common disorder, so its treatment is currently not well established. However, treatment usually includes separation from the people who maintain the psychosis. In addition, patients with this type of disorder are often offered psychological therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people recognize and manage delusions, replacing distorted ideas or behaviors with more adaptive ones. In addition, antipsychotics or anxiolytics can be prescribed when a mental health professional considers it appropriate, as well as family therapy recommended when it can be recommended for a good functioning among families that have suffered or have been affected by this type of disorder..