Religious Madness

By | June 8, 2022

Religious delusion is a substantive delusional symptom that is often associated with schizophrenia. The delusion often goes hand in hand with a mission to heal. The treatment of the patients is usually difficult due to the ego syntony.

What is religious delusion?

Delusions are a symptom of psychiatric disorders. In the psychopathological finding, delusion is a content -related thought disorder in the context of various mental disorders. Delusional disorders disrupt lifestyle through beliefs incompatible with objective reality. The ability of those affected to make judgments is impaired. For meaning of dental fear, please visit

Similar thinking disorders are overvalued ideas and obsessions. In contrast to delusional patients, however, patients with this thought disorder usually know that their thoughts are in conflict with objective reality and normality. The delusion primarily characterizes diseases such as schizophrenia. Delusions can be of different types. A relatively common content is religious themes.

This religiously shaped form of delusion is referred to as religious delusion. The patients of such delusions suffer from false but unshakable ideas in the form of beliefs that are at odds with the individual’s educational, cultural, or social background. Patients hold their beliefs with exceptional conviction and ego syntony. Her personal certainty withstands evidence to the contrary.


According to current studies, religious topics are the content of up to 30 percent of all delusional schizophrenic events. This makes religious delusion one of the most common delusional themes. In addition to schizophrenia, many other diseases are associated with delusional symptoms. This applies, for example, to mood disorders such as severe depression or mania and bipolar disorder.

The primary cause is often dementia or brain damage. In the context of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease in particular often causes delusional symptoms. Delusions are almost as common in vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. The religious delusion is therefore usually not caused by purely psychological phenomena, but is in most cases related to organic brain damage.

On the other hand, cases of religious delusion that are not associated with organic brain changes are also known. Depending on the primary cause of the disease, there are different forms of religious delusion. Ultimately, religious delusion is to be understood as a symptom in which the illnesses mentioned find expression.

The religious delusional themes often do not arise from a personal religious experience. Rather, they arise in the context of human conflicts, such as marital problems or fear of death.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

People with religious delusions are often convinced that they are in direct communication with God. In some cases, they also believe that they themselves have been chosen as the new Messiah and will be sent to earth for the redemption of the world. In such a case we are talking about a religious delusion with a mandate to save.

The patients are completely fixated on their delusional content and feed the entirety of their thoughts and actions from it. In their delusional system, they are completely immune to critical counter-arguments. Patients with paranoid schizophrenia often experience a great need to communicate and disseminate their delusional religious ideas.

In many cases a patient with religious delusions alternates between dialogue forms and monologue structures of the same content. In most cases, the delusion results in alienation or partial alienation from the environment. The patient is usually isolated from the world around him, since no one else represents the content of the delusion.

In most cases, those affected with religious delusions are not integrated into religious communities either, since their ideas cannot be reconciled with those that are widespread. In clinical practice, religious delusion often leads to severe physical self-harm.

Diagnosis & course of disease

Religious delusion must be distinguished from religious belief in the context of diagnostics. In an expression of delusion, knowledge is asserted instead of belief. They do not meet any creeds, but communicate themselves in objectively impossible perceptions of reality. In the case of religious belief, a realistic self-assessment is still possible.

Patients with religious delusions, on the other hand, suffer from arrogant self-esteem. In religious belief, the patients are also able to distance themselves and to question the religious content. Patients with religious delusions are unable to distance themselves from their fixed ideas and see no point in questioning their ideas.

The prognosis for patients with religious delusional symptoms depends on the causative disease. In many cases, complete healing cannot be achieved due to ego syntony.


In the course of religious madness, numerous complications can arise, most of which are of a social nature. But serious self-injury is also possible. In most cases, the delusional imagination of the person concerned will lead to social isolation. Insisting on the knowledge of a certain religious fact can also lead to serious conflicts, which can affect family relationships, other social contacts and the work environment, among other things.

The fixation on the content of the delusion can also lead to neglect of other areas of life, which can end in inability to work and neglect of one’s own needs. Along with the fact that even religious communities can be overwhelmed when it comes to integrating such psychotics, the conflict between what the environment believes and what the psychotic thinks they know often leads to self-isolation.

Self-injurious behavior can be caused by the fact that the person concerned identifies with or equates himself with a martyr from the religious traditions and is therefore willing to imitate his actions. The tendency to take risks is fueled – often fed by delusional overconfidence – when the person concerned sees himself as a savior on God’s behalf.

When should you go to the doctor?

A religious delusion by itself is not a disease. It usually occurs with other complaints that form an overall picture. It is characteristic that the affected person often shows no insight into the illness. Therefore, parents, relatives or people from the social environment are responsible for initiating a doctor’s visit.

If the person concerned is in communication with imaginary entities, this alone is not a trait that is cause for concern. Actions in the name of God have also been carried out for many millennia and are not interpreted as signs of illness.

The border to an illness is crossed when the person concerned reports hearing voices or self-appointed healing missions, apparently without a reason. A fixation of the delusional content takes place, which significantly changes thinking and acting. The person’s behavior is described as abnormal and should be brought to a doctor’s attention.

Other signs include monologues and an unsolicited influence on the environment. There is harassment that triggers social conflicts. The theses expressed often lack a solid basis and are defended with all vehemence by those affected. If there are insults, aggressive behavior tendencies or self-harm, a doctor must be consulted.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of patients with religious delusions depends on the causative disorder. Psychotropic drugs in particular are available for conservative drug therapy. Electroconvulsive therapy, in which seizures are stimulated under anesthesia, has also been used recently in schizophrenia. However, the benefit of this form of therapy remains controversial.

In addition, sociotherapy, ergotherapy and occupational therapy are used to normalize daily routines. The same applies to exercise therapies. In psychotherapy, individual vulnerability is alleviated, external stressors are reduced and coping with the disease is supported.

The focus of the therapy is on acceptance, self-management and problem-solving. Behavioral and cognitive therapeutic elements can be integrated into the sessions. In most cases, family therapy takes place.

This is due to the fact that the religious delusion not only has extreme effects on the psychotic’s relatives, but that the delusional symptoms often arise from the breeding ground of interpersonal problems in the closer circle. The real difficulty with religious delusional symptoms is the recognition of the illness. The ego syntony of the delusion has to become an ego dystonia for the patient to feel any suffering at all.


Religious delusional symptoms are merely the symptom of a higher-level illness and can therefore only be prevented to the extent that the causative illnesses can be prevented.


Follow-up care for religious delusions largely depends on the underlying cause. These include schizophrenia, depression, substance abuse and mania. Correspondingly, the religious delusion is usually an expression of these sufferings and rarely requires specific follow-up care, which would be limited to this symptom only.

However, follow-up care may be necessary in the case of religious delusion if this has led to actions on the part of the person concerned. Self-harm, delusional crimes, and similar things are sometimes carried out by religiously delusional people. The aftercare here ranges from wound care and first aid to legal assistance.

The religious delusion, which is limited to a verbally expressed delusion through monologues, messages of salvation and the like, usually only leads to social problems. Here again, the aftercare should be based on the underlying condition. Furthermore, religious delusion can also be dependent on triggers.

These consist, for example, in religious symbols, certain statements and similar things. In the interest of social interaction and if there is any doubt that the delusions have completely disappeared, it makes sense to avoid these triggers. The environment should also be involved in the sense of social aftercare.

You can do that yourself

In the case of religious delusion, there is no self-help measure that could address the root of the problem. The religious delusion as such is in all cases a symptom of another mental illness. However, there are certainly ways for those affected to improve the scope and handling of the delusion.

In principle, it makes sense for those affected if they can get to know and name the triggers of their religious madness. If it turns out (in the course of therapy) that there are certain key stimuli that tend to lead to delusions, these stimuli should be consistently avoided. However, avoiding triggers is only effective when the religious delusion is not a permanent condition, but a phased mental state.

In the case in which those affected live permanently in their delusion, various measures can be taken. In many cases, self-help groups make sense, since coping strategies can be discussed here with other people affected. In addition, it is also appropriate in these cases to put things that are part of the delusion – such as religious objects – out of reach of the person concerned.

Religious Madness