How to Separate Your Delusions from Reality

I’ve come upon a situation recently where it was hard to tell if something I thought was happening was actually happening or if it was just my mind piecing together little pieces of coincidence into some grand, almost terrifying delusion.

Namely, and this is putting it lightly, I was under the impression that someone was spying on me, that they had put a tracker on my car and that they could read everything I was doing on my computer because they had somehow maliciously put some kind of malware on it that I didn’t know about.

Suffice it to say I was under the impression that this stuff was happening for a night or two before I recognized that it all may have just been a function of my paranoia.

In these kinds of situations it’s extremely hard to separate your delusions from the reality of the situation and I know this all too well.

It usually occurs in moments or instances of high stress and it can be triggered by even the most innocuous of circumstances.

I was having a relatively hard time with all of this until I remembered a facet of CBT that calls for you to dispute an anxiety with evidence that it isn’t actually what you think it is.

Essentially you have to step back and account for evidence that the opposite totally normal reality is happening when you think a completely different thing.

You have to sit down with your thoughts and pour through the things that refute your delusion.

You have to find the truth in the contrary to what you’re thinking.

This can be done by asking yourself “What’s the evidence that what I think is happening isn’t actually happening?”

Spend some time with that and find some concrete examples until you’re able to slow your heart rate and comfortably open up to the possibility that you are having delusions.

I realize to the layman, all of this sounds so completely convoluted but this is the type of stuff people with schizophrenia experience almost daily.

Another really important thing to help yourself grapple with delusions is to relax and take the stress off somehow, if this means taking a break from a normally stressful routine or taking off work for a few days or not allowing yourself to see someone who brings up these feelings so be it.

You have to take care of yourself first, especially if you are experiencing paranoia and delusions around a specific location or circumstance.

This is a relatively new tool for me as well but it’s one that I will most definitely be using if my paranoia gets to a certain point again.

Another important thing to remember is that this stuff, no matter what it is, always passes if you give yourself time. Time is one of the most important things in dealing with a mental illness and giving yourself plenty of it to both ease your thoughts and let things pass is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves.

If you’re struggling, find evidence for the contrary, relax, treat yourself well, give it time, and above all, know that you’re not alone and this is par for the course in dealing with mental illness.

It’ll fade, I promise. It always does.

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  1. I completely agree with what you’re saying. The thing I have noticed in many of my clients is convincing them that their “successes” or persecutions are not real, especially after they’ve lived with those thoughts for so long; it’s as if it becomes second nature to them and they don’t know much of anything else. This is why I think such CBT is best utilized at the beginning of an episode, when such thoughts are beginning to emerge. I firmly believe that the application of CBT in this manner is most effective when implemented early before reaching the point of no return as when happens with a full blown panic attack or anger outburst.

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