- A somatic delusion is a false belief that you have a physical defect or medical problem.
- Somatic delusions can be a symptom of psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, or mood disorders like major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.
- Managing somatic delusion symptoms involves a combination of talk therapy, medication management, and lifestyle changes.
Delusions are false beliefs that are not based in reality. There are various types of delusions that influence how people think about themselves and others. Somatic delusions are a specific category of delusions characterized by falsely believing that something is wrong with your own body.
What are somatic delusions?
Somatic delusions are false beliefs that are focused on the physical body. People experiencing somatic delusions are convinced that they have a physical defect or health complication, even when medical testing concludes that everything is just fine. Somatic delusions are most often observed in people with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, delusional disorder, and mood disorders like major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.
Somatic delusions are sometimes confused with other mental health issues. For example, somatic delusions are different from hypochondriasis, a persistent fear of having a serious medical condition, or body dysmorphic disorder, a preoccupation with perceived defects or flaws in one’s appearance.
How to spot somatic delusions
Somatic delusions are unique to each person, but the common denominator is that there’s no medical evidence to support a person’s concerns and false beliefs. Some somatic delusions mirror valid health concerns, while others aren’t based on actual possibilities. For example, believing that your liver isn’t functioning properly is a non-bizarre delusion, while claiming that your liver is missing or was never there to begin with is considered a bizarre delusion.
For someone who’s never experienced a delusion, here are other common examples of somatic delusions.
- You believe that you’re giving off a bad odor.
- You’re concerned that there’s a foreign object inside your body.
- You’re convinced that you’re infested by parasites.
Symptoms of somatic delusions can include the following:
- Complaints without medical proof: People with somatic delusions believe there’s something physically or medically wrong with them, despite professional reassurances or medical evidence proving that the problem doesn’t exist.
- Unrealistic claims: Unusual or unrealistic medical claims may be a sign that a person’s health concerns are not valid. Examples of bizarre somatic delusions include having twisted bones, being invaded by aliens, or having eggs underneath the skin.
- Anxiety and depression: Because folks with somatic delusions genuinely believe in their physical problems, they may be less likely to seek mental health support. As they grow more distressed over their medical concerns, they may be at increased risk for anxiety, depression, and other mental health symptoms.
- Social withdrawal: Certain delusions may cause people to avoid other people or social situations. For example, if your somatic delusion is that you have a foul or offensive body odor, you may choose self-isolation to protect yourself.