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Date of last update: 8/24/2017.

Forum Name: Psychiatric Topics

Question: Talking to people who suffer from delusions

 haxromana - Sun Aug 19, 2007 10:37 pm

I work in a cafe with a lot of regular customers. One of my new regulars suffers from some sort of psychiatric disorder that causes delusions. She's extremely friendly and very willing to when she came in, she was showing me pictures of her "daughter" (Paris Hilton) in Teen Cosmo. In the past I've always talked to her as I would if I were talking to everyone else, without asking too many questions or indicating that what she says is obviously at variance with the truth. For instance, when she showed me the pictures of Paris, I told her that her daughter was very pretty. However, as this woman continues to talk to me, I am wondering if this is the wisest course of action. I am fine with the idea of maintaining a friendship of sorts with this woman, but I'm unsure what is the best (i.e. least harmful) way to respond to her stories. I don't think she has many (if any) good relationships in her life (even her family snickers when she talks about her delusions), and I don't want to make her life any more difficult than it undoubtedly already is.

Thanks in advance.
 Dr. K. Eisele - Fri Aug 24, 2007 12:04 am

User avatar Dear Haxromana:

This is an excellent question!! I think the best (i.e., safest for both you and she) way for you to interact with this woman is just the way you have been. However, be very, very careful not to get pulled into her delusion. For example, if she were to ask you if you believe her, you would want to find some way to avoid answering her question. You could suddenly remember a phone call you had forgotten to make, and then rush away. There is no right answer to such a question--if you say yes, then you open yourself up to helping her re-establish contact with her long, lost daughter. If you say no, you will either anger her or alienate her.

The way to avoid the above scenario is to keep your conversations short, and not overly friendly, which may be difficult to pull off. On the other hand, it would not be at all useful to challenge her delusions. After all, her delusions are her reality. She believes them just like you believe you work in a cafe. It can also be dangerous to challenge someone's delusions.

Bless you for showing empathy for this poor woman.

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