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Shared Psychotic Disorder

Shared Psychotic Disorder is an interesting condition in which an individual, who is involved in a close relationship with someone who already exhibits psychotic tendencies, develops similar behaviour patterns. The individual could be a loved one, good friend, or work colleague, although, most typically, this occurs in a close partner or blood relative.


For the purposes of this short article, the following terms will be used:


  1. Primary case: the person who originally suffered from delusions.
  2. Other person: the person taking on some similar delusions.


Interestingly, these delusions begin to occur for a number of different reasons. Sometimes, the ‘other person’ feels left out: the primary case is getting all the attention and support, and he craves some attention back. In other instances, the other person attempts to adjust or modify his partner’s behaviour by imitating it, in order to reduce or mirror back the effects of these delusions. And, in other situations, the person is completely unaware of this change of behaviour—particularly, if it changes over a period of time.


Here are some examples of delusions from my experience of working with patients in London:


  1. Imagining that the CID is tapping into the telephone.
  2. Constantly fearing that the primary case is having an affair and following him wherever he goes.
  3. Worrying obsessively about the radio waves of a computer which may lead to all members of the household developing skin cancer.
  4. Believing that the family is just about to inherit a huge amount of money.
  5. Worrying about the effect of dust on the household and cleaning excessively in order to reduce the risk of developing a rare skin condition.


Usually, the other person has been involved with the primary case for many years; and, in most cases, they are partners who have lived together. If the two split up for some reason, often, these behaviours disappear. If you have suffered from this problem and need to deal with these fears and anxieties, please ring me on 0207 467 8564. I would be happy to help you get back on track. Importantly, I will tend to use psychodynamically-oriented psychotherapy to deal with this problem–usually, the delusions disappear quite quickly.


An additional note

As a critical psychologist, I generally have a problem with the term ‘psychosis’. I believe that this term is a social construct which is used for diagnosis purposes; the effect of this secure belief that it actually exists is taken on by psychiatrists who refuse to treat the person, preferring to label him as someone suffering from’ schizophrenia’. They are, generally, not prepared to consider their past, family situation or traumas which lead to these behaviours— dissociation, delusion and social isolation—which, given the severity of the past incidents, are very reasonable and understandable responses.


David Kraft, PhD


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