Talking to someone with Delusions, Unusual Beliefs or Hallucinations

A delusion is a false belief which cannot be swaded by concrete evidence.  The term pyschosis is used when a person loses touch with reality and they may suffering from hallucination and/or delusional beliefs. 

A hallucation is not a delusion or a false belief.  Hallucinations are sensory preceptions involving any of the five senses.  One of the most common being hearing voices.  Hallucinations are evident in a number of mental health conditions but also occur when people have infections and very high temperatures (espcially in the very young and elderly) or withdrawing from alcohol and drugs.

When someone is expressing strange beliefs or having delusional thoughts  or hallucinations, we would recommend that you:

  • Do not dismiss the delusion - recognise that these ideas and fears are very real to the person but do not agree with them.  For example say "I do not believe ........... is out to get you but I can see that you are upset about it."  
  • Do not act horrified by bizarre words or unfinished sentences.   Instead say "I don't really understand what that means"  Remind them of the conversation you were having and distract them back to current situation.
  • Do not let others laugh at the delusion, hallucination or strange beliefs.  This can increase the person agitation.
  • Acknowledge the persons' distress, saying something like ...."I can see you are very upset.  How can I help you?"  This is reassuring and gets a rapport going.
  • Aim to be positive and comforting rather than negative and emotional.
  • Whilst this is hard, do not to show annoyance or cristicism.
  • Do not promise that everthing will be okay.  Acknowledge there is a problem but reinforce that helps is always available. 
  • If possible have contingency plan for when these crisis occur.  Having a plan will  enable you to calmly deal with the situation.   
  • If you think the person is suicidual or there is a change in their usual behaviour let someone know.  Contact the person Support Worker, Care Coordinator or the CRISIS team.
  • If the person is hearing voices, do not ask the person to try to force the voices to stop.
  • Do act calm
  • Do try to distract the person by involving them in something they find interesting.  Chat about other everyday things and involve them in activities with close family and friends.
  • Do give the person time and space if they do not want to talk.  Say something like "I can see that you do not want to talk now but I'll be here if you want to talk later".  Allow them time to recover their composure, thoughts and pride etc.
  • Do find someone to talk to for yourself, to let off steam such as an other Carer, support group or professional.  Someone you feel comfortable with.