Descent of descent - symptoms, causes and therapy

Descent of descent - symptoms, causes and therapy

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The psychic madness of being descended from a famous person
A delusion pathologically distorts reality, and those affected hold onto their distorted vision with absolute conviction, even if their perception is contrary to objective reality, their own life experience and the judgment of friends and acquaintances.

Insane people often refuse to review their judgments at all. They do not need and do not want a reason and often look contemptuously down on those who have not understood "the truth". "It is so," and anyone who doubts it for the best reason is considered either stupid or a liar to the delusional.

Those affected relate external processes to themselves, even natural phenomena such as rain or sunshine, but also conversations whose object is completely different, looks or scraps of words, texts on billboards, quotations on television shows etc.

Descent of descent means a mental disorder in which the sick see themselves as descendants of famous figures in world history. Someone, according to the delusional, manipulated their family tree and used their relatives in the real world as a deception. This form of delusion is not an independent classification, but an expression of psychoses and usually appears in schizophrenic patients.

The delusion of high parentage

Eugen Bleuler described the “delusion of high parentage” in 1916. Those affected believed, according to Bleuler, to be of royal origin; and someone put them under their everyday parents.

Bleuler recognized that this delusion declined in modern times because capitalist society made the descent from the aristocracy less desirable. Today, this form of delusion in Germany is a rare occurrence during schizophrenia, while it occurs much more frequently in cultures in which parentage plays a role.

It has not been adequately researched whether fantasies in the esoteric scene of being an important person in a previous life are part of the descent of descent.

In addition, delusion can only be described as delusion if it stands against common ideas, even if these cannot be scientifically maintained. For example, many Muslims claim that they are related to Mohammed in many corners, far from historical facts. However, this does not necessarily take on delusional features, especially if this "knowledge" is passed on as a "family secret".

Attempts to defraud are also not delusional: politicians, for example, who point to an invented parentage to raise themselves, but know that they lie, are not schizophrenics, but liars.

The parentage delusion is considered a form of megalomania. It occurs not only in schizophrenic patients, but also in bipolar patients. In their manic phases, they believe to have a special meaning, and this also includes being more than other people rightly allow them to do: for example, a Catholic socialized bipolar talked to the residents of a small town in northern Germany in a mania to convert and believed that he was St. Francis.

Still widespread today, and viewed in the esoteric scene as "higher knowledge", the delusion is not to descend from famous figures in history, but to belong to a secret circle of magicians, witches or priests. “Reincarnation seminars”, “Contacts with the hereafter” etc. confirm them in these fantasies.

The delusional element often does not appear purely here, but is confirmed by a group of like-minded people. The boundary between religious delusion, megalomania and delusion of descent can only be drawn in theory. Like the descent of descent, the religious delusion occurs especially in paranoid schizophrenia.

Identity and fear

Descent of descent can be explained culturally: Descent plays an essential role in almost all societies for the status that a person enjoys. In many cultures it is still impossible today to be able to take up certain professions without having the appropriate origin.

The fairy tale character of the princess, who grows up among poor people, is also a classic motif of the story because it reflects the hope of the underprivileged for a better life.

Another cause is obvious for paranoid schizophrenics. Their identities are disturbed, and they don't know that the voices they hear, their hallucinated smells, sounds, and images come from their own psyche. The supposed descent reflects split-off aspects of their emotional landscapes.

Believing to belong to a secret priestly caste, to be part of an inner circle or to carry extreme knowledge also serves to compensate for the perceived impotence and to regain control over one's own life. Today, for example, vampire subcultures are widespread, the followers of which imagine themselves as powerful beings from another world. This goes hand in hand with mental disorders that are also widespread in this scene: borderline, traumatization, attachment disorders or bipolarity.

While an individual's delusion of parentage is in conflict with their environment, the same delusion in a group can alleviate fear. Those affected then feel part of an elite that promises protection and at the same time isolates them from the outside world.

Isolation is added to schizophrenics. Because of her illness, her social contacts break down, and her fictional origins, such as (self-talk) with her ancestors, satisfy the need to be part of a group.


If someone is totally convinced that they are descended from someone other than their parents without any real evidence, it is reasonable to suspect that he or she has a delusion of descent. If, for example, those affected claim that their passport is forged or find bizarre "signs" for their "real origin", the suspicion intensifies.

The more closely related people describe their delusion as delusion, the more those affected are convinced that they are right. Analogous to the conspiracy craze, in which all critics are part of the conspiracy, those who want to put the sick on their feet are also seen as enemies or ignorant.

If, for example, the parents show the madness of the construction, those affected believe that they wanted to keep the true identity secret or are even considered to be the ones who snatched the child from the real parents.

Sick people usually suspect that a certain event is behind their "hidden identity". Sometimes a competitor cleared the throne out of the way, but did not dare to kill her, sometimes confidants brought her to safety because of terrible things as a child - for example, patients can believe they are descended from the Russian Tsar family. Servants would have hidden their ancestors so that the Communists would not murder them.

The delusional experience

Descent of parentage manifests itself in different ways: It usually begins with a delusional mood. Those affected feel that something is "not right". Her parents seem to be hiding something from them, strange things are happening that the patients do not understand. The sick feel that "something" is happening, but they do not know what it is.

Those affected fear that something will happen, they are suspicious, they are slightly irritated and fearful, they look oppressed, some become aggressive.

Then the delusional perceptions usually follow. Those affected interpret everyday events in their own way that no one else can see. They see reality but misinterpret it: a report on Hillary Clinton, for example, can increase the feeling of being related to it. Neighbors tell each other something, and for the delusional they talk about how they kept his true identity secret.

The delusion is the sudden "enlightenment". Now it is falling like scales from the eyes of who they really are. This scar on her chin always indicated that she descended from Karl the Great. Why hadn't the patient noticed before.

The delusion goes hand in hand with an increasing arrogance towards the "others", who just don't have this perspective, and continue to live their "miserable life".

Objective reality and delusion can also stand side by side. For example, people with delusion of ancestry could easily do gardening in psychiatry and at the same time be convinced that they descended from Napoleon.

There is a particular danger if delusion and reality flow into one another, for example, those affected go to parties at night and believe that they are a descendant of Christian martyrs and act accordingly. For example, if the club belongs to Hell's Angels, it can have bad consequences.

It confuses the patient in everyday life. You fight for what is real. Even more: some freeze with fear, some even hurt themselves.

Then there are those affected who can easily master their everyday life, but are still convinced of their grandiose descent.


Once affected, the therapist or psychiatrist makes the diagnosis by examining delusional symptoms and differentiating the delusion of descent from other delusions. You will then see which underlying illness the symptoms are based on. It is usually paranoid schizophrenia, and delusional descent is an isolated symptom.


Patients with delusional descent are extremely difficult to treat. Firstly, they believe in their fantasies, and secondly, the idea of ​​descending from a higher-ranking family creates identity.

For them, delusion is subjectively part of their personality, and without delusion they lose it. Conventional psychotherapy usually turns out to be useless because it requires the affected person's insight and their admission to be sick.

Medicines make sense because they contain the symptoms of the underlying disease. Antipsychotics are primarily used for this. Although these only dampen individual symptoms, this improves the overall clinical picture at the same time.

Destruction of descent cannot be completely cured if it is based on schizophrenia, because schizophrenia also has genetic causes.

Therapists have to get involved in the specific perception of the maniacs and never directly question their construction from reality. Then those affected withdraw from each conversation. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

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