Shared psychotic disorder (folie à deux) is a rare disorder characterized by sharing a delusion among two or more people in a close relationship. The inducer (primary) who has a psychotic disorder with delusions influences another nonpsychotic individual or more (induced, secondary) based on a delusional belief. It is commonly seen among two individuals, but in rare cases, can include larger groups. For example, it can occur in a family and is called folie à famille.
Jules Baillarger was the first to report this condition in 1860. During the 19th century, psychiatrists in Europe suggested different names. In France, it has been called “folie communiquee“(communicated psychosis) by Baillarger. In German psychiatry, it was named “Induziertes Irresein” by Lehman and Sharfetter. In 1877 Lasegue and Falret coined the term “folie à deux.” The French word “folie à deux” means madness shared by two. In the early 1940s, Gralnick, in his review of 103 cases of folie à deux, described four types of this disorder. He defined it as a psychiatric entity characterized by the transfer of delusions from one person to one or several others who have a close association with the primarily affected person. The four types are as follows:
These six killers perfectly illustrate how narcissism and murder go hand in hand.
Narcissism has become a staple of mainstream media in the last several years. Narcissistic Personality Disorder was officially recognized in 1980 when it was added to the DSM-5. The disorder quickly made its way into mainstream media stories, examining people who manipulate and gaslight those around them to achieve their criminal aspirations.
According to the DSM-5, in order to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a person must display at least five of the established traits of narcissism. The nine traits of narcissism include:
Not all narcissists become killers but there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that many killers, particularly serial killers, exhibit many of these narcissistic personality traits. The killers in this list each display at least five and, in some cases, all of them. They also provide the perfect example of a murderer who embodies specific traits from the list. more
On August 10, 1977, 24-year-old postal employee David Berkowitz is arrested and charged with being the “Son of Sam,” the serial killer who terrorized New York City for more than a year, killing six young people and wounding seven others with a .44-caliber revolver. Because Berkowitz generally targeted attractive young women with long brown hair, hundreds of young women had their hair cut short and dyed blonde during the time he terrorized the city. Thousands more simply stayed home at night.
After his arrest, Berkowitz claimed that demons and a black Labrador retriever owned by a neighbor named Sam had ordered him to commit the killings.
David Berkowitz was brought up by adoptive parents in the Bronx. He was traumatized by the death of his adoptive mother from cancer in 1967 and thereafter became more and more of a loner. In 1971, he joined the army and served for three years, where he distinguished himself as a talented marksman. In 1974, he returned to New York and worked as a security guard. His mental condition began to severely deteriorate in 1975 (he would later be diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic).
Feeling isolated from the world around him, he became an arsonist and set hundreds of fires in New York City without being arrested. He began to hear voices of “demons” that tormented him and told him to commit murder. On Christmas Eve, 1975, he gave into these internal voices and severely wounded 15-year-old Michelle Forman with a hunting knife. more
Delusion of grandeur refers to a person’s false belief that they are someone other than who they truly are — typically someone powerful or important. Delusions may be a sign of a mental health disorder. Delusions may also affect a person’s sense of what is real and what is not.
A delusion is a false belief held by a person. It contradicts reality or what is commonly considered true. The strength of a delusion is based on how much the person believes it.
Specifically, a delusion of grandeur is a person’s belief that they are someone other than who they are, such as a supernatural figure or a celebrity. A delusion of grandeur may also be a belief that they have special abilities, possessions, or powers.
Delusions are generally the result of a mental health disorder. However, not all people with delusions meet the full diagnostic criteria for any mental health disorder.
Many types of mental health disorders classified as psychotic disorders can lead to delusions. These include:
Psychotic disorders can change a person’s sense of reality. They may be unable to tell what is real and what is not. more