Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Delusional Disorder

A few Saturdays ago, I heard a This American Life segment about delusional disorder. It started out with the story of a guy who was taken in by another man's story. This other guy honestly believed he was secretly working for the U.S. government to test how banks' staffers respond to being robbed. Another person in the story was a woman whose husband was convinced that she was constantly fooling around on him, even though she wasn't.

The gist of the illness both of these people have, delusional disorder, is that their delusions aren't completely unrealistic, unlike a person who thinks God is talking to them or a mouse is sending them instructions. There are U.S. secret agents, there are spouses cheating on their partners.

The part of the story that got me, though, was when the narrator said that it's a rare disorder. I kind of doubt that.

A few days later (June 21), I saw a segment on the Rachel Maddow Show about a woman who is either a major con artist or also has delusional disorder. She has many names, which Maddow also made much of, but let's go with Michele Ballarin. 

Ballarin put on a front of buying a bankrupt Icelandic airline, pretended to a film crew that she owned a giant Virginia mansion, and last fall was involved in convincing Donald Trump that Italy somehow changed votes in U.S. voting machines by using military satellites. (Transcript here, video clip here.)

This Sunday, John Oliver also featured a segment on Michele Ballarin. He informed me that — in addition to all of the bits of bizarreness Maddow had mentioned — she also ran for Congress in the 1980s, designed clothes for kids and compared herself to Coco Chanel, and then became a "peace-broker," claiming "They call me the 'Mother of Somalia'... I have 9 million children."

In typical John Oliver style, he gave this description of her:

"what you would get if Callista Gingrich stuck a fork into an outlet"

I can't decide if Ballarin is a con artist or if she suffers from delusional disorder. I tend to think the latter, since I'm soft-hearted. If you watch the clip where she's talking to the Icelandic news crew while sitting in the giant mansion... watch her respond about whether she owns the house or not. Is she deluded or lying?

When I say that I think delusional disorder is not rare, that was based on my perception of all the jealous spouses (and abusers) out there who are convinced their other half is cheating. Seems pretty likely there's some of this disorder underlying that.

1 comment:

Michael Leddy said...

I skipped the Washington Post article about her, but your post prompted me to look it up. My favorite line: ”How is she in my house?”

I can’t imagine how it’s possible to live a life with so much crazy in it.