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Madanapalli horror; couple may have ‘shared delusion disorder’

What happened on January 24 in Andhra Pradesh’s Madanapalli town shattered our conscious. Murder of two daughters by their parents in the belief that they would return back to life was something hilarious. And it is said  that a rare psychotic disorder called ‘shared delusion disorder’can be the reason behind this heinous act.

Alekhya V (25) and Sai Divya (22) were battered to death in their home in Madanapalli, with their parents V Purushotham Naidu and V Padmaja who are college professor and the principal of a school respectively. The murder and their behaviour after the detention shocked even the investigation team. Padmaja did not co-operate with the authorities and claimed she was a god. Her husband too was behaving in a delusional manner. A team of psychiatrists say that the couple and the deceased, may have been affected by a ‘shared delusion disorder’.

“When we visited the sub jail to evaluate them, Padmaja did not cooperate. Pursuhottam Naidu believed that their children will come back. A conclusive report can only be given after a complete psychiatric evaluation,” Dr G Radhika, a psychiatrist who was part of the initial team of doctors who evaluated the couple at Madanapalli, stated. Later they were sent to a government hospital for mental care in Visakhapatnam for treatment and evaluation.  The final reports on mental health status are still awaited.

Shared delusion disorder or shared psychotic disorder is often referred to as ‘folie a deux’. “Folie a famille is characterised as a shared psychotic disorder within a family, in more than two members. The involved patients have an unusually close relationship and are isolated from others,” says a research paper published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry.

To separate the primary or dominant person from the more mildly affected and to provide treatment is the one thing that can be done. The moderately affected will recover quickly when separated from the primary inducer.  The more severely affected persons require long treatment. If both the mildly affected and the severely affected are kept together, it will lead to further consequences.

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