An overvalued idea is a basically acceptable and comprehensible notion which preoccupies the subject to the extent of dominating his life. Overvalued ideas embrace inferences or apprehensions to which an undue probability is attributed, goals pursued beyond the bounds of reason, or overwhelming desires.
Overvalued ideas of prejudice (overvalued paranoid ideas) are characterized by an underlying self-referent interpretation of the behaviour or sayings of others; patients asume themselves to be overlooked, slighted, unfairly treated, provoked, or loved. Overvalued apprehesions become apparent as morbid jealousy, hypochondriacal phobias (e.g. parasitophobia), or dysmorphophobia in which patients assume that they attract attention because of a real or presumed bodily defect. In anorexia nervosa subjects are preoccupied by the endeavour to remain thin, and in transsexualism by the desire to change gender because they feel that they belong to the opposite sex.
Overvalued ideas generally occur in abnormal personalities whose 'psychic structure' contains representations which have become excessively dynamically invested by learning processes or previous experiences. Temperamental variants can then shape the clinical picture. Thus hyperthymic subjects may develop, on the basis of a presumed injustice, querulous or litigious paranoid overvalued ideas. Sometimes the ideas become overvalued only during abnormal mood states (of various origins) which set aside counterbalancing influences.
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