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Paranoia is a Mental Illness? - The Exaggerated Distrust


Paranoia is a condition in which the patient becomes a prey to premature delusion. According to Kraeplein, in this disease the cause of delusion is internal, and no hallucination is involved.

Definition of Paranoia

According to the Medical Dictonary, Paranoia is a a psychological condition which has delusions of persecution, jealousy, extreme self indulgence, typically taking a shape of a system internally. It can be a manifest of chronic personality disorder, drug abuse, or in many severe conditions, a symptom of schizophrenia. Paranoia is not characterized by any hallucinations, but it often has systematic delusion of grandeur.

Paranoia a lot of times is a symptom of an underlying condition such as paranoid personality disorder, schizophrenia or delusional disorder, etc. The treatment of Paranoia can include prescribed medicines and some different therapies or a combination of them.

The common feeling experienced by people suffering from Paranoia is that they are being target of persecution by others. Their feeling ranges between hallucinating ideas of being central figures in situations which are far from realiity. These ideas have very little connection to them in real life.

Generally speaking, the people who suffer from Paranoid Personality Disorder do not have trust in other people. They always have a desire or need to become or show high degree of autonomy and self sufficiency. They try to have a sound control over other people surrounding them. Rigid, stubborn, always critical, lowest level of collaboration, are some of the traits of people suffering with Paranoid Personality Disorder.

Is paranoia a common illness?

Due to the lack of proper study and no research on this area before last 20 years, there has been little information around the severity of the paranoid sufferings across the world (demographics). According to some of the recent Surveys conducted in USA, UK, France, etc, paranoia is widespread and around 18%-20% people across the world have paranoid thoughts. About 3%-5% people have severe form of paranoia.

Some of the severe cases need hospitalization.

Some of the medications like antipsychotic drugs or atypical drugs can soothe some of the symptoms. Paranoid people also refuse from taking medicines since they think it can harm them. Some of the severe cases need to take the help of hospitalization as well.

Who all are there to help?

One can reach out to the doctor, psychiatrist, public hospital or community health centre for help on Paranoia related cases. There are different categories of harm for which the person can feel paranoid – viz. – psychological of emotional, physical and financial.


There are two levels of difficulty in identifying and diagnosing paranoid behaviour properly. First is the degree of mistrust related to the range of mental disorders – example it can occur to people with dementia. Second the person does not want to visit the doctors and hospitals. They will certainly refuse to be part of any medical settings – feared of harm at the hospital. Majorly, the general tests to diagnose include physical examination, psychological tests, ruling out other mental illnesses, checking the medical history and symptoms, etc.

Symptoms of Paranoia

The main symptom is permanent delusion. It should be kept in mind that there is delusion in schizophrenia also but in that case it is not permanent or organized. In paranoia the symptoms of delusion appear gradually, and the patient is sentimental, suspicious, irritable, introverted, depressed, obstinate, jealous, selfish, unsocial and bitter. Hence his social and family adjustment is not desirable, and while he has the highest desirable, the effort that he is prepared to expend is correspondingly little. Here the person does not acknowledge his own failures or faults, and by sometimes accepting certain qualities as belonging to himself, even when imaginary, he develops paranoia.

The "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders", fourth edition (DSM-IV), the US manual of the mental health professional; lists the following symptoms for paranoid personality disorder:

  • preoccupied with unsupported doubts about friends or associates.
  • suspicious; unfounded suspicions; believes others are plotting against him/her.
  • perceives attacks on his/her reputation that are not clear to others, and is quick to counterattack.
  • maintains unfounded suspicions regarding the fidelity of a spouse or significant other
  • reads negative meanings into innocuous remarks.
  • reluctant to confide in others due to a fear that information may be used against him/her.

Different types or kinds of Paranoia

  1. Persecutory paranoia - This is the most prevalent type of paranoia, and in this patient makes himself believe that all those around him are his enemies, bent on harming him or even taking his life. In this delusion people of an aggressive temperament often turns dangerous killers.
  2. Delusion of Grandeur - In this patient believes himself to be, a great individual, and according to Bleuler, this delusion of grandeur accompanies a persecutory delusion.
  3. Religious paranoia - Here the patients suffer from a permanent delusion of a primarily religious nature. He for example believes, that he is the messenger of God who has been sent to the world to propagate some religion.
  4. Reformatory paranoia - In this the patient turns to considering himself a great reformer. He accordingly looks upon all those around him. As suffering from dangerous disease, and believes that he is their reformer and curator.
  5. Erotic paranoia - Here the patient often tends to believe that some members of the family of the opposite sex, belonging to an illustrious family, want to marry him. Such people even write love letters and there by, cause much botheration to other people.
  6. Litigious paranoia - In this kind the patient takes to feeling meaningless cases against other people and feels that people are linked together to bother him. Sometimes he, even tries to murder.
  7. Hypochondrical paranoia - In this kind the patients believes that he is suffering from all kind of ridiculous diseases, and also that some other people are to blame for his suffering.

Cause of Paranoia

1) Homosexual fixation: According to Freud, the patient suffering from the disease has repressed his tendency to homosexual love to such an extent that he develops a fixation concerning it. Freud's view has been found correct in many cases, but it does not explain each and every case of the disease.

2) Feelings of inferiority: Here the psychologists have found that the main cause of paranoia is a sense of inferiority that may be caused by a variety of condition such as failure, disgust, sense of guilt.

3) Emotional complex: Certain psychologist points out emotional complexes, and also believe that they are seen to be present in other mental diseases as also in normal individuals.

4) Personality type: Cameron believes a certain type to be more susceptible to this disease, a personality that has sentimentally, jealousy, suspicion, ambition, selfishness and shyness etc. Patients of paranoia do exhibit these peculiarities of personality but on this basis they cannot be said to belong to definite personality.

5) Heredity: In the opinion of Fisher the main responsibility of paranoia lies fairly and squarely upon heredity, although he does not deny the importance of repression and emotional complexes. The causes of paranoia are not physical because no patient exhibits any signs of physical deformity and among the causes there are many important" ones, such as defects of personality, sense of inferiority, repression etc.

Medication, Treatment and Cure of Paranoia

The treatment of paranoia is not straight as other illnesses. This is a disease which is controlled and treated by using behaviour therapy. It aims at cutting down the sensitivity of critics and work on the social skills. Since the person suffering is irritable, unwilling and protective about himself, it can be difficult to get the treatment progress. The idea of behaviour therapy is to break the cycle of suspicion through the use of anxiety management techniques and behaviour changes in certain areas of day to day life. A cure of paranoia is very difficult and it is essential that treatment should be started immediately the disease comes to be known. Once it grows on a person there is no curing to it. The chief method of curing it is the following:

  • Psychoanalytic method - Compared to other mental diseases, this disease does not respond immediately to psychoanalytic treatment because, being suspicious, the patient does not cooperate with the doctor. Even then, with due precaution, certain results can be achieved by employing this method.
  • Injection of Insulin- some patients also responds to this treatment but this cannot be said of all.

Prognosis of Paranoia

Predicting the prognosis of an individual suffering from Paranoia is quite difficult. Paranoia generally becomes a whole life or lifelong condition if there exists any underlying mental disorder, such as schizophrenia or paranoid personality disorder. It certainly and sometimes get better with some treatments or remission or with slight changes in medication. People who have symptoms of paranoia as part of another medical condition may also have a waxing and waning mental course.

Sometimes it is the case that paranoia is caused by the use of a particular drug or medication. In this case, it is possible that discontinuing that substance may completely reverse the symptoms of paranoia.

Facts about Paranoid Personality Disorder

  • Paranoid personality is a disorder which is distinguished by extreme doubt, dishonesty and unfriendliness with people.
  • It causes problem in personal life and close contacts.
  • Bad experiences in the past and fearful incidents are the root causes of the paranoid personality.
  • Patient with this disorder must go through psychotherapy.
  • Get knowledge about this disorder and do not miss therapy sitting.
  • Yoga and acupuncture methods are useful to control paranoid personality.

Self Help Tips for Paranoia

1. Decide that you will be quite and will not become angry for some part of the day.
2. Perform some breathing exercises and realize the fact that people are there not to harm them. 95% of the activities of people are done with no intension of harming you.
3. Think that you are having sure success in your illness and always smile. The person who is scared and fearful will be needed to replace these thoughts with good thoughts.
4. There should be no treatment using medications or other treatment mechanisms without proper diagnosis from mental health professional.
5. Take help and advice from psychologist, psychotherapist, clinical social worker, or psychiatrist.
6. Medicines are needed in some of the cases and they are must to control the paranoid thoughts which can eventually harm you.
7. Avoid anger and revengeful feelings. They can cause more harm than benefit.
8. Adopt new thoughts and hobbies.
9. Learn new ways of communication.

Paranoid Schizophrenia Some regular bouts of delusions and hallucinations are typical characteristics of paranoid schizophrenia. These are the most common phenomenon which makes paranoid schizophrenia most distinct from other schizophrenia.

Auditory hallucinations - An auditory hallucination is a condition where a person hear the sound generally words, voices, etc. which no one else hears. These voices are usually unpleasant and pretend to talk to one another or with the sufferer.

Delusions - In paranoid schizophrenia, delusions are very common. One of the most regular delusion is that you are being left alone for performing harm to you. This results in voilent behaviour and aggression out of self defence.

Paranoid personality disorder Diagnosis

The diagnosis of paranoid personality disorder involves testifying against the following set of behaviour. A match of 4 or more criterion suggests the presence of illness:

1. One believes that others are exploiting, harming, or plotting against them.

2. One is doubtful about trusting the loyalty of close friends and pals.

3. Do not believe and confide in others with of fear of being harmed because of the known/suggested facts.

4. The person takes some events or remarks as threatening.

5. They have constant grudges against everyone around because of the ill feelings. They just cannot tolerate insults, injuries, etc.

6. They react quickly to situations and attack very quickly.

What are the causes of PPD Paranoid personality disorder?

There are no known causes of PPD and it is thought to be a combination of biological and psychological factors. It does have a genetic link since people who have family history of schizophrenia are more likely to suffer from PPD as well.

Can Depression Make you Paranoid?

Although the real cause of Paranoia is not fully understood, there are strong relation in the symptoms experienced in Psychotic Depression and Paranoia. The hopelessness and sadness associated with depression is also part of paranoia along with other psychotic symptoms

Where to find help for Paranoia?

  • Your doctor
  • Psychiatrist
  • Public hospital
  • Community health centre
  • Local, Regional or National Mental Health Foundations

I think I have a mild case of paranoia and I am suspicious, but not to all around me. Those I am suspicious of, I do not harm. But I am introverted, to most everyone but children. Any suggestions to help rid myself of these suspicions. - Tom

About three or four years a go i had a traumatizing incident that has left me with a pretty severe case of paranoia. Unfortunately, it gets worse everyday. I tried to go to a counselor but my paranoia came back, and my doctors havent found anything wrong with me. Some days i have paranoia of the people around me and other days it is a night time paranoia that causes me to turn on lights in fear that someone will appear in the dark and try to attack me. Also, i have a hard time trusting family in friends, thinking that they will try to harm or kill me. Although i am getting better with trusting the people around me, my parinoia of death grows worse.-Shauna

I constantly feel like my job is in jeopordy. No matter how much reassurance i get, the next day I find some reason why I might get fired. Also it seems like the other employees are talking bad about me and its almost an obsession with me now. I try not to make it too noticable but sometimes ill just harp on things until I find out what they were talking about. The slightest bit of criticism I receive will make me think about nothing else for days. What can I do to overcome this? Anyone else feel this way at all? - Toby

I had a traumatic experience 4 years ago and it effected me so deeply that I developed extreme paranoia. I sought proffessional help and my doctor diagnosed me as bi-polar. I am currently on medication for paranoia but I the thoughts are not diminishing. I still believe my husband is having an affair along with plans that he will take my children from me due to my illness. I can not have a conversation with him without thinking there a hidden, cryptic meanings in all that he says. I flat out do not trust him and I believe I am justified in my beliefs. Our relationship has deteriorated dramatically. We have not been intimate since this happened 4 years ago and obviously his lack of wanting to be with me fuels my paranoia. I would leave but I fear he will win custody of my children plus I question my ability to live alone. Is there anything I can do to to manage this way of thinking or will this be a lifelong thing. I would appreciate any advice you are willing to offer. - Hilary Terry

i am not sure weather or not if i am but at night i have a fear that when i am sleeping some one will harm me in some way. so i stay awake all night untill i fall asleep from exaustion - dan

i am in a relationship and i think i may be paranoid since im always suspicious about my boyfriend and making up negative thoughts that he did or does behind my back when there is no rational thing about it. i also seem to twist words he says and the meanings of it and i get paranoid. help me! - Hailey

I think i have a mild case of paranoia as well. I always feel like my boyfriend of 2 years has some huge secret hes been keeping from me, and that he has cheated on me and just wont tell me , and when i dont know where he is i feel that he is cheating or doing somthing that he wont tell me about later. I constantly think he is lying even when i have no evidence. And even if i do have some small peice of evidence that a normal person could easily dismiss, i cannot. I feel as if i will never trust him and i will never let my gaurd down for one second. I usualy try to put aside these feelings during the day but i cant always do that and even when i can, they are there at night and i can never sleep. - sara

Sometimes crying or laughing
are the only options left,
and laughing feels better right now.

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