What is paranoia?
Paranoia is a thought process that causes you to have an irrational
suspicion or mistrust of others. People with paranoia may feel like they’re
being persecuted or that someone is out to get them. They may feel the threat
of physical harm even if they aren’t in danger. People with dementia sometimes
have paranoia, and it also can occur in people who abuse drugs. Paranoid
thoughts can also be a symptom of a mental illness or a personality disorder.
Everyone experiences paranoid thoughts at some point in their life, but
paranoia is the constant experience of symptoms and unfounded feelings of
paranoia. The symptoms of paranoia vary in severity and can interfere with all
areas of life. The symptoms include:
- a constant stress or anxiety related to beliefs
they have about others
- a mistrust of others
- feeling disbelieved or misunderstood
- feeling victimized or persecuted when there
isn’t a threat
Mistrust of others and constant anxiety can make relationships and
interactions with others difficult, causing problems with employment and
personal relationships. People with paranoia may feel that others are plotting
against them or trying to cause them physical or emotional harm, and maybe even
stealing from them. They may be unable to work with others and can be hostile
or detached, leading to isolation.
Paranoid schizophrenia is a form of mental illness, and people with it can
be distrustful of others and may be suspicious and guarded. They may also have
delusions or believe that others are trying to hurt them. A person with
schizophrenia may also experience hallucinations.
Paranoid behavior usually occurs due to personality disorders or other
mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, and drug use or abuse can also cause
It’s not fully understood why some people develop personality disorders or
mental illness. It may be a combination of factors, including:
- brain chemistry
Drug abuse can also cause paranoia. According to the Center for Substance Abuse
Research, the use of methamphetamines can cause paranoid behavior and
delusions. Other drugs that can also lead to paranoid thought processes are PCP
How is paranoia diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a medical exam and take a complete medical history
to help them rule out a physical or medical reason for your symptoms, such as
If your paranoia is part of a psychiatric issue, your doctor will refer you
to a psychiatrist or a psychologist who will then perform an evaluation and
clinical psychological tests to help them determine your mental status.
Other conditions that can occur in people with paranoia are:
- bipolar disorder
is paranoia treated?
Treatment depends on the cause and severity of symptoms and may include
medication and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy aims to help people with paranoia:
- accept their vulnerability
- increase their self-esteem
- develop trust in others
- learn to express and handle their emotions in a
Treatment for paranoid personality disorder usually involves psychotherapy
to help you develop coping skills to improve socialization and communication. Sometimes,
doctors prescribe anti-anxiety medication to treat paranoid personality
disorder for people who are often anxious or fearful. Atypical antipsychotic
medications may also help relieve symptoms.
People with paranoid schizophrenia usually require medication, as they often
have lost touch with reality. Initial treatment usually includes antipsychotic
medication. Your doctor may also prescribe anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants.
Your doctor may recommend additional treatment once your condition has stabilized.
This can include psychotherapy and individual or family counseling.
When paranoia is a result of drug abuse, treatment is often supportive until
the drug effects wear off. After that, your doctor will likely encourage you to
participate in a drug treatment program.
is the outlook for people with paranoia?
For people who have paranoia, seek treatment, and follow through with it, the
outlook is usually positive. However, treatment may be a slow process. Therapy
and medication are effective in treating it. People with paranoia are usually
distrustful of others and perceive paranoid thoughts as real. This makes the
process of seeking treatment difficult.
If someone you know is showing the symptoms of paranoia, they may not think
they need medical attention. However, you should encourage them to see a doctor
for a diagnosis as soon as possible.