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Paranoia – An Overview

Paranoia is very common nowadays and everyone must be aware of it. But what is it really?

What is Paranoia?

Paranoia is the crazy and constant feeling that people are ‘out to get you’ or that you are the subject of unwanted attention by others. This groundless doubt of others out to get you can make it difficult for a person with paranoia to function socially or have close relationships. Paranoia may be a symptom of a number of conditions, including paranoid personality disorder, delusional (paranoid) disorder and schizophrenia.

Symptoms

Paranoid symptoms may vary from mild to severe. They depend on the cause but, commonly, a person who is paranoid may:

  • Be easily offended
  • Find it difficult to trust others
  • Not handle with any type of criticism
  • Give harmful meanings to other people’s remarks
  • Be always on the suspicious mode
  • Be unsympathetic, violent and argumentative
  • Not be able to compromise
  • Find it difficult, if not impossible, to ‘forgive and forget’
  • Presume that people are talking ill of them behind their back
  • Be excessively suspicious – for example, think that other people are lying or scheming to cheat them
  • Not be able to open their heart to in anyone
  • Find relationships complicated
  • Consider the world to be a place of constant threat
  • Feel maltreated by the world at large
  • Believe in unproven ‘conspiracy theories’.

Causes of Paranoia

Paranoid behavior usually occurs due to personality disorders or other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, and drug use or abuse can also cause it. It may be a mixture of factors, including:

  • Genes
  • Brain chemistry
  • Traumatic life events
  • Stress reaction

Diagnosis

The condition causing the paranoia can be difficult to identify because the sense of doubt is frequent to a range of mental disorders. Diagnosis may include:

  • Medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Assessment of symptoms
  • Psychological tests
  • Tests to rule out other psychiatric disorders that may be causing the symptoms.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the type and severity of the condition but may include:

  • Medications– anti-anxiety drugs or anti-psychotic drugs can ease some of the symptoms.
  • Therapy– this can help the person to manage their symptoms and may improve their ability to function.
  • Coping skills– other treatments aim to improve the person’s ability to function socially. Options may include relaxation therapy, techniques to reduce anxiety, and behavior modification.
  • Hospital admission– in severe cases, the person may need to stay in hospital until the condition causing paranoia stabilizes.
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