Paranoia



Paranoia 792
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Definition

Paranoia is a symptom in which an individual feels as if the world is "out to get" him or her. When people are paranoid, they feel as if others are always talking about them behind their backs. Paranoia causes intense feelings of distrust, and can sometimes lead to overt or covert hostility.

Description

An individual suffering from paranoia feels suspicious, and has a sense that other people want to do him or her harm. As a result, the paranoid individual changes his or her actions in response to a world that is perceived as personally threatening. Objective observers may be quite clear on the fact that no one's words or actions are actually threatening the paranoid individual. The hallmark of paranoia is a feeling of intense distrust and suspiciousness that is not in response to input from anybody or anything in the paranoid individual's environment.

Other symptoms of paranoia may include

  • Self-referential thinking: The sense that other people in the world (even complete strangers on the street) are always talking about the paranoid individual.
  • Thought broadcasting: The sense that other people can read the paranoid individual's mind.
  • Magical thinking: The sense that the paranoid individual can use his or her thoughts to influence other people's thoughts and actions.
  • Thought withdrawal: The sense that people are stealing the paranoid individual's thoughts.
  • Thought insertion: The sense that people are putting thoughts into the paranoid individual's mind.
  • Ideas of reference: The sense that the television and/or radio are specifically addressing the paranoid individual.

Demographics

Paranoia is a very human feeling. Nearly everyone has experienced it at some or another time, to varying degrees. Paranoia exists on a continuum, ranging from a feeling of distrust due to an occasional misinterpretation of cues that can be appropriately dealt with and reinterpreted, to an overarching pattern of actual paranoia that affects every interpersonal interaction.

Some research studies have suggested that 6% of all women and 13% of all men have some chronic level of mistrust towards the motivations of others towards them. Only about 0.5% to 0.25% of men and women can actually be diagnosed with paranoid personality disorder , however. It remains interesting to researchers that men are more prone to paranoid traits and mental disorders with paranoid features than are women.

Causes of paranoia

Researchers do not understand fully what chemical or physical changes in the brain cause paranoia. Paranoia is a prominent symptom that occurs in a variety of different mental disorders, as well as a symptom of certain physical diseases. Furthermore, use of certain drugs or chemicals may cause symptoms of paranoia in an otherwise normal individual.

Paranoia is often manifested as part of the symptom complex of schizophrenia . In fact, one of the subtypes of schizophrenia is termed "paranoid schizophrenia," which actually refers to a type of schizophrenia in which the individual is particularly preoccupied with delusions in which the world seems to be pitted against him or her. As with other forms of schizophrenia, sufferers often lack contact with reality, and display hallucinations , flat or emotionless affect , and disorganized thinking and behavior.

Paranoid personality disorder is diagnosed when an individual does not have other symptoms of schizophrenia, but a personality that is driven by chronic manifestations of paranoia. These individuals are mistrustful, suspicious, and convinced that the world is out to get them.

In order for an individual to be diagnosed with paranoid personality disorder, he or she must display at least four of the following traits:

  • chronically suspicious that people are lying or cheating him or her in some way
  • frequently preoccupied with whether people are loyal or trustworthy
  • cannot confide in others for fear of being betrayed
  • misinterprets benign comments or events as being personally threatening
  • harbors long-term grudges against others who are perceived as having been threatening or insulting in some way
  • sees others' actions and/or words attacking him or her in some way, and therefore goes on the counterattack
  • repeatedly assumes that partner or spouse is unfaithful

Paranoia can also occur as a symptom of other neurological diseases. Individuals suffering from the aftereffects of strokes, brain injuries, various types of dementia (including Alzheimer's disease ), Huntington's disease, and Parkinson's disease may manifest paranoia as part of their symptom complex. The paranoia may decrease in intensity when the underlying disease is effectively treated, although since many of these diseases are progressive, the paranoia may worsen over time along with the progression of the disease's other symptoms.

A number of different medications and drugs can cause paranoia. These include corticosteroid medications, H-2 blockers (cimetidine, ranitidine, famotidine), some muscle relaxants (Baclofen), antiviral/anti-Parkinson drugs ( amantadine ), some amphetamines (including methylphenidate, or Ritalin), anti-HIV medications, anti-depressants (Nardil). Abused drugs that can prompt paranoia include alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy (MDMA), amphetamines (including Ritalin), LSD, and PCP (angel dust). Withdrawal from addictive drugs may also cause symptoms of paranoia.

Treatments

It can be quite challenging to get an individual who is suffering from paranoia to accept treatment. Their paranoid condition makes them distrustful of people's motivations towards them, so that even a medical doctor appears to be a suspicious party. Medications that may be offered are usually looked at with great distrust, and efforts at psychotherapy are considered "mind control" by a profoundly paranoid individual.

The first step to be taken when someone is suffering from paranoia is that of determining whether an easily reversible situation (such as an adverse reaction to a medication) might be causing the paranoia. If so, discontinuing the drug (either immediately or by gradually weaning the dose) might end the symptoms of paranoia.

Patients who have other diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, Huntington's disease, or Parkinson's disease may notice that their paranoid symptoms improve when their general medical condition is treated. The circumstance that can occur as their underlying disease progresses, is that the paranoia may return or worsen over time.

People who are suffering from diagnosable mental conditions such as schizophrenia or paranoid personality disorder may benefit from the use of typical antipsychotic medications, such as chlorpromazine or haloperidol , or from the newer, atypical antipsychotic medications, such as clozapine , olanzapine , or risperidone .

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or other forms of psychotherapy may be helpful for certain people who have paranoia. CBT attempts to make a person more aware of his or her actions and motivations, and tries to help the individual learn to more accurately interpret cues around him or her, in an effort to help the individual change dysfunctional behaviors. Difficulty can enter into a therapeutic relationship with a paranoid individual, due to the level of mistrust and suspicion that is likely to interfere with their ability to participate in this form of treatment.

Support groups can be helpful for some paranoid individuals—particularly helpful in assisting family members and friends who must learn to live with, and care for paranoid individuals.

Prognosis

It is difficult to predict the prognosis of an individual who has paranoia. If there is an underlying mental illness, such as schizophrenia or paranoid personality disorder, then the paranoia is likely to be a lifelong condition. It may improve with some treatments (remission), only to become exacerbated under other more stressful conditions, or with changes in medication.

Individuals who have symptoms of paranoia as part of another medical condition may also have a waxing-and-waning-course.

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

Resources

BOOKS

Tasman, Allan, and others. Psychiatry. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1997.

ORGANIZATIONS

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Colonial Place Three, 2107 Wilson Blvd., Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22201.(703) 524-7600. <http://www.nami.org> .

National Institute for Mental Health. 6001 Executive Blvd., Room 8184, MSC 9663, Bethesda, MD 20892. (301)443-4513. <http://www.nimh.nih.gov> .

Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, M.D.



User Contributions:

Harry Mann
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Oct 15, 2008 @ 5:17 pm
Thank you for this article, it helped me realize the degree of my paranoia. I cannot treat it, obviously, otherwise I would not have used a fake name and email address. Don't get me wrong, you just can't trust people on the internet anymore. Come to think of it, when could you.

The reason I started looking for symptoms of paranoia is because one day in class (in college, last week), my teacher appointed me class representative, and gave me a pile of sheets to hand out. I thought it was unusual that I should be class rep, as we had had no need for a class rep before. Then he told me to go to the library after class and photocopy the sheets previously mentioned. He then proceeded to write notes on the board. I noticed a striking similarity between what he was writing, and what he just handed me (it was word for word). I then thought it was a blessing that I would not have to write anymore notes. Then I thought "...hold on, he must want me to get lazy, then he'll stop writing the notes and having me photocopy them, then I'll fall behind, and fail. Ultimately, he wants me to fail, but look like he's helping me..." I told my theory to a friend, and he called me paranoid. That is why I came here. Now I know I'm paranoid.

He is still having me photocopy notes and he's still writing them on the board, but he doesn't see it, I will be the one to have the last laugh when I graduate his class!
Pachia Yang
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Feb 6, 2009 @ 2:14 pm
It's kind sad, pretty sad to read all of this, thinking I might be one of a kind.

I have such a stressful life that I am going through...
I am always thinking and thinking things in my head...afraid of other people such as in college-negative thoughts,
and in my relationship too...
I don't know why...something is wrong with me, i can't focus in
school at all too...
learning is pretty hard for me, when I can not concentrate...
I might be paranoid, and it is hard to say if I am or not...

Everything just look like-it's so mess up
what have i done and am I being mental?

It's so hard to be myself right now.
I just wish, that feeling can go away...
so i can live fair and freely with other people i meet
around the in life here, in this world.
unknows
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Aug 14, 2009 @ 3:15 pm
hi,

i was wandaring if someone has paranoia is it a permanant thing or something that can just occur say once a month?

thank you

it would be of great help to get a reply as soon as possible
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Jun 9, 2010 @ 6:18 pm
I know my 34 year old son's behavior fits this article. He needs medical help but what as his parents can we do. The last "meltdown" was over the edge - more rage, more out of control more accusing- very much a domestic violence feel. When should I call for the police? could I say he is a 5150?
Jae
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Jul 22, 2010 @ 2:14 pm
Is there any help available for people whose paranoia prevents them from consenting to treatment? I have a family member who desperately needs help, but consenting to treatment is one of the things he is too sick to be able to do. Asking him to consent to treatment is just like asking a person with a broken leg to walk to a hospital: he will be able to do that only after he is better, not while he still needs the treatment. Please, can anyone help us?
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Aug 9, 2010 @ 12:12 pm
Can menstruation trigger paranoia? I'm being serious, not making a PMS joke.
Jessica
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Aug 15, 2012 @ 9:09 am
I Have paranoia problems I'm always thinking someone laughing or talking about me I can sense feelings of people saying stuff about me and drives me crazy insane I'm afraid to talk and meet people
Mary Anne
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Aug 12, 2013 @ 1:01 am
I have been having symptoms of paranoia for years. It has been getting worse in the last three years while I was working as an in-home caregiver for an old woman and her quadrapligic son. The woman, who was 99yrs and blind,was very verbally abusive and combative with me. Their friends and family came to the house frequently and always commented that I never talked to them because I was too shy and embarrased. They would joke about me turning red when I got embarassed. I went into a mental hospital because the stress became overwhelming. I kind of fit in at first until they learned I had mrsa (staph) pneumonia and they moved me to a private room. No one talked to me or wanted to be around me but they sure did talk about me, patients and staff alike. I had a similar experience later on when I had a hysterectomy
freddie
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Jul 19, 2014 @ 12:12 pm
my wife is paranoid of everything somebody comes up behind her she freaks out she's on Zoloft buspar listaril all together will this cause paranoid
sonia
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Jul 25, 2014 @ 7:19 pm
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