Paranoia: Schizophrenia and Paranoid Delusions

Topics: Schizophrenia, Paranoia, Psychosis Pages: 9 (2723 words) Published: March 9, 2011
Understanding paranoia
What is paranoia?
Are there different kinds?
Who is most vulnerable to these feelings?
What are the causes?
What treatments are available?
What can family and friends do?
Useful organisations
Further reading
‘The couple next door are listening in on me, I know it. I saw her in the street yesterday and she looked away.’
‘The postman is reading my mail. One of my letters last week was not stuck down. He knows all my secrets.’
‘My son’s behaving so strangely; he suspects everyone of plotting against him. The thing is,
I daren’t talk about it when he’s in the house, in case he overhears. I’m getting paranoid about his paranoia.’
This booklet is aimed at anyone who wants to know more about paranoia, its causes, and what can be done to help those who experience the problem, their family and friends.
What is paranoia?
Being paranoid means being suspicious without reason, and believing that others are trying to harm you in some way. Everyone can be mistrustful at times, particularly if life hasn’t treated him or her well. But people who are prone to paranoia always dread some forthcoming attack or betrayal. They are forever anticipating that something awful will happen, and trying to second-guess what their adversaries might do. They focus on their fears for the future, and take little account of the majority of times when the past has proved them wrong.

In milder forms, the person has some insight into what’s going on and realises their suspicions might be groundless. In extreme forms, they can’t distinguish reality from fantasy. (Psychiatrists may refer to this as a psychosis, and talk about people having delusions.) It can be a very isolating condition, because people feel they can’t depend on anybody. They may feel angry, fearful, guilt-ridden, suspicious, vengeful and excluded, and may become very depressed, as a result.

Are there different kinds?
The feeling of being threatened or betrayed can take many forms. People may become irrationally jealous, or believe that their thoughts and actions are being controlled or monitored. They may fear that their life is in danger - that their milk or food is being poisoned, for instance. Some people feel a deep sense of their own badness, while others believe they are being unfairly treated by their imagined persecutors and think they are being unjustly harassed. These two types are known as ‘bad-me paranoia’ and ‘poor-me paranoia’.

Paranoid schizophrenia
Extreme paranoia is one of the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. This may also involve people hearing voices, which may comment on their behaviour, echo their thoughts or issue orders.
Paranoid personality disorder
Paranoid personality disorder is another diagnosis, which clinicians consider if the problem has been around for some time, perhaps since adolescence. Commonly, people will have little or no insight into their condition and will never have asked for treatment.

Delusional or paranoid disorder
Sometimes, someone who functions quite well in day-t o-day life develops one particular dominating, paranoid idea, of great complexity, that puts them at odds with those around them. This is sometimes called a delusional or paranoid disorder. It doesn’t usually involve hearing voices.

Other diagnoses that may include paranoid feelings are manic depression (bipolar disorder), schizoaffective disorder, severe anxiety or depression, and postnatal psychosis.
Who is most vulnerable to these feelings?
This is difficult to say, because paranoia can be an element in over eighty different medical conditions. A third of old people in geriatric wards may be affected. People who are getting on in years, or feeling depressed, can easily start feeling they are a burden to friends and relatives. Being partially deaf can also make them think that others are whispering, and hiding something from them.

The problem is more common for elderly women than men, while among the young, men are slightly more...
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