Paranoia is a word that is thrown around in our day to day culture, however, it can be a very serious aspect of psychiatric disorders. A word which is usually associated with simple suspiciousness, true paranoia can be mild or paralyzing. Though often an aspect of other psychological disorders, paranoia on its own is divided into three categories: Paranoid Personality Disorder, Delusional (Paranoid) Disorder and Paranoid Schizophrenia.
Paranoid Personality Disorder is a disorder that causes individuals to be suspicious for no reason and often cuts into their relationships with others. According to Kaplan & Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry,
“Persons with paranoid personality disorder are characterized by long-standing suspiciousness and mistrust of persons in general. They refuse responsibility for their own feelings and assign responsibility to others. They are often hostile, irritable, and angry. Bigots, injustice collectors, pathologically jealous spouses, and litigious cranks often have paranoid personality disorder.”
Suspicion is a consistent symptom of paranoia. Those inflicted see others as a threat, using any evidence, no matter how small or non-related to prove their point. In a marriage, this manifests itself as impractical jealousy towards their partner.
People with PPD (Paranoid Personality Disorder) are hypersensitive, taking any comment or the smallest glance personally or as something offensive. They are often defensive and aggressive, never able to accept blame or criticism, despite the fact that they are very critical of others. These individuals are also often aloof, appearing emotionally cut off from the rest of the world. They believe themselves to be rational and rarely seek help for their problems.
Delusional (Paranoid) Disorder is the more intense version of PPD. A more debilitating disorder, these people exhibit a “persistent, nonbizarre delusion without symptoms of any other mental disorder.” These delusions usually consist of beliefs that are untrue, but are firmly believed by the individual. A person with Delusional (Paranoid) Disorder could experience any of these 5 delusions:
Grandiose delusion: The belief that they possess special powers or knowledge, such as holding the cure for diseases or they are able to ensure world peace.
Delusion of persecution: The belief that they are being hunted or targeted by some outside force.
Delusional jealousy: The belief that any irrelevant mark on a spouse or partner or an unexpected event is evidence of infidelity.
Erotic delusions: The belief that they are loved by another, usually a well-known public figure.
Somatic delusions: The belief that there is something wrong with their bodies, including that there are bugs crawling in/on them or that their bodies are misshapen.
Hallmarks of Paranoid Schizophrenia are paranoid thinking and behavior. These behaviors are accompanied by strange delusions or hallucinations, usually with a specific theme. Often they hear voices or believe that their thoughts are being controlled. While people with milder forms of paranoia are often able to work or maintain clear thinking, those with paranoid schizophrenia have a very hard time maintaining their lives and are very often extremely confused.
As of right now, the only way for a person to be accurately diagnosed with clinical paranoia is to have a psychiatric examination. Often clinical paranoia can be treated with antipsychotic drugs or psychotherapy among other things. The dosage or amount of therapy time will be specific to that person’s condition. It is important that paranoid patients and their family members stay in touch with a psychologist, as they will be the only ones able to truly understand and alleviate the situation.
Benjamin J. Sadock, Harold I. Kaplan, Virginia A. Sadock, Kaplan & Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry Tenth Edition, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007