What is paranoia?

Paranoia refers to feelings of distrust, suspicion, or persecution that are not based in reality. Paranoia is a kind of delusion in which a person thinks he or she is being singled out in a negative way. People with paranoia will look for evidence to prove they are being singled out, and refuse to see that they have an exaggerated view of their own significance.

The exact cause of paranoia is not known. Paranoia is more common in men than in women, though the exact prevalence of paranoia is not known. Paranoia is a mental and emotional symptom of many types of mental illness, including paranoid personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. There are many types of paranoia.

Paranoia is characterized by delusions that others have hidden motives or a wish to harm you, feelings of mistrust and hostility, a sense of being persecuted, and social isolation and withdrawal. Paranoia should be evaluated by a mental health care practitioner. It is often difficult to treat paranoia, because people with paranoia are frequently suspicious of medical intervention.

For those who do receive treatment, therapy and medication may help to reduce feelings of paranoia. Usually, paranoia occurs as part of a personality disorder or mental illness, so full treatment depends on the underlying disorder. Untreated paranoia may lead to social isolation and absenteeism from work or school.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience paranoia along with hearing voices or seeing things that are not real (hallucinations), if you are unable to care for your basic needs, or if you have thoughts of harming yourself or others.

If your paranoia is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with paranoia?

Paranoia may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Mental and emotional symptoms such as paranoia may be a sign of a complicated mental illness.

Schizophrenia symptoms that may occur along with paranoia

Paranoia may accompany other symptoms related to schizophrenia including:

CAUSES

What causes paranoia?

The exact cause of paranoia is not known. It may be related to a chemical imbalance in the brain, heredity, stress, or a traumatic life event. In some cases it may be due to injury or infection of the brain. Usually, paranoia is a symptom of a mental illness.

Mental disorder causes of paranoia

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mental Health and Behavior