Paranoia is a personality disorder characterized by an overwhelming feeling of distrust and suspicion of other people and their motives. Those suffering from paranoia may feel that people are trying to threaten or malign them.
Paranoia and paranoid disorders (such as paranoid personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenia) are believed to be caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors.
Paranoia can manifest in many ways, including some very specific conditions. For example, someone suffering from erotomania may become convinced that a stranger -- often times someone of public importance -- is in love with him or her. And, people with hypochondriacal paranoia believe that they're suffering from a serious medical disease yet their doctors are persecuting them by refusing to acknowledge the illness and treat it.
Signs & Symptoms
People with paranoia tend to misinterpret day-to-day interactions as insulting or threatening. Symptoms of paranoia and paranoid disorders may include:
- Argumentative nature and defensiveness
- Excessive and unreasonable mistrust and suspicion that may trigger rage
- Fear of being deceived
- Feelings of being persecuted
- Inability to relax
- Quickly and easily offended
- Rigid, inflexible behaviors and beliefs
- Self-righteous attitude
Behavior therapy is often the first line of treatment for paranoia and paranoid disorders. Therapy plans are tailored to reduce a patient's sensitivity to criticism, improve social skills and self-esteem, and teach coping skills. Relaxation and anxiety-reducing techniques may also be used.