Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Paranoia is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself. Making false accusations and the general distrust of others also frequently accompany paranoia.

The causes of paranoia are unclear and depend on the condition with which it is associated. Theories include:

    Genes - research is scanty and inconclusive. Some studies suggest a genetic link while others don't. It is also unclear whether genetic predisposition to paranoia - if it exists - is inherited or not.

  • Brain chemistry - brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) form the basis of thoughts and feelings. Certain drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines alter brain chemistry and can bring on paranoid thoughts, feelings and behaviors. This leads some researchers to believe that paranoia may be a biochemical disorder of the brain. The causes of this possible disorder are unknown.

  • Traumatic life events - for example, abuse in childhood may distort the way a person thinks and feels throughout life.

  • Stress reaction - some studies have found that paranoia is more common in people who have experienced severe and ongoing stress - for example, prisoners of war. How stress can trigger paranoia is unclear.

  • A combination of factors - it may be that a number of genetic and environmental factors working in combination cause paranoia.

The outlook for people with paranoia varies. It is a chronic disorder, which means it tends to last throughout a person's life. Although some people can function fairly well with paranoia and are able to marry and hold jobs, others are complete disabled by the disorder. Because people with paranoia tend to resist treatment, the outcome often is poor.




  • Arereluctanttoconfideinothersorrevealpersonalinformationduetoafearthattheinformationwillbeusedagainstthem.

  • Areunforgivingandholdgrudges.

  • Arehypersensitiveandtakecriticismpoorly.

  • Readhiddenmeaningsintheinnocentremarksorcasuallooksofothers.

  • Perceiveattacksontheircharacterthatarenotapparenttoothers;theygenerallyreactwithangerandarequicktoretaliate.

  • Haverecurrentsuspicions,withoutreason,thattheirspousesorloversarebeingunfaithful.

  • Aregenerallycoldanddistantintheirrelationshipswithothers,andmightbecomecontrollingandjealous.

  • Cannotseetheirroleinproblemsorconflictsandbelievetheyarealwaysright.

  • Havedifficultyrelaxing.

  • Arehostile,stubborn,andargumentative.




Tests may include:

    Medical history.

  • Physical examination.

  • Assessment of symptoms.

  • Psychological tests.

  • Tests to rule out other psychiatric disorders that may be causing the symptoms.


People with paranoia often do not seek treatment on their own because they do not see themselves as having a problem. When treatment is sought, psychotherapy (a form of counseling) is the treatment of choice for paranoia. Treatment likely will focus on increasing general coping skills, as well as on improving social interaction, communication, and self-esteem.

Because trust is an important factor of psychotherapy, treatment is challenging since people with paranoia have such distrust of others. As a result, many people with paranoia do not follow their treatment plan.

Medication generally is not a major focus of treatment for paranoia. However, medications, such as anti-anxiety, antidepressant or anti-psychotic drugs, might be prescribed if the person's symptoms are extreme, or if he/she also suffers from an associated psychological problem, such as anxiety or depression.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.



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