What is Paranoia? History, Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Paranoia involves intense feelings and thoughts of anxiety or fears often related to persecution, threats, or conspiracy; it occurs in many mental disorders but is often present in psychotic disordersParanoia can turn into a delusion when irrational thoughts and beliefs become so fixed that nothing can convince a person that what they think, or feel is not valid.

When a person has paranoia or delusions but no other symptoms (such as hearing or seeing things that are not there), they may have what is called a delusional disorder because only thoughts are affected, which can usually work and function in everyday life, yet their lives can be limited and isolated. Paranoid thoughts can also be described as delusions; there are many different types of threats that you can be scared and worried about, and they can also be exaggerated suspicions. For example, someone made a nasty comment about you once, and you think they are running a hate campaign against you.

In paranoia, your fears are amplified, and everyone you meet is drawn to that web; you become the center of a threatening universe.

History of paranoia

The term was used to describe a mental illness in which a delusional belief is the only or most prominent characteristic. In this definition, the idea does not have to be persecutory to be classified as paranoid, so that any delusional beliefs can be classified as paranoia.

According to Michael Phelan, Padraig Wright, and Julian Stern (2000), paranoia and paraphrenia are debated entities that were dislodged from advanced dementia by Kraepelin, who explained paranoia as a continuous systematized illusion that arises much later in life without the presence of already be it hallucinations or a course of deterioration, paraphrenia as a syndrome identical to paranoia but with hallucinations. Even today, a hoax need not be suspicious or fearful of being classified as paranoid; a person can be diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia without persecution simply because their delusions are primarily self-related.

Types of paranoia

Paranoid personality disorder


A person who has Paranoid Personality Disorder believes others are lying to him, distrusts the motives of others, believes that others are using personal information against him, and shows extreme defensiveness and a need to be right all the time. . This type of personality disorder usually forms over many years and will require long-term corrective psychotherapy.

It is considered the mildest type; most people function well despite their distrust of the world, and the attitudes and behaviors associated with this disorder, when they become apparent, are often found to be present for much of the life of the person. read more about Paranoid Personality Disorder  (required article)

Paranoid schizophrenia

It is a severe and chronic mental illness, the symptoms of which may not be absent, even when an effective drug regimen is maintained. A person with paranoid schizophrenia may hear voices telling them that people are trying to hurt them, or they may have delusional beliefs that coworkers want to kill them. Anger, resentment, violence, or emotional detachment can coexist. read more about Paranoid Schizophrenia

It is considered the most severe type; it is characterized by strange delusions, such as believing that one’s thoughts are broadcast on the radio. Hallucinations, extraordinary ones, are also common to the condition; a person with paranoid schizophrenia often finds the world confusing and malfunctions without treatment.

Erotomania (erotic delusion)

A person with this type of delusional disorder believes that another person, often someone important or famous, is in love with them. The person may attempt to contact the object of the deception, and stalking behavior is not uncommon; it is commonly displayed by people with bipolar disorder when they experience a manic episode. For example, they can say that they are married to a movie star. read more about Erotomania (Erotic Delusion)  (required article)

Hypochondriacal (somatic) paranoia

A person with hypochondriacal paranoia believes that he suffers from a host of diseases and that his doctor is conspiring against him by refusing to treat his conditions. read about Paranoia hypochondriacal  (required article)

Paranoia fully

Someone who suffers from this type of paranoia has intense feelings of jealousy, and they frequently feel that they feel betrayed and cheated on by their partner. Therefore, people who suffer tend to create the reality they fear the most. read more about hypochondriacal celotypic paranoia  (article required)


A person with this delusional disorder has an inflated sense of worth, power, knowledge, or identity. They may believe that they have great talent or have made an important discovery. read more about Megalomania  (required article)  

Symptoms of paranoia

Symptoms can range from mild (that is, feeling like the guy sitting next to you is pulling your gums out to annoy you) to severe (that is, feeling like there is an alien inside your head controlling your thoughts). People experiencing paranoia may have the following symptoms:

  • Inability to trust others.
  • Being easily offended.
  • Trouble forgiving others.
  • Intense fear of being taken advantage of.
  • Inability to handle criticism.
  • People with paranoia can become violent and hostile if they feel threatened.
  • Violence.
  • Hostile, aggressive, or argumentative behavior.
  • Not willing to compromise.
  • You are overly suspicious.
  • See the world as a dangerous place where they are under constant threat.
  • Belief in ‘conspiracy theories, which lack evidence or support.
  • Feelings of persecution.

Causes of paranoia

As with many other psychotic disorders, the exact cause of paranoia is not yet known. However, researchers are looking at the role of various genetic, biological, environmental, or psychological factors.

  • Genetic: The fact that it is more common in people who have relatives with delusional disorder or schizophrenia suggests that there could be a genetic factor involved; it is believed that, as with other mental disorders, the tendency to develop it could be transmitted from parents to children.
  • Biological:  Researchers are studying how abnormalities in some brain regions might be involved in the development of delusional disorders. Abnormalities in the functioning of the brain regions that control perception and thinking may be related to the formation of delusional symptoms.
  • Environmental/psychological:  Evidence suggests that stress can trigger it, and alcohol and drug abuse can also contribute to the condition. People who tend to be isolated, such as immigrants or those with poor vision and hearing, appear more vulnerable to development.
  • Physical: A paranoid reaction can be caused by a decrease in the brain’s circulation as a result of high blood pressure or the hardening of the arterial walls. Drug-induced paranoia, associated with amphetamines, methamphetamines, and similar stimulants, has much in common with schizophrenic paranoia; the relationship has been under investigation since 2012. Drug-induced paranoia has a better prognosis than schizophrenic paranoia once it has been eliminated from the drug.
  • Traumatic life events:  For example, abuse in childhood can 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 constant stress, for example, prisoners of war.
  • A combination of factors: It may be that several genetic and environmental factors that work in combination cause paranoia.

Diagnosis of paranoia

The condition causing paranoia can be difficult to diagnose because an exaggerated sense of mistrust is shared in a variety of mental disorders and also occurs in some people with dementia. Another difficulty is that a person with paranoia can avoid doctors, hospitals, and other medical settings for fear of harm.

Diagnosis may include:

  • Medical history.
  • Physical exam.
  • Symptom evaluation.
  • Psychological tests.
  • Tests to rule out other psychiatric disorders that may be causing the symptoms.

How is paranoia treated?

Treatment depends on the cause and severity of the symptoms and may include medication and psychotherapy.


Psychotherapy aims to help people with paranoia:

  • Accept your vulnerability.
  • Increase your self esteem.
  • Develop trust in others.
  • Learn to express and manage your emotions positively.

Treatment for paranoid personality disorder usually involves psychotherapy to help you develop coping skills to improve socialization and communication. Doctors sometimes prescribe anti-anxiety medications to treat paranoid personality disorder in anxious or fearful people. Atypical antipsychotic drugs can also help relieve symptoms.


Your doctor can prescribe an antipsychotic medicine (required item) to make the delusions disappear; it could be pills, a liquid, or injections. It may take a few weeks for these drugs to work fully, but you may start to feel a little calmer quickly; you may need to try more than one to find a cure or combination that is right for you.

Even when you feel better, keep taking your medicine; your illusions will probably return if you stop.

Avoid using marijuana, alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, or other stimulants, as they can prevent antipsychotic medications from working well and cause or worsen paranoia.

People with paranoid schizophrenia generally require medication, as they have often lost touch with reality. Initial treatment usually includes antipsychotic drugs. Your doctor may also prescribe anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications.


Once your delusions are under control, counseling can help you get along with others, keep a job, go to school, take care of yourself, and make friends.

People with schizophrenia who receive counseling are also more likely to stick with their medications.

A type of counseling called cognitive-behavioral therapy can teach you to manage symptoms that don’t go away – even when you take your medicine, you will learn how to test for delusions and ignore the voices inside your head. Positive and encouraging support from family and friends also goes a long way. Because some antipsychotic medications can make you gain weight, you may also want help with diet and exercise.


There may be times when your paranoid delusions or other symptoms are so severe that you have to go to the hospital; you will be cared for so that you and your loved ones are safe. If you acknowledge that you have problems, you may be admitted voluntarily. Still, if you believe that you do not need help when you need it, the law may allow a doctor or other mental health professional to involuntarily admit you if you cannot care for yourself or it may be dangerous for you: you or someone else.

When paranoia results from drug abuse, treatment is often supportive until the effects of the drug wear off. After that, your doctor will likely encourage you to participate in a drug treatment program.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.

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