Is paranoia getting the best of you (or someone you know)?

May 24, 2018 | by Marc Browning, RN, Psy.D
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

Has anyone ever told you that you’re "being paranoid?" According to Mental Health America, paranoia involves “intense anxious or fearful feelings and thoughts often related to persecution, threat or conspiracy.”

We all have times where we feel someone is out to harm or deceive us. Sometimes it’s justified but other times it’s not, and the distrust or suspicion we experience can feel relentless. Maybe this sounds like you, or someone you know.

Paranoid personality disorder (PPD) is characterized by excessive distrust and suspicion of others, even when there is no reason to be suspicious. People with paranoid personality disorder may:

  • Believe that others have hidden motives or are out to harm, exploit or deceive them
  • Misinterpret harmless comments and behavior from others as malicious
  • Be preoccupied with doubts about the loyalty of others
  • Be hypersensitive to criticism
  • Be quick to react with anger and hostility toward others
  • Be defensive and argumentative
  • Believe they are always right
  • Hold grudges and be unforgiving
  • Be reluctant to confide in others for fear of being exploited or betrayed
  • Become detached or socially isolated

People with PPD are always on guard, believing that others are constantly trying to demean, harm or threaten them. They are reluctant to confide in others because they are afraid the information will be used against them. For these reasons, it can be difficult for someone with PPD to form close personal and working relationships.

Someone with PPD may also have trouble recognizing they have problem. Those around them may get offended by the unwarranted blame, suspicion or distrust. For example, a spouse may continuously suspect, without justification, that their partner is cheating on them. They may become controlling to avoid being betrayed.

Although what causes PPD is still unknown, researchers believe that a combination of biological and environmental factors can lead to PPD. It is more common in men than women, and it’s more common in families with a history of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and delusional disorders. Early childhood trauma may also play a role in developing PPD.

PPD usually surfaces in early adulthood, but typically decreases in intensity with age. Symptoms can be similar to symptoms of other disorders, including schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder, so a diagnosis should be made by a mental health professional.

Treatment for PPD can be challenging, because people with PPD don’t see themselves as having a problem, and they have intense suspicion and mistrust of others. A mental health professional must establish trust with the patient.

If an individual is willing to accept treatment, long-term talk therapy or psychotherapy, can help. Sometimes these approaches are combined with medication if the person is dealing with debilitating symptoms or related conditions, such as depression or anxiety.

Paranoid personality disorder can interfere with someone’s ability to function in life, hold down a job or interact socially. Treatment can help reduce feelings of paranoia and help the person learn how to cope with the disorder.

If you or someone you know has symptoms of paranoid personality disorder, you aren’t alone. Get help from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

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