A condition whose central feature is the delusion (a false idea not amenable to reasoned argument) that people or events are in some way specially related to oneself. The term is also used popularly to describe a person’s feelings of persecution.
A person suffering from paranoia gradually builds up an elaborate set of beliefs based on the interpretation of chance remarks or events. Typical themes include persecution, jealousy, love, and grandeur (belief in one’s own superior position and powers).
PARANOIA TYPES AND CAUSES
Psychoanalytically, paranoia stems from deep, underlying insecurity. Chronic paranoia may result from brain damage, amphetamine or alcohol abuse, schizophrenia, or manicdepressive illness. The condition is especially likely to develop in people with paranoid personality disorder suspicious, oversensitive people who seem emotionally cold and take offense easily. Acute paranoia, lasting for less than six months, may occur in people who have experienced radical -changes in their environment, such as immigrants, refugees, people entering military- service, or people leaving home for the first time.m In shared paranoia (folie à deux), delusion develops as a result of a close relationship with someone who already has a delusion.
Feelings and activities often seem relatively normal in that they are appropriate for the beliefs held. There are usually no other symptoms of mental illness apart from occasional hallucinations. However, anger, suspiciousness, and social isolation mark an increasing change in the person toward difficult and eccentric behavior. Paranoid individuals rarely see themselves as ill and usually receive treatment only when brought by friends or relatives.
TREATMENT AND OUTCOME
When acute illness is treated early with antipsychotic drugs, the outlook is good. In chronic disorders, delusions are usually firmly entrenched, although antipsychotic drugs may make them less prominent. However, longterm control through medication is difficult in someone with poor insight into his or her illness.