Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.
Paranoia is defined as persistent irrational thoughts, feelings of persecution, or an over-inflated sense of self-importance. But what does this really mean?
We all have had suspicious or irrational thoughts at one time or another. Maybe you have watched a scary movie and felt jumpy afterward, or maybe you've had a feeling that someone was watching you even though no one was there. Later, you probably realized that your fears were unfounded and you were able to move on. Paranoid individuals, however, have suspicions and irrational thoughts that don't go away. Instead, they are exaggerated, even when there is not any evidence to suggest their suspicions are true. These fears makes it difficult for individuals with paranoia to function in society, work, or have close relationships.
Paranoia has three main features:
- Intense fear or worry that something bad will take place
- Feeling that other individuals or causes outside the person are to blame
- Exaggerated beliefs or beliefs that have no support
Paranoia is a symptom of several different types of mental disorders, including:
- Schizoaffective disorder
- Anxiety disorders (i.e., phobias and generalized anxiety disorder)
- Paranoid personality disorder
- Delusional disorder
Paranoia is also a symptom of several other diseases, including:
- Huntington's disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Alzheimer's disease
Symptoms of paranoia can be range from mild (i.e., feeling that the guy sitting next to you is popping his gum just to annoy you) to severe (i.e., feeling that there is an alien inside your head that is controlling your thoughts). People who experience paranoia may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Inability to trust others
- Being easily offended
- Trouble forgiving others
- Intense fear of being taken advantage of
- Inability to handle criticism
- Hostile, aggressive, or argumentative behavior
- Unwilling to compromise
- Being overly suspicious
- Viewing the world as a dangerous place in which they are under constant threat
- Belief in 'conspiracy theories,' which lack evidence or support
- Feelings of persecution
Paranoia is thought to be caused by a breakdown of mental and emotional functions and reasoning. The exact cause of these breakdowns is still unknown. The major theories regarding the development of paranoia are:
- Genetics: There are several studies that suggest that our genes play a role in the development of paranoia.
- Neurotransmitters in the brain: Taking certain drugs (i.e., heroin and amphetamine) can affect the neurotransmitters in the brain, which can lead to paranoia. This has led some researchers to believe that paranoia may be due to a biochemical brain disorder.
- Traumatic and major life events: Stressful or traumatic life events, such as a divorce, the death of a loved one, and child abuse, have been linked to paranoia.
- Multiple factors: Paranoia is caused by a mixture of genes and environmental factors.
Paranoia refers to the feeling that other people want to harm you in some way, even though there is no evidence to support these suspicions. Paranoia is a symptom of several physical and medical conditions, including schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, and delusional disorder. Symptoms of paranoia include being overly suspicious, trouble forgiving others, fear of being taken advantage of, and feelings of persecution. There are several theories as to what causes paranoia, including genetics, brain chemistry, and a combination of environmental and genetic factors.
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