Most of us have definitely heard something about paranoia at some points of our lives. But do we actually know at least something about this disease in deed and not in name? Are we able to tell the difference between paranoia and other mental disorders?
The main point of this essay is to articulate the concept of paranoia and related issues. With this end in view, it is also crucial to examine its features, symptoms, causes, and consequences it bring about.
In the first place, it is important to define and explain the term 'paranoia' as the definition might give insight into the symptoms and causes of paranoia and other related aspects. The majority of people think of paranoia, or paranoid personality disorder, as of some sort of strangeness or unhealthy suspicion. However, such a statement is only partially true. In fact, according to the definition given by the Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary, in simple terms, "paranoia is a serious mental illness that causes you to falsely believe that other people are trying to harm you" (353). The Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary also gives a more elaborate and complex definition of the term, referring to is as "a tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others" (353).
In order to distinguish paranoia from other mental disorders one should be aware of the particular features associated with the paranoid personality disorder. According to Beck and Freeman, the most common features of paranoia are "the feelings of inadequacy, in combination with poor social skills and the external attribution of blame" (190).
Of course, the abovementioned features do not constitute the full list of symptoms associated with the disease. According to Donohue, Fowler, & Lilienfeld, other typical characteristics of the paranoid personality disorder involve termagancy, unfriendliness and even aggression, emotional aloofness, hypersusceptibility to disrespect or accusations, and uncompromising attitude (43).
Have you even thought about the distinction in the behavior of a mentally sane person and an individual experiencing paranoia? "People experiencing paranoia believe that others are persecuting them and have delusional ideas about themselves as central figures in scenarios that in reality have little relevance to them" (Stoeppler, "Paranoia (Paranoid Thoughts)").
Let me provide an example to clearly and intelligibly illustrate the feelings of a paranoid personality, who is also referred to as a paranoiac. For instance, there was a minor road traffic incident, which occurred due to the driver's inadvertence. No one was seriously hurt and most people consider it to be a casual and purposeless occasion. However, a paranoid person would never believe that the accident happened due to the driver's mistake. On the contrary, paranoiac would think that accident was deliberate, intentional and thoroughly planned in advance.
As opposed to a mentally sane person, a paranoiac tends to see some plot, malice or even criminal intent in completely random events. An individual experiencing paranoia is also likely to build complex conspiracy theories directed against him in his mind.
Now that we have learned somewhat about the concept of paranoia and its features, it is reasonable to take a look at the main causes of the disease. It may sound quite surprising but no one still cannot give a definite answer to this question. However, according to the present knowledge there are several fundamental opinions about the causes of paranoia.
For example, Sigmund Freud argued that the real cause of paranoia development and progression is the atrophy or delay at a certain stage of a child's sexual development.
On the contrary, there is another wide-spread opinion that paranoid personality disorder may develop due to the limited focus of chronic excitation, which is present in the cerebral cortex. The existence of such a focus contributes to the obstacles to the mobility of normal cortical processes. As a result, a great number of cranky ideas sneak into the brain of an individual and continue to develop there. It is impossible to predict how strong these ideas and fantasies may become. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases there is no way to persuade a paranoid personality in the implausibility of his ideas and suspicions.
However, sometimes the feeling of paranoia may be provoked by external causes and factors. In this case, the perfect example would be so-called weed paranoia. In point of fact, there is a direct connection between the marijuana abuse and paranoid thoughts. "Experts generally agree that regular use of cannabis starting from an early age is an accurate predictor of later severe mental health problems" (Freeman, "Cannabis Really Can Trigger Paranoia"). The range of these mental health problems also includes paranoid personality disorder.
As we all know, in the majority of cases paranoia is regarded as a certain type of antagonistic behavior. As a result, the logical question that has to be answered is: what are the consequences of the paranoid personality disorder and how does it affect people suffering from it and their relations with other people around them, including their friends, family members and loved ones? It is not surprising that such behavior pattern frequently causes miscommunication and other difficulties in interpersonal relationships. The research conducted by Donohue, Fowler, & Lilienfeld reveals that difficulties associated with paranoia also include provocation of various attacks, which people experiencing paranoia are afraid of (42). For instance, paranoiacs might draw a correct conclusion that others are criticizing them or disapproving of their behavior, but the fundamental problem is that paranoiacs do not even realize that this may be a result of their own antagonistic and hostile actions (Donohue, Fowler, & Lilienfeld 42).
Now we turn to the main issue of this paper. What are we to do if someone we know has become paranoid? When it comes to treatment, the first point is to consult a psychologist as only a specialist is able to prescribe a comprehensive treatment for this disease, as well as appoint a course therapeutic counseling for the patient. Such a psychotherapy is commonly administered with each patient individually and requires a great deal of professionalism on the part of the therapist.
And again we must remember that undergoing a psychotherapy is not the only way to help an individual get over the disease. If you really want to support a paranoiac, help him/her think positively by planting the seeds of positive thoughts and ideas in his/her head. It might be very helpful to encourage a paranoid personality not to blame others for his/her misfortunes and explain that it makes no good at all. In fact, this is one of the most effective ways to replace the dark thoughts with positive ones in the mind of a paranoiac.
In conclusion, I would like to say that paranoia is not such a simple and minor problem as it might appear at first sight. Paranoid personality disorder should not be considered exceptionally as some sort of strangeness or unhealthy suspicion. Taking into consideration that paranoia is a serious mental disorder, one should always keep in mind that it requires an adequate medical treatment.
Beck, Aaron T., and Freeman, Arthur. Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders. New York: Guilford, 1990. Print.
Donohue, William T., Fowler, Katherine, Fowler, Reno and Lilienfeld, Scott. "Paranoid Personality Disorder." Personality Disorders: Toward the DSM-V. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, 2007. Print.
Freeman, Daniel, and Jason Freeman. "Cannabis Really Can Trigger Paranoia." The Guardian. 16 July 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jul/16/cannabis-paranoia-psychoactive-thc-mood>.
Merriam-Webster. "Paranoia." Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary. Merriam Webster Mass Market, 2006. 833. Print.
Stoeppler, Melissa Conrad. "Paranoia (Paranoid Thoughts): Check Your Symptoms and Signs." MedicineNet.com. 25 June 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <http://www.medicinenet.com/paranoia/symptoms.htm>.