Paranoia is a serious and potentially debilitating symptom occurring in a variety of psychiatric disorders. Compounded by factors such as a lack of medical treatment and medication non-compliance, people suffering from paranoid delusions can become a danger to themselves and others. Specific types of paranoia have been identified in association with specific psychiatric diagnoses, and many treatment options have also been investigated for use in this population.
According to the study of Lee et al., paranoid ideas are the most common type of delusion reported by psychiatric patients. Paranoia can be caused by several scenarios, and theories have evolved in regards to the mechanisms of paranoia.
- Paranoid delusions are the result of normal reasoning processes used to generate explanations for anomalous perceptual experiences (e.g. hallucinations).
- Paranoid delusions as the result of a bias in reasoning that causes the subject to jump to incorrect conclusions.
- Paranoid delusions as part of a condition in which the subject is unable to comprehend other people’s thoughts, intentions, and beliefs.
Some studies have aimed to determine the basis of paranoia as having a potentially drug-mediated mechanism. The 2004 study of Stefanis et al. specifically focused on dimensions of psychosis as they manifested in a group of early adolescents with cannabis exposure. This study was based on the evidence of cannabis’ property of increasing the risk for psychotic disorder and decreasing the quality of prognostic outlook for individuals with established psychotic disorders. The results of this study revealed a positive correlation between cannabis use and all forms of psychosis including paranoia.
Another drug that may increase the user’s risk for paranoid symptoms is crystal methamphetamine, as demonstrated in the 2004 study of Urbina and Jones. Urbina and Jones cite a study of 170 methamphetamine abusers who had undergone outpatient treatment; 23% of these individuals reported paranoia immediately after treatment and 7.2% reported paranoia at 2-5 years after treatment).
Perhaps the most frequent cause for paranoid delusions is the presence of schizophrenia or a schizo-affective disorder. In their 2000 study of psychopathological symptoms as they occur in early-onset schizophrenia in children and adolescents, Banaschewski state that age and developmental stage greatly impact the symptomatology as going paranoia and delusions. Banaschewski et al. studied 74 adolescents aged 12 through 22 years who were receiving inpatient treatment for schizophrenia or a schizo-affective disorder. Banaschewski et al. also found that certain symptoms seem more likely to co-occur, such as specific cognitive deficit degrees pertinent to the paranoid versus disorganized subtypes of the schizophrenic population studied.
Discovering the best way to deal with the symptoms of paranoia is dependent on the situational characteristics of the paranoid individual. Those with paranoia as the result of drug abuse will require different treatment than those suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and the paranoia that results from drug use can be a passing or temporary symptom. However, in individuals suffering from schizophrenia or schizo-affective disorders, medication therapy is often suggested as the standard for treating paranoid symptoms.
There are a variety of medications available for the treatment of schizophrenia and paranoid symptoms, including atypical neuroleptics and anti-psychotics. Through the proper diagnosis, treatment, and medication compliance, individuals suffering from paranoia and paranoid delusions can work with their doctor or psychiatrist in order to gain the best treatment outcome possible and decrease the occurrence and severity of their paranoid delusions and thoughts.