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Symptoms of Paranoid Schizophrenia
Paranoia is a disordered way of thinking characterized by the projection of personal impulses, inadequacies, and fantasies onto other people. By such projection the paranoid transfers to others the guilt he feels for his own real or imaginary faults. Paranoiac behavior occurs at times in normal individuals (particularly under the stress of social isolation) but when it persists it is generally a sign of serious psychiatric illness.
Symptoms of Paranoia
In early stages of paranoia the individual's behavior is merely a somewhat exaggerated version of normal behavior. He readily takes offense, is unjustifiably proud and self-righteous, indulges in excessive rationalization, tends to become preoccupied with a single issue, and has a hypochondriacal concern about imaginary ailments. Although he tends to have psychotic presumptions, such as that his wife is adulterous or that the police are hounding him, he does not act upon them. So long as much of his personality remains intact, as in early paranoia, the paranoiac may have a significant impact on society because of the intensity with which he pursues his concerns.
The signs of advanced, clinical paranoia include some or all of the following traits: the blaming of others, unwarranted hostility, suspiciousness, the belief that one is the center of attention, delusions of persecution, the conviction that one's actions are controlled by others, and grandiose fantasies.
Causes of Paranoia
The causes of most paranoid disorders are uncertain. Many patients are paranoids because of schizophrenia, the exact origins of which are still unknown. In a minority of cases, the paranoia is secondary to known organic diseases affecting the nervous system. Drugs such as alcohol and hallucinogens also may trigger paranoia in susceptible persons.
Psychological explanations of paranoid phenomena include Sigmund Freud's theory that they are caused by disturbed psychosexual development and Harry Stack Sullivan's theory that they are caused by disturbed interpersonal relationships in early childhood.
Treatment of Paranoia
Some persons with mild paranoia can be treated effectively by intensive psychotherapy. Persons with severe paranoia, especially those with paranoid schizophrenia, usually require temporarily the protective environment of a hospital, where they can be helped with doses of major tranquilizers. Because recurring episodes of paranoid schizophrenia often result in a diminishing response to treatment, a minority of patients require long-term hospitalization. Paranoid patients are sometimes hard to manage because they refuse treatment or even become violent.