Paranoia

That irrational and persistent feeling that people are ‘out to get you’.

That instinct or thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of delusion.

That feeling of of intense anxiety, or thoughts related to persecution, threat or conspiracy.

People who are paranoid mistrust others and remain in a state of suspicion.

Remember – it is NORMAL to have minor feelings of paranoia.  When paranoia causes significant fear and anxiety and results in a pronounced effect on social functioning, the person may have underlying mental issues and will need to seek professional help.

Is paranoia a psychiatric problem alone?  While schizophrenia may be an underlying disorder for paranoia, other medical diseases like Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, alcohol intoxication and drug abuse may lead to feelings of paranoia.  The elderly population is at highest risk because an underlying disease may be synergistic with the drugs the patient is taking. The perfect storm is when all these are present.

In 1906 Auguste Deter, a 50 year old woman was the first person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia. The disease was named after Alois Alzheimer, the doctor that first described it.  When Deter died, Alzheimer performed a brain autopsy and discovered that the brain of Deter shrunk dramatically and had abnormal deposits around the nerve cells.

Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by agitation, odd behaviour, paranoia, memory problems, disorientations, and delusions.

Dementia is not a specific disease and can be a presentation among patients with Alzheimer’s or due to other disorders that can affect the brain.  In short, dementia is a composite of symptoms that may be due to different disorders of the brain.

Patients with dementia have impaired intellectual function that interfere with the activities of daily living, including personal relationships.  This impairment includes memory loss, language difficulty, decreased perception, and impaired reasoning. Sometimes, people with dementia go through personality changes or develop delusions. Among the ageing population, dementia is often mistaken for senility or a mental decline as part of the ageing process.

The discourse on paranoia, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other mental health problems should be arrived at with proper professional help.

Paranoia is a symptom that is of grave concern that requires medical attention.

The key to true paranoia is when the person exhibits an unreasonable and/or exaggerated mistrust and suspicion of others. The suspicion is not based on facts.  Usually based on hearsay from friends and enemies, the paranoid person builds a world of fantasy and lives in that world, creating a delusion.  Untrue.  Unreal.  Unlikely.

To reiterate, paranoia is a symptom of some mental health problem and is not a diagnosis in itself.  It’s like saying that fever is a symptom of some other underlying disease like an infection, dehydration or metabolic disorder.  Paranoid thoughts can be anything from very mild to very severe.  The crux will depend on how much:

  • you believe the paranoid thoughts
  • you think about the paranoid thoughts
  • the paranoid thoughts upset you
  • the paranoid thoughts interfere with your everyday life

We all experience mild paranoia at some point in our lives.  They change over time.  It’s called reconciling with our past.  Moving on.  It does not mean we forget the events.  It just means that we’ve made peace with the issues that have dragged us to a corner and cower for awhile.

And then there’s the one that’s really bad.  Those delusions which are persecutory in nature.  They stay in your mind forever.  Destroying not only you, but your relationships with people around you because of the obsession of believing fantasy.

Believing in the paranoid is being duped of your principles of rational thoughts.  It’s like following a herd of swine where in the beginning, only one is afflicted with a disease.  When the disease spreads to the heard they either throw themselves off a cliff or the master slaughters all of them, afraid that the healthy herd would die as well.

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