What is paranoia?

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Paranoia

Paranoia is a mental disorder that can make people falsely believe that others are lying, cheating, using them, or trying to harm them. Or it can give them an overly large sense of self-importance. People with paranoia can have either or both of these traits.

Paranoia may occur with several other mental disorders (as in paranoid schizophrenia) or Alzheimer's disease. It rarely occurs as a mental illness on its own. It is sometimes caused by using drugs such as marijuana.

Treatment usually includes professional counseling and may include medicine.

Helping someone with schizophrenia who is paranoid

You may be able to tell when someone with schizophrenia is paranoid. The person may accuse others of trying to harm him or her or may look around fearfully. The person may talk about protecting himself or herself from attack.

There are some ways you can help a person who is paranoid.

  • Don't argue.

    Ask questions about the person's fears, and talk to the person about the paranoia if the person wants to listen to you.

  • Use simple directions, if needed.

    Tell the person that no harm will come to him or her and that you can help. For example, "Sit down, and let's talk about it."

  • Give the person enough personal space so that he or she does not feel trapped or surrounded.

    Stay with the person but at a distance that is comfortable for him or her and you. Stay more than an arm's reach away.

  • Call for help if you think anyone is in danger.
  • Move the person away from the cause of the fear or from noise and activity, if possible.
  • Ask the person to tell you what is causing the fear.

    Make a direct statement that you are not afraid.

  • Focus the person on what is real.
  • Tell the person everything you are going to do before you do it.

    For example, "I'm going take out my cell phone."

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.