All about paranoia

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Paranoia is a complex mental and emotional disorder. Paranoid delirium is a form of psychosis. The paranoid person has a distorted perception of reality, dominated by exaggerated ideas or beliefs. It is characterized by distrust, permanent doubt, erroneous interpretations of reality accompanied by a feeling of persecution.

A paranoid person has two significant difficulties:

1- The inability to distinguish the internal world (her subjectivity, her emotions, her ideas) and the external world which is a set of social conventions, thus considering what she feels as an irrefutable reality. The paranoid does not realize his condition.

2- The inability to deal with the other and the rejection of opinions different from one’s own. The paranoiac is persuaded to be right, which makes dialogue very difficult.

Evolution of the concept

In psychiatry, paranoia was first considered a form of dementia diagnosed separately.

Later, it became an apparent symptom in chronic psychoses, such as bipolar disorder or in some forms of schizophrenia. We also speak of paranoia in the case of mystical illusions or megalomania.

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types of paranoia

The most characteristic form of paranoia is the delusion of persecution. The paranoid person lives in a state of constant alert, he is convinced that a form of evil surrounds him and takes possession of his mind.

The paranoid feels completely submissive and assigns responsibility for what is happening in his life to “another”. He interprets in a distorted way any event, even the most insignificant.

This conviction of being persecuted, humiliated or constantly threatened by people, environments or even by fate or bad luck, increases the lack of confidence in the paranoid and creates an all-pervading attitude of suspicion.

Other forms of paranoia stem from a feeling of grandeur or jealousy. In the first case, the paranoid thinks he is so important, intelligent or competent that he is excluded or threatened for it. In the second case, he tends to favor exclusive relations, of possession and he is convinced of being betrayed, with reactions of excessive jealousy.

The guilt is also another form of paranoia. Unlike other types, the delusion is based on the fact that the paranoid is the cause of all the calamities, worries and problems that have befallen those around them. He therefore takes revenge on himself and feels intense guilt.

Paranoia can also be accompanied by a form of hypochondria. Paranoid people think they have incurable illnesses, even though medical diagnoses confirm otherwise.

Symptoms in Paranoid People

Each form of paranoia has specific symptoms, but there are characteristic symptoms in the majority of paranoid people.

  • Lack of trust in those around him
  • Feeling of constant stress and anxiety
  • Exaggerated sense of grandeur (delusions of grandeur)
  • Isolation and estrangement from others
  • Fear of giving personal information about him, even to relatives
  • Hallucinations
  • doubt suspicion mistrust
  • Exaggerated fear that something bad might happen.
  • feeling of persecution
  • Refusal of criticism in its various forms.
  • Constant hostility and aggression
  • Negative interpretations
  • Inability to forget and forgive
  • Difficulty forming social relationships

It is not necessary to have all of these symptoms combined, it is the type of paranoia that determines the specific symptom.

The causes and factors of paranoia

Stimulants or drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, cannabis and ecstasy can trigger an attack of paranoia.

Some studies have raised the hereditary issue. As with other personality disorders, there may be a genetic link. The disease appears to be more common in families with psychotic disorders, especially schizophrenia.

Persecutory thoughts can also occur in stressful situations or emerge in people with anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. For example, a victim of bullying may develop delusions of persecution which could turn into paranoia.

Recent studies on sufferers have shown that the lack or disruption of sleep can deteriorate the patient’s condition, especially since feelings of fear and anxiety are greater during the night.

Sometimes paranoia and bullying obsessions can be symptoms of other illnesses such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.

Some theories point to intrapsychic mechanisms that can interrupt the healthy development of the individual. Others highlight fractures in cognitive development that can lead to paranoid behavior.

Added to all this is individual predisposition, family background and life experiences.

The diagnosis of paranoia

Complete medical examinations are necessary for the diagnosis of paranoia. The doctor checks the patient’s medical history to rule out any health problems like dementia or any side effects of any possible medication used by the affected person.

If the person is diagnosed as paranoid, they will be referred to a psychiatrist to assess their mental state by performing clinical and psychological tests.

As explained above, the paranoid patient can also suffer from bipolar disorder, anxiety or depression.

The treatment of paranoia

Treatment for paranoia depends on the underlying cause of the disorder and the severity of related symptoms.

To treat paranoia, the person must first accept and recognize the fact of being paranoid.

The treatment aims to improve the general well-being of the patient so that he feels more grounded in reality.

To date, some treatments such as neuroleptics have proven effective for paranoid personality disorder and are used to manage the disease, control its symptoms and prevent deterioration of the patient’s condition.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy called psychotherapy may also be prescribed. It aims to strengthen the patient’s confidence in himself and those around him, to help him accept his weakness, to control his feelings and to express them in a positive way. The therapy also helps to improve the social communication skills of the sufferer. The paranoid person must relearn not to analyze all events negatively.

If the paranoia is the result of drug use or alcohol addiction, supportive treatment is offered to help the patient recover from addiction.

Hospitalization may sometimes be necessary if the person suffering from paranoid delirium becomes dangerous to themselves or to others.

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A healthy lifestyle is highly recommended, it is important to:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Sleep well
  • Take steps to reduce stress

How to behave with a paranoid loved one?

A paranoid person suffers but also makes those around him suffer through his behavior. Do not hesitate to ask for help by turning to a health professional or a support group.

To maintain a good relationship with a paranoid relative, it is important to accept his illness, his disproportionate reactions and his way of interpreting his environment.

A paranoid person with delusions of persecution needs reassurance. Try to earn his trust and demonstrate your good intentions. It is therefore necessary to express yourself very clearly and avoid artifice so as not to arouse your suspicions.

Also avoid double meaning phrases, insinuations and threats. A paranoid person will often take your words seriously.

If you want to introduce him to new people, talk to him first. An unintentional error can be misinterpreted. The paranoid may think that you want to harm or put him down.

To convince him of a particular subject, try to justify your choices or support your ideas with clear laws or rules.

A paranoid person is not aware of his illness and therefore thinks he is right in all circumstances, which makes the task all the more difficult.

If you find that the paranoid person is becoming dangerous to themselves or to others, contact the competent authorities without delay, depending on the situation.

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