In accordance with DSM (more specifically, DSM-5, released in 2013), paranoid schizophrenia and all other schizophrenia sub-types cannot be diagnosed. This decision was determined as it had been found that this diagnosis was not help to clinicians helping individuals who struggle with the disorder. ¹
However, it may help you to understand that even if you can’t be diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, you can still experience paranoid symptoms brought upon by this disorder. In fact, paranoid symptoms remain one of the top criterion for diagnosing schizophrenia. ²
Generally speaking, paranoia is a term used to associate a sense of distrust. People who struggle with schizophrenia tend to have an irrational, yet fixed, belief that they are in danger.
In turn, this symptoms can produce hallucinations and delusions that lead to even worse mental conditions, such as confusion, anxiety, and mistrust in others.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look into paranoid schizophrenia and its respective symptoms. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What Are Paranoid Delusions?
One of the most common symptoms for paranoid schizophrenia is experiencing delusions. These are fixed beliefs that are false in reality. For example, one may assume someone is always watching them when, in reality, this isn’t true. ³
Delusions are powerful. Even when someone experiencing this symptom is presented a large amount of information proving that the belief is false, s/he may still continue to believe in it.
There different types of delusions you may find yourself experiencing. The following are the most common:
- Control – the belief that you are being controlled or manipulated beyond your influence.
- Grandiosity – the belief that you hold special powers or abilities that most people don’t experience.
- Jealousy – the belief that someone is deceiving you. For example, you may believe your significant other is being unfaithful when, in reality, s/he is completely committed.
- Persecution – the belief that your life is interfered with or the center of a conspiracy.
- Reference – the belief that there are environmental cues directed towards yourself. For example, when ads appear on television that you have a fixed interest in. Or, when a song comes on the radio that speaks to you.
- Somatic – the irrational belief that your body is experiencing a disease.
- Thoughts Insertion – the belief that other forces are putting ideas into your mind.
People who experience paranoid delusions often feel as though they are being judged, unable to trust other people, and are at risk of harm. Furthermore, they may feel completely isolated in their experiences and misunderstood by people around them.
What Are Paranoid Hallucinations?
Paranoid hallucinations are similar to paranoid delusions in the sense that they bring upon a false idea of reality. The key difference is a paranoid hallucination will bring upon false sensory perception. ⁴
This means the following can be effected:
- Auditory (sound)
- Gustatory (taste)
- Olfactory (smell)
- Tactile (touch)
- Visual (sight)
The most common senses to be affected by paranoid schizophrenia are sight and sound. Many people who experience this symptom will hear and see things that aren’t really there.
These experiences can include, but are not limited to:
- Hearing voices from a specific source (i.e. a speaker)
- Hearing voices that are conversing or telling you what to do
- Hearing sudden sounds when nothing is present
- Hearing specific sounds (such as humming, screaming, whistling, or laughing) when no one is around
- Seeing faces and bodies appear from nowhere
- Seeing images that aren’t really there (sometimes linked to an event)
People who struggle with paranoid hallucinations often find them to be both unwelcoming and overwhelming. In turn, paranoid hallucinations can lead to confusion and anxiety.
Living With Paranoid Schizophrenia
The most common trait among those living with paranoid schizophrenia is isolation. When you’re experiencing paranoid delusions and hallucinations, you’re not only fueling your anxiety, but you’ll find it difficult to explain these experiences to other people. ⁵
In turn, day-to-day experiences become a nightmare. Whether it’s building/maintaining a relationship, holding onto employment, or simply engaging in certain daily tasks, paranoid schizophrenia can take a huge toll on the mind, body, and spirit.
Dr. Lisa Cowley, a schizophrenia treatment specialist, put it perfectly when she said: ⁶
“To these folks, their symptoms appear like they are really happening. So, if they feel like the government is spying on them through cameras in their home, they wouldn’t go see a psychiatrist or psychologist, they would try to contact authorities.”Lisa Cowley
Some people with paranoid schizophrenia become aware of their mental illness as symptoms progress and intensify. In other cases, a person might be so lost in their delusions and hallucinations, they may avoid seeking help.
In either case, it’s vital for family members and support services to encourage treatment. This is the only way for people to overcome paranoid schizophrenia and get back into a daily routine.
Paranoid Schizophrenia Treatment
As of this time, medical professionals don’t have a cure for schizophrenia. However, they do offer a number of available treatment options in order to help you live out a full and productive life. ⁷
These include two sets of therapy:
- Medication – Usually, anti-psychotics, to help calm disorderly delusions and hallucinations.
- Psychotherapy – Usually, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you identify negative behaviors and works towards positive behaviors. This therapy can take place in either an individual setting, group setting, or other supportive services.
Studies have found that the combination of these two treatments usually works best for individuals struggling with paranoid schizophrenia.
It may also benefit you to look into more natural ways to treat your symptoms, such as organic supplements and mindful meditation.
How to Support a Loved One
However, even with treatment, the best way for someone to overcome paranoid schizophrenia is with a support system. By practicing healthy limits and remaining patient, a supporter can have a number of positive effects on an individual that may just go beyond traditional treatment.
If you have a loved on who struggles with schizophrenia, here are a few tips to help you support him/her:
- Advocate – Always encourage your loved one to follow through with their treatment plan – whether this means taking their medication or going to therapy sessions.
- Avoid Arguments – Arguing has the potential to worsen symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. With a bit of patience, it’s vital you listen to what your loved one has to say and do your best to make him/her feel safe.
- Be Ready for Paranoia – Paranoia tends to manifest itself in patterns, giving you the opportunity to understand it better. Even when your loved one is not feeling paranoid, make sure to plan ahead for any potential fears or threats.
- Be Their Reality Check – As mentioned throughout this article, it can be difficult for someone who’s struggling with paranoid schizophrenia to know what’s real. This makes it important to have those around them who can help identify what’s real and less concerns brought upon by delusions and hallucinations.
- Give Them Space – As mentioned throughout this article, one of the biggest symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia is feeling alone. However, the opposite may also happen – where your loved one feels as though they’re trapped or surrounded. If s/he advocates these feelings, it’s important to give him/her space.
- Practice Self-Care – If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of a loved one? It’s important for you to be aware of your own needs – physical, mental, and spiritual – and work on making these better. This will give you more energy to help a loved one.
- Seek Help When Necessary – You may be led to believe that your loved one is in danger of harming him/herself or those around. If so, it’s vital you reach out to a medical professional or call 9-1-1.
It’s not easy to overcome paranoid schizophrenia. Hallucinations and delusions can feel so real that an individual may feel lost within them. However, no matter how lost you may feel, we guarantee there is help available.
Still have questions concerning paranoid schizophrenia?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge on the topic – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ Asian Journal of Psychiatry: Psychotic disorder in DSM-5: Summary of changes
² U.S. National Library of Medicine: Schizophrenia
³ Mental Illness Policy: Delusions in Schizophrenia: Fact Sheet
⁴ Industrial Psychiatry Journal: Hallucinations: Clinical aspects and management
⁵ Harvard Medical School: Schizophrenia
⁶ Dr. Lisa Cowley: Schizophrenia Specialist
⁷ Pharmacy and Therapeutics: Schizophrenia: Overview and Treatment