Paranoid schizophrenia is a subtype of schizophrenia in which the patient has delusions (false beliefs) that a person or some individuals are plotting against them or members of their family. Paranoid schizophrenia is the most common schizophrenia type.
The majority of people with paranoid schizophrenia, as with most schizophrenia subtypes may also have auditory hallucinations - they hear things that are not real. They may also have delusions of personal grandeur - a false belief that they are much greater and more powerful and influential than they really are.
An individual with paranoid schizophrenia may spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking up ways of protecting themselves from their persecutors.
Typically, a person with paranoid schizophrenia has fewer problems with memory, dulled emotions and concentration compared to those with other subtypes; which allows them to think and function more successfully. Even so, paranoid schizophrenia is a chronic (long-term, lifelong) condition which may eventually lead to complications, including suicidal thoughts and behavior.
With proper treatment and support, patients have a very good chance of leading happy and productive lives.
Contents of this article:
Signs and symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia?
A symptom is something the patient senses and describes, while a sign is something other people, such as the doctor notice. For example, drowsiness may be a symptom while dilated pupils may be a sign.
The patient will have relatively stable, frequently paranoid delusions, which are usually accompanied by auditory hallucinations (hearing things that are not there) and perceptual disturbances.
Some schizophrenia symptoms are not prominent, such as disturbances of volition, affect, speech and catatonia.
- Auditory hallucinations - hearing voices that are not there (they don't exist). Visual hallucinations are possible, but rare.
- Delusions - beliefs that are not real; false personal beliefs that are not subject to reason or contradictory evidence. The patient may firmly believe something, even though there is incontrovertible evidence that it is false. En example may be a belief that a neighbor is plotting to kill or poison the patient.
- Anxiety - a patient with paranoid schizophrenia will usually suffer from periods of high anxiety.
- Anger - this emotional state may range from mild irritation, which most healthy individuals sometimes have, to fury and rage. Anger may raise heart rate, blood pressure and levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline.
- Detachment - the patient may sometimes be physically or emotionally; reserved and remote (aloofness)
- Aggression and violence - aggression may reach levels in which violent outbursts occur.
- Condescension - sometimes the patient may seem patronizing; perhaps they may feel they know stuff other people don't and subsequently assume such a manner.
- Suicidal thoughts and behavior - these may be noticeable by people around the individual, with statements such as "I wish I were dead", I am going to kill myself", or "I wish I had never been born". The patient may go further and obtain the means to kill himself/herself, such as getting a weapon or accumulating pills. Other warning signs may be:
- Becoming socially withdrawn
- Mood swings - however, mood disorders and problems with thinking are less common in this type of schizophrenia
- Being obsessed with death, dying or violence
- Feeling trapped or desperate
- Increased consumption of drugs (including illegal ones) and alcohol
- Changing eating or sleeping patterns
- Starting to get their affairs in order and giving away belongings
- Saying goodbye to people in a specific way (as if they are never going to see them again).
Risk factors for paranoid schizophreniaA risk factor is something which increases the likelihood of developing a condition or disease. For example, obesity significantly raises the risk of developing diabetes type 2. Therefore, obesity is a risk factor for diabetes type 2.
The risk factors for paranoid schizophrenia are basically the same as those for most schizophrenia sub-types, including:
- Genetics - individuals with a family history of schizophrenia have a higher risk of developing it themselves. If there is no history of schizophrenia in your family your chances of developing it (any type) are less than 1%. However, that risk rises to 10% if one of your parents was/is a sufferer.
- Viral infection - if the fetus (unborn baby in the womb) is exposed to a viral infection, there is a bigger risk of developing schizophrenia.
- Fetal malnutrition - if the fetus suffers from malnutrition during the mother's pregnancy there is a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.
- Stress during early life - experts say that severe stress early on in life may be a contributory factor towards the development of schizophrenia. Stressful experiences often precede the emergence of schizophrenia. Before any acute symptoms are apparent, people with schizophrenia habitually become bad-tempered, anxious, and unfocussed. This can trigger relationship problems. These factors are often blamed for the onset of the disease, when really it was the other way round - the disease caused the crisis. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to know whether schizophrenia caused certain stresses or occurred as a result of them.
- Childhood abuse or trauma
- Parental age when baby is born - older parents have a higher risk of having children who subsequently develop schizophrenia, compared to younger parents.
- Drugs - the use of drugs that affect the mind or mental processes may sometimes raise the risk of developing schizophrenia.
Causes of schizophrenia
Nobody is certain what the causes of paranoid schizophrenia and all other schizophrenia sub-types are. Research suggests that most forms of schizophrenia are caused by brain dysfunction; we just don't know why that brain dysfunction happens. Most probably, it is caused by a combination of genetics and environmental triggers.
What are environmental triggers? Imagine your body is a series of buttons, and some of those buttons result in schizophrenia if somebody comes and presses them enough times and in the right sequences. The buttons would be your genetic susceptibility, while the individual pressing them would be the environmental factors.
Experts think that an imbalance of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is involved in the onset of schizophrenia. They also believe that this imbalance is most probably caused by your genes making you susceptible to the illness. Some scientists say the levels of other neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, may also be involved.
Changes in key brain functions, such as perception, emotion and behavior lead experts to conclude that the brain is the biological site of schizophrenia.
On the next page we look at how paranoid schizophrenia is diagnosed, the treatment options and the possible complications associated with paranoid schizophrenia.