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The causes are unclear The causes of paranoia are unclear and depend on the condition with which it is associated. Theories include: Genes — research is scanty and inconclusive. It is also unclear whether genetic predisposition to paranoia — if it exists — is inherited or not. Brain chemistry — brain chemicals neurotransmitters form the basis of thoughts and feelings. Certain drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines alter brain chemistry and can bring on paranoid thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

This leads some researchers to believe that paranoia may be a biochemical disorder of the brain. The causes of this possible disorder are unknown. Traumatic life events — for example, abuse in childhood may distort the way a person thinks and feels throughout life. Stress reaction — some studies have found that paranoia is more common in people who have experienced severe and ongoing stress — for example, prisoners of war.

How stress can trigger paranoia is unclear. A combination of factors — it may be that a number of genetic and environmental factors working in combination cause paranoia. Diagnosis The condition causing the paranoia can be difficult to diagnose because an exaggerated sense of mistrust is common to a range of mental disorders and also occurs in some people with dementia.

Another difficulty is that a person who has paranoia may avoid doctors, hospitals and other medical settings for fear of being harmed. Diagnosis may include: Medical history Physical examination Assessment of symptoms Psychological tests Tests to rule out other psychiatric disorders that may be causing the symptoms.

Treatment While there is no absolute cure for the conditions that cause paranoia, treatment can help the person cope with their symptoms and live a happier, more productive life. Treatment depends on the type and severity of the condition but may include: Medications — anti-anxiety drugs or antipsychotic drugs can ease some of the symptoms. However, a person with paranoia may often refuse to take medication because they are afraid it will harm them.

Therapy — this can help the person to cope with their symptoms and may improve their ability to function. However, a person with paranoia is unlikely to talk openly and freely to a therapist, so progress can be extremely slow. Options may include relaxation therapy, techniques to reduce anxiety, and behaviour modification.

Hospital admission — in severe cases, the person may need to stay in hospital until the condition causing paranoia stabilises. References Paranoia and delusional disorders , Mental Health America. More information here. Send us your feedback. Rate this website Your comments Questions Your details. Excellent Good Average Fair Poor. Next Submit Now Cancel. Please note that we cannot answer personal medical queries. Enter your comments below optional. Did you find what you were looking for? Yes No.

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Your feedback has been successfully sent. Mental illness. Forensic mental health Forensic mental health services provide assessment and treatment of people with a mental disorder and a history of criminal offending, or those who are at risk of offending Let's talk about depression in men Depression affects men of all ages, however men continue to seek help for mental health issues at significantly lower rates than women. Mental health first aid Mental health first aid is the help you give to someone developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis Mental health laws and compulsory patients If you are a compulsory patient under the Mental Health Act, you have rights and there are people who can help you Mental illness explained The relationship between stress and mental illness is complex, but it is known that stress can worsen an episode of mental illness Mental illness treatments The correct treatment for mental illness can help a person?

Types of mental illness Anxiety disorders Anxiety disorders are common mental health problems that affect many people Bipolar disorder Bipolar disorder is a type of psychosis, which means the person? Body dysmorphic disorder BDD People with body dysmorphic disorder constantly worry about the way they look Borderline personality disorder People with borderline personality disorder may exhibit extreme behaviour, such as repeated self-mutilation or taking overdoses of medication Depression explained The most important thing is to recognise the signs and symptoms and seek support Dissociation and dissociative disorders Dissociation is a mental process where a person disconnects from their thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity Eating disorders Eating disorders are a mental illness and can affect women and men of all age groups Heart disease and mental health Did you know that your mental health can affect your heart health and your heart health can affect your mental health?

Munchausen syndrome Munchausen syndrome is a mental disorder in which the patient fakes illness to gain attention and sympathy Obsessive compulsive disorder Obsessive compulsive disorder can have a profound effect on a person's life Panic attack Without treatment, frequent and prolonged panic attacks can be severely disabling Post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD People with post-traumatic stress disorder often experience feelings of panic or extreme fear, which may resemble what was felt during the traumatic event Psychosis In psychosis, the everyday thoughts that enable us to lead our daily lives become confused Schizoaffective disorder Diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder may be difficult because the symptoms are similar to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia Schizophrenia People with schizophrenia do not have 'split personalities' and they are not intellectually disabled Substance misuse and mental illness — dual diagnosis Dual diagnosis means someone has both a mental illness and a substance use problem Eating disorders Anorexia nervosa A common misconception is that anorexia nervosa only affects young women, but it affects males and females of all ages Binge eating disorder You can recover from binge eating disorder with the right help and commitment Bulimia nervosa Understanding the warning signs of bulimia nervosa and seeking help as soon as possible will help your recovery Eating disorders and adolescents Often, an eating disorder develops as a way for an adolescent to feel in control about what's happening in their life Eating disorders - support for families You have the potential to be a great support to your family member if they are diagnosed with an eating disorder Support, services and treatment Antipsychotic medications Antipsychotic medications don?

Cognitive behaviour therapy Cognitive behaviour therapy CBT can help you change unhelpful or unhealthy habits of thinking, feeling and behaving Counsellors Anyone who is struggling with a personal concern can seek help from a counsellor Mental health care plans A mental health care plan explains the support provided by each member of a person's healthcare team Mental health problems - early care helps If emotional or behavioural problems are disrupting your life, it's important to seek professional help early Mental health services - case managers A case manager looks after your interests while you are a client of public government mental health services Based on the findings of a national cyber-crime victimization survey in from a national list of people who reported having internet access Alshalan Velicer, found that both older people and women exhibited the greatest fear; despite young males being the most often victimized.

However, it is genuinely difficult to assess what is possible technologically and how frequently it may occur. Is it any surprise then that technological advancement, which arguably should generate a feeling of empowerment, perhaps generates, at least for some a profound and general sense of powerlessness and vulnerability Alshalan, ? On balance, the weight of the evidence points to an excessive level of fear regarding information technology within society, in that the level of fear seems to be out of proportion to the actual risks.

We aimed to specify and quantify these relatively common fears so as to develop a novel measure of cyber-paranoia; in particular addressing the nature of its relationship to trait paranoia and use of information technology more generally. Data was collected both using an anonymous internet survey and via snowballing to aid recruitment, in particular by attracting information technology professionals. Additionally, the survey was promoted using social-networking media, advertised by posters in University computer rooms and it was also spread via word of mouth.

All promotional attempts were based in the UK, though it is possible international respondents became aware of the online study. No participants were paid for their participation. Fifty participants self-identified as IT professionals. This self-report measure was devised specifically for the present study.

Paranoia and the social representation of others: a large-scale game theory approach

It investigates the prevalence of paranoid beliefs pertaining to relatively modern forms of communication, information, and surveillance. An item pool of 26 items was generated in consultation with social scientists interested in information technology, and by consulting with technology users about common fears. A four-point scale was used as this omits a neutral point and thereby reduces any tendency to a non-committal stance on a subject. This resulted in the selection of six items to measure cyber-paranoia, and five items to measure cyber-fear. The 20 item Paranoia scale Fenigstein and Vanable, was developed to measure paranoia in college students, and includes items assessing both ideas of persecution and reference.

Awareness of technology, years of internet use and frequency of internet use were assessed by single item five-point Likert scales. Descriptives, including the subscales derived from factor analysis, are given in Table 1. The means and standard deviations seen for the Paranoia Scale are similar to those previously reported in the general population Fenigstein and Vanable, The newly devised items were submitted to EFA.

Subsequent EFA was conducted both using principal axis analysis and Promax rotation, and, as a further check with maximum likelihood analysis with Varimax rotation which produced highly similar results.


This process led to the final set of selected items shown in Table 2. EFA of these items explained This led to subscales formed of six cyber-paranoia and five cyber-fear items: both have adequate internal consistency Alpha coefficients of 0. Differences on the subscales were investigated with respect to the two groups of participants general population vs. The concurrent validity of subscales was investigated by comparing its subscales with the Paranoia Scale see Table 3. While older participants in both groups were somewhat less paranoid in general, this did not extend to cyber-fear and cyber-paranoia, indeed in the general population sample cyber-paranoia increased with age.

In addition, the Cyber-Fear and Cyber-Paranoia subscales produced quite different patterns of relationships with technology awareness and internet use to general trait paranoia that were also group dependent see Table 3. In the general population cyber-fear was associated with fewer years of internet use, and cyber-paranoia with less awareness, fewer years and lower frequency of internet use. These findings were not seen in the IT professionals for whom many of these indices were understandably somewhat at ceiling. There is much clinical evidence of technology being incorporated into paranoid delusions at the more severe end of psychosis Catalano et al.

On the present evidence, the relationship is relatively modest at least in the general population and suggests that much variance may be relatively unique to cyber-fear and cyber-paranoia. Intriguingly there was a much greater relationship with general trait paranoia in IT professionals for whom technological awareness is uniformly greater. This may suggest that when IT knowledge is uniformly very high, as it is for the IT professionals, their non-rational paranoia perceptions result from their general trait paranoia.

Moreover the Cyber-Paranoia Scale produced a different pattern of relationships with age and technological use and awareness. Unlike general trait paranoia, in the general population cyber-fear and cyber-paranoia were associated with lower internet and smartphone use as well as lower familiarity. This perhaps mirrors the findings of Freeman et al.

However, while lack of familiarity and knowledge predict content to delusional ideation, other predictors of paranoia may well not apply, at least in the same way, to information technology. These include the presence of hallucinatory experiences, perceptual anomalies, reasoning biases need for closure, jumping to conclusions , and emotional processes anxiety, depression, self-focus, interpersonal sensitivity.

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  4. Although the present study did not directly assess what predicts cyber-paranoia from this list, it is likely to be a more specialized sub-set of these factors. What the pattern of results also suggest is that there may be different drivers to cyber-fears, and to cyber-paranoia in particular, in different groups: lower technological awareness and use predict these in the general population, whereas for a highly IT literate group, trait paranoia exerts a stronger influence.

    Given the association with lower technological awareness, future research should assess whether accurate information provision and education about information technologies leads to a reduction of these fears. There are several limitations to the study: it is based on a fairly technologically literate and relatively youthful sample — the pattern of results may well differ in other populations and these are deserving of study.

    paranoia | Definition, Types, & Facts |

    There were insufficient respondents to examine the factorial validity of the measure and it may well be that some items more genuinely reflect paranoid concerns intention of others to cause harm and heightened perception of threat. The sample is relatively small for testing the dimensional structure of a new scale and only EFA could be used. Further study in a second sample for testing the two-factor solution by confirmatory factor analysis is a necessary addition. Trait paranoia is a complex and multi-faceted construct and only a single rather general measure was used in the present study.

    More recent measures have stressed persecutory beliefs that may be very relevant to areas such as social networking in particular. Use of the scale in a social networking context would be of significant interest. Our final point is a conceptual one, as it may be argued that a fear should only be labeled truly paranoid if it is clearly false though this may often be difficult to reliably ascertain. Oftentimes, new developments in information and communication technology may be unusual in that the genuine scope for their use and misuse are still in the process of being fully explored both by their developers and users.

    Indeed, the boundaries between what is and is not possible with regards to technology are becoming increasingly blurred to the extent that even information experts debate them Lewis and Fox, ; Ohm, Factor analysis suggested the presence of two inter-correlated factors that we have termed cyber-fear and cyber-paranoia. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

    We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Dr. John King in forming the ideas contained in the study. Alshalan, A. Bell, V. Psychopathology 38, — Benski, T. Internet and Emotions. Oxford: Routledge. Google Scholar. Berner, S. Cyber-terrorism: reality or paranoia? South Afr. Billieux, J. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox.

    More About Paranoia 4 references found in Britannica articles Assorted References classification by Kraepelin In Emil Kraepelin delusion symptoms In delusion mental disorders In psychosis: Functional psychoses In mental disorder: Paranoid personality disorder. Help us improve this article! Contact our editors with your feedback. Edit Mode. Tips For Editing. You may find it helpful to search within the site to see how similar or related subjects are covered.

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