What Is a Paranoid Personality?

A woman with paranoia.
People with paranoia can meet with a mental health professional to talk about treatment options.
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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 24 June 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A paranoid personality, often expressed by individuals with a paranoid personality disorder, is characterized by excessive and irrational mistrust and suspicion of other people or entities. Such individuals tend to feel that others are constantly plotting against them or that, at the very least, they have motives that are not beneficial to the afflicted individual. Accordingly, paranoid people tend to find it very difficult to form close personal relationships because they are always suspicious and mistrustful of those around them. They also tend to find it very difficult to seek help, as they are generally hesitant to admit that their paranoid suspicions are merely delusions.

The mistrust and suspicion of an individual with a paranoid personality may manifest itself in any of a number of diverse forms. In addition to general suspicion of the motives of others, paranoid individuals are highly reluctant to confide in other people because they believe that any personal information they confide in others could be used against them. If a paranoid person is in a romantic relationship, he will often suspect his partner of infidelity or will doubt his partner's affection and commitment. Also symptomatic of this type of personality is reading far too deeply into innocent and meaningless gestures and phrases.

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The factors that contribute to the development of a paranoid personality are not well understood, but they are believed to be both psychological and biological in nature. People who have suffered from some form of childhood trauma are more likely to suffer from paranoia than those who did not. There are also suspicions of some form of genetic link, as family members often have similar disorders.

Many different treatment options are available for paranoid individuals who are willing and able to admit they have a problem. While psychotherapy without medication is an option, it is often complicated by the fact that trust is an essential part of therapy. If one with a paranoid personality cannot develop some form of rapport with his therapist, he will likely be unable to benefit significantly from therapy. As such, psychotherapy is often combined with a variety of antipsychotic, antidepressant, and antianxiety medications.

A paranoid personality can, in some cases, be a symptom of or indicative of some other disorder. Brief psychotic episodes, for instance, often involve intense paranoia. A variety of other disorders, including schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder, also often involve paranoia. Paranoia, to an extent, also result from the abuse of alcohol or other drugs.

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Discuss this Article

Speechie
Post 6

@jonrss – I understand your feelings about it being easy to get information or so it seems, and the paranoia about the internet is understandable as it could feel like someone could take a long peek at your life via the internet – but here’s what I say about that in my non-paranoid life – Who would want to take a long peek into my life?

Maybe that train of thought will help you in worrying about others invading your privacy via the Internet.

If such thoughts don't sooth the paranoia, maybe you should look into paranoid personality disorder tests, because as with most disorders there are many avenues that can help (you know if you feel the paranoia might be impacting your everyday life negatively).

snickerish
Post 5

Its interesting to read everyone's comments as I would not have thought of a paranoid personality characteristics to have so many near characteristics such as "being observant" or simply "pessimistic".

But then again maybe that is because I am optimistic. So I have thought about the near characteristics to "optimistic" such as "naive".

In the world of mental illness where paranoia that might be simply being astutely observant or little pessimistic about the world around them becomes a debilitating mindset, I find paranoia's genetic piece interesting.

Here's why - I come from a family who has a mother with Bipolar disorder without a hit of paranoia (actually she even had very little depression), a brother with schizophrenia with quite a bit of paranoia of other people, and a sister with obsessive compulsive disorder with lots of self paranoia.

So where the genetic expression of paranoia and where the gene for that came from is interesting considering the genetic pieces of my family that I know of and the expressions of it in my family (that I know of as well).

blackDagger
Post 4

I think we all have a little paranoia from time to time, and I think that that is perfectly normal. As such, a person with paranoid personality disorder will really stand out.

I know a lady who has this issue, and boy is she a tough cookie to deal with. One day she thinks you’re just great and dandy, and then the next she has decided that you hate her because you said some offhanded remark that she took the wrong way.

These folks really do need help, and can be helped, but must first accept that they have a problem.

Naturally, people who need paranoid personality disorder treatment are watching out for all of the rest of the world coming to hurt them. They aren’t looking at themselves as the problem. That can make treatment very difficult.

Domido
Post 3

You know, I have such a hard time deciding if I am actually incredibly paranoid, or just very observant. Perhaps, I’m just a pessimist, but I often do feel that people are just plain out to get each other.

I’m actually a pretty nice person, and I have always made friends easily. However, I don’t trust people easily at all. I tell only what I want to tell, and a person really has to gain my trust for me to confide in them.

However, many of my family members have accused me of being paranoid. For instance, I thought something was wrong with my husband; something just wasn’t right to me. I confided this to my mother, who immediately attacked me with the whole, “You’re such a paranoid, little fruitloop! He’s fine!” sort of defense.

Come to find out, he was cheating on me. Was I paranoid? Or was I just observant?

Sometimes, I think that some folks like to live in a dream world, and they don’t like to let the bad things touch their lives. They call us realists ‘paranoid’ as a way to avoid the truth.

backdraft
Post 2

@jonrss - I feel the same way. But this is something new for me. I used to be a very carefree person and it is only within the last few years that I have fond myself becoming really paranoid.

The weird thing is that there does not seem to be a reason. There was not big event in my life that would have made me more paranoid. Its like I just went to bed one night and woke up the next morning looking over my shoulder.

So can anyone tell me more about paranoid personality disorder causes? I'm not sure this is what I have, it might just be a borderline disorder or something even smaller than that. But I've done some research online and a lot of this seems familiar. Getting some first hand information would be great.

jonrss
Post 1

I worry sometimes that I have a paranoid personality. I am always very conscious that someone might be following me on the street, or listening to my phone conversations or reading my emails.

I have been this way ever since I was a kid. I guess I'm always wondering if someone is watching me. It doesn't help that that kind of thing is so easy these days. Cameras are tiny and everything is connected through the internet. It seems like if someone wanted they could take a big long peek at your life.

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