Paranoia is described as an irrational fear or anxiety and occurs as delusions in schizophrenia. According to the BBC in 2006, 1 in 3 people in the UK regularly feel suspicious or paranoid. Since I live in the UK I am interested to learn that the most significant factor for feelings of paranoia is from people who feared negative comments were being made about them, (40%), and people were deliberately trying to irritate them (27%). I believe the level of paranoia probably peaked under the Labour party in the UK (1997-2010) who seem to have become a ‘Big Brother’ party. I realise how ironic it is to speak of paranoia being a delusion, and then state that ‘Big Brother’ exists. But surveillance of the public is a major fact, and distress to schizophrenia suffers, and it is widespread.
In schizophrenia, paranoia takes the form of delusions that are often persecutory (not always) such as the government following them, or from auditory hallucinations (voices), and visual hallucinations which are rare.
This site www.paranoidthoughts.com suggested by the BBC, is extremely useful in my opinion. There are real life accounts of people who have paranoia which is very touching, and profound. The website seems to be run by the NHS so the information is up to date. You can assess your scale of paranoia on this website by answering a questionnaire. Be sure to use Internet Explorer as other browsers don’t work.
Families: In an article for schizophrenia.com under ‘Understanding Dysfunctional Relationship Patterns in Your Family’, it appears that my symptoms of paranoia may have been worsened, or even partly caused by my parents’ who displayed antisocial behaviour. My father had alcohol problems, and he often used me as a possession in my parents’ divorce.
Cycle of Paranoia
I do believe that when I am paranoid, and unable to distinguish reality from delusions, I start to create problems all around me, such as alienating my family, friends, and loved ones. I start to become annoyed at things that don’t usually bother me, and in the past I do believe that my remarks and criticisms have actually made people react in a negative way, often making things worse and certainly people have bullied me calling me ‘mental’ and ‘weird’. They usually stop when they find out I have an illness, which shows great tact but sometimes I need my family and friends who help me through those times in need. We need to break the cycle of paranoia if we are able to by concentrating on real pride, self-worth, and zeal which are great emotions as well as great building blocks for recovery.
Causes of Paranoia
After reading about paranoia it appears that there are many reasons for the cause of paranoia in the general population, such as the lack of freedom from ‘Big Brother’ in terms of camera’s stopping us from speeding in the UK or spying on us, and feelings of inadequacy. This inadequacy is the most probable cause for paranoia in schizophrenia. It causes feelings of guilt and a lack of power and status. Being jobless may cause major problems with housing, and relationships.
These inadequacies may be there hidden in parts of the psyche associated with delusions of grandeur (where the person is perceived to be more important than they are). There is a difference it appears from paranoid depression and paranoid mania, and it’s probably worth knowing which one you, or others who have schizophrenia suffer.
As a rule of thumb, I tend to doubt the words of psychologists who question that mental illnesses have a biological cause. For example we know that the lack of dopamine is a sound hypothesis for the causes of schizophrenia, and that it is largely an organic illness in the brain. But a few psychologists keep suggesting that it’s a personality problem, blaming mainly environmental factors and personal mental flaws for the main root causes. They are in the minority. In truth a lot of the possible non biological causes for my schizophrenia besides my lab accident have not been discussed by my psychiatrist. The environmental causes for paranoid schizophrenia are said to trigger the illness, which I do believe.
I believe paranoia is a definite chemical problem in the brain, that it can be helped through environmental and personal factors based on taking the right medication, and having the right doctor, and family, and or friends. For I used to be such a good pupil at school, one of the best in my ‘whole’ school, and my illness seemed to destroy all my cognitive abilities at first.
I was a sports athlete, with many successes on and off the field. I had plenty of mates, but my paranoia seemed to get progressively worse with time, even though I passed my degree in 2009 and was diagnosed in 2001. Perhaps my feelings of inadequacy, which are definitely related to stress and are transient, have become so deep-rooted in myself, that I cannot even acknowledge it. Antipsychotics such as Olanzapine however work by helping me battle paranoia, blocking the over abundance of dopamine in my brain. These drugs were designed from research on the organic hypothesis. I got progressively worse after my diagnosis, but these drugs may have helped heal the brain, over time. Now over a decade later, I have begun to recover, thanks to falling in love, and changing my diet and lifestyle. I try to exercise every day.
Drugs: It does appear that many websites are leaving out the link between taking drugs and being paranoid. Even though I do not take drugs, I was exposed to solvents when I was 16 which led to my first nervous breakdown. So I for one do believe that cannabis and other drugs, such as LSD may trigger paranoid idea’s and beliefs. Recent research may have proven this to be questionable.
Genes: Research seems to also indicate that paranoia can be inherited from genetic factors by the sufferer’s family. I know that my father, who wasn’t far from being schizophrenic did have many persisting persecutory delusions, that he told me about towards the end of his life about the nature of previous wife’s, and making things happen by simply looking at people on the television screen.
Some psychologists suggest that dopamine may not be the main factor for the cause of paranoid schizophrenia and that glutamatergic effects are the problem. Glutamate is one of the most abundant chemicals neurotransmitter in the brain.
In the case of myself, I regularly take my medication, and don’t miss any days, although I know how difficult this can be through side-effects such as weight gain, and yes I’ve missed them before. I also confide in others via this blog, my family, girlfriend, and my Dr. I believe that stress is the biggest trigger of my paranoia, so I reduce my stress levels with hobbies, reading books, and taking exercise. I have a ‘false perceptions diary’ where I also list all my delusions.
Some delusions have been so amazing and beautiful in a way. I thought that I was the real Time Lord behind the ‘Dr Who’ series on TV. And I also believed that my late father was a time traveller and I have inherited his powers, because he was the ‘real’ man called Doc Brown in the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy played by Christopher Lloyd, and staring Michael J Fox. Maybe my inadequacy was present here because I just wanted him back beside me to say “I love you”. Happy father’s day for Sunday dad.
Other than finding out proof that delusions are false for oneself, other measures involve psychoanalytic techniques such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and poetry therapy as discussed on this blog and can be seen in my archives. I don’t believe that all schizophrenics are dismissive of help from others as many websites say, and that we actually do seek help, and that if help isn’t given we can be drawn to suicidal thoughts and even take our own lives. Please don’t give up.
The BBC sates that ways to overcome paranoia are:-
- Share thoughts with trusted others.
- Imagine another person’s perspective.
- Do not treat thoughts as facts and think of alternative explanations for events.
- Try not to ruminate on the thoughts.
- Do not let the thoughts stop you from doing what you want to do.
- Remember the positive things about yourself.
Wikihow suggests that people:-
- Help the paranoid person stay calm and not to live in a series of panic.
- Do not diagnose or treat any psychological or mental issues without help from mental health professionals.
- Help your family member or friend in seeking a diagnosis and advice from a psychologist, psychotherapist, a clinical social worker, or a psychiatrist trained in dealing with emotional and mental health.
- Realize that if self-control is not possible or is very erratic then the person may not be able to improve without some form of medication for limiting stress.
My final words are that one should take pride in oneself, and realise that there are real friendships out there who want to help you with your paranoia. The paranoid thoughts site is a good start, and so is taking the test mentioned at the beginning of this blog. Take notes of when your delusions go away and why they seem to go. Read all the information in my references section if you want more discussion.For me emotional highs are the true way to happiness through inspirational poems and films and music such as “Endless Love” written by Lionel Ritchie and sung with Diana Ross. Paranoid songs don’t tend to be that good, or tell us that much, or be remembered in my opinion. The best ones are about ways of coping with life.References
Hypothesis: Grandiosity and Guilt Cause Paranoia; Paranoid Schizophrenia is a Psychotic Mood Disorder; a Review by Charles Raymond LakeInteractions between glutamatergic and monoaminergic systems within the basal ganglia-implications for schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease by Maria Carlsson and Arvid Carlsson.
Paranoia ‘a widespread problem’ (BBC NEWS)
Understanding Dysfunctional Relationship Patterns in Your Family (www.schizophrenia.com)
Schizophrenia? What Causes Paranoid Schizophrenia? (www.medicalnewstoday.com)
How to Get Rid of Paranoia (www.depressionguide.com)
How To Help Paranoid People (www.wikihow.com)