Paranoid illusions: causes and treatment


Paranoid delusions, also known as delusions of persecution, are fears, anxieties and suspicions based on the perception of victimization or unfounded feelings of threat from outside forces such as individuals or government agencies.

What is illusion?

A hoax is a false belief that a person claims to be true despite evidence to the contrary. It is very important to understand that cultural beliefs or oppression are not considered delusions.

Unlike paranoia, paranoid illusions become so persistent that nothing can convince someone what they think or believe is not true. Paranoid delusion is not classified as a separate mental health disorder; rather, it is often a symptom of other mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, paranoid personality disorder, and delusional disorder .

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What are paranoid illusions?

Paranoid illusions are unfounded feelings that someone or a group is trying to mistreat, harm, or sabotage you or someone close to you. You may feel like someone is conspiring against you and trying to ruin your life when there is no evidence for your claim. Irritability, anger, and bad mood are characteristic of the delusional person.

A person with such delusions believes so strongly in his perceived threats that no one, not even those closest to him, can convince them that they are not real. They often report their false or grossly exaggerated statements to professional authorities.


Symptoms that can accompany paranoid delusions include:

  • Strong and irrational feelings of mistrust or suspicion.
  • Hypervigilance
  • Difficulty forgiving
  • Defensive response to imaginary criticism
  • Concern for ulterior motives
  • Fear of being cheated or misled.
  • Inability to relax
  • Argumentative behavior

These symptoms often mean that people with paranoid delusions have trouble forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships.

Examples of paranoid illusions

People with paranoid delusions believe that they are in danger due to external threats from specific people such as their spouse or parents, authorities such as the police or teachers, or groups such as the board of directors or human resources.

They could say something like:

  • "They want to ruin my reputation."
  • "They have implemented tracking technologies in my medications."
  • "I know that my employer installed a camera in my house."
  • "If I leave the house, they will burn it."
  • "The government released a virus to kill me."

Keep in mind that there is always a subject acting as a threatening agent, be it an unspecified "they", an authority figure such as the government, or a specific person such as a parent.

Some people with paranoid delusions may not share their beliefs with anyone due to the strong suspicion that they cannot trust anyone.

Causes and risk factors

There is no single reason for paranoid delusions. Many people perceive them as part of an episode of mental illness, such as a psychotic disorder or a mood disorder.

Risk factors for paranoid thoughts include:

  • Life experience: You are more likely to experience paranoid thoughts when you are in vulnerable, isolated, or stressful situations.
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES): These may lead you to believe that the world is not safe and that people cannot be trusted.
  • External environment: Some research suggests that paranoid thoughts are more common in communities where you feel isolated from the people around you rather than connected to them. Media reporting on crime, terrorism, and violence can also play a role in generating paranoid feelings.
  • Mental health: Anxiety, depression or low self-esteem, and the expectation that others will criticize you, can increase the likelihood of having paranoid thoughts and make them even more upset.
  • Physical illness: Paranoia is sometimes a symptom of physical illnesses such as Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, strokes, Alzheimer's, and other forms of dementia. Hearing loss can also make some people feel paranoid.
  • Lack of sleep: Lack of sleep can lead to feelings of insecurity and even feelings of anxiety and hallucinations.
  • Effects of recreational drugs and alcohol: Some drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, alcohol, ecstasy, LSD, and amphetamines can cause paranoia.
  • Exposure to toxic substances: Certain steroids that athletes take, as well as some insecticides, fuels, and paints, are also associated with paranoia.
  • Genetics: Research shows that certain (as yet unknown) genes can influence a person's predisposition to paranoia.


Because paranoid delusions are associated with other mental health conditions, it is on them that doctors often focus their diagnosis. According to the diagnostic criteria listed in the DSM-5, paranoid delusions that are inappropriate for a particular psychotic or other mental disorder may be formally designated as "unspecified spectrum for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders" or "other spectrum specified for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders ". disorders. "… disorder".

Harvard Health Publishing advises that if the individual allows it, the following may be helpful in diagnosing paranoid delusions associated with delusional disorder:

  • Conversations with supportive family or friends
  • General medical evaluation
  • Diagnostic tests such as an EEG, MRI, or CT scan if a neurological cause is suspected.

Watch out

Treating someone with paranoid delusions can be especially difficult, as irritability, emotional alertness, and even hostility can often be observed. A person suffering from an illusion may be suspicious of the psychiatrists' intentions and not even realize that he is suffering from an illness.

Progress is usually slow, but recovery and reconnection are possible.

With prolonged treatment, a person with paranoid delusions can go into remission. Specific treatments will depend on several factors, including the suspected cause of the delirium and the person's susceptibility to needing help. Your continued willingness to adhere to any treatment plan is also an important factor.

Treatment options for paranoid delirium are usually a combined approach and may include typical or atypical antipsychotic medications, which can help reduce symptoms by blocking abnormal messages in the brain.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to help a person challenge and ultimately change the conscious thought patterns associated with their paranoia.

In some cases, controlled drug or alcohol detoxification, hospitalization, or hospital treatment may be required to reduce the risk of harm to a person and others if your paranoid delusions are related to a substance use disorder.

It is ideal to seek professional advice at the first sign of confusion. If you suspect that you or someone you know has paranoid delusions and you are concerned about someone's safety, call 911 for help.

Support for a loved one

Supporting a loved one with paranoid illusions can be challenging. The risk of burnout in caregivers is high due to the often chronic nature of these thought patterns.

The following ideas were suggested by the National Alliance for Mental Health and come directly from someone who has experienced delusions of psychosis :

  • Avoid challenging and reinforcing misconceptions. This has the opposite effect, and the person may actually hold onto their delusions even more strongly.
  • Validate, but redirect hidden fears. It can be helpful for people with less severe symptoms and can help them see alternatives to their beliefs without assuming the person is wrong. The formula could go something like this: 'I understand where it leads (regarding unfounded suspicions). I tend to think of it this way … (gives a reasonable explanation without insisting on its truth) ".
  • Please understand that this is an ongoing recovery process with no quick fixes.

Also, consider the following ways to help the person with paranoid delusions:

  • Consider whether your beliefs can be justified.
  • Consider if there is a reason for your belief.
  • Speak openly
  • Don't dismiss your fears
  • Focus on the person's feelings
  • Support them in seeking professional help
  • Respect their wishes
  • Know where to get emergency help

You don't have to support your loved one with paranoid wishful thinking yourself. These deceptions will not go away with love and kindness alone. The person you love needs professional help.

If you feel overwhelmed or at risk of burnout, seek help as soon as possible.

Get the word of drug information

It is possible to recover from paranoid illusions. Leaving paranoid delusions untreated can potentially have serious detrimental effects not only on the person experiencing delirium, but also on loved ones, colleagues, and the community.

When these thoughts arise, it can be difficult to determine if you need help. If you can, it can be especially helpful to step back and challenge your beliefs. Keeping a diary of paranoid thoughts, sleep patterns, prescription drugs, recreational or illegal drugs can be an invaluable way to view patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Talking to other people, sharing thoughts, and asking for help can be critical. You don't have to suffer for your own thoughts. With the right help, you can get back into your life and learn to manage your thought processes in a healthy way.

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