Paranoid schizophrenia is one of several types of schizophrenia, a chronic mental illness in which a person loses touch with reality (psychosis). The classic features of paranoid schizophrenia are having delusions and hearing things that aren't real.
With paranoid schizophrenia, your ability to think and function in daily life may be better than with other types of schizophrenia. You may not have as many problems with memory, concentration or dulled emotions. Still, paranoid schizophrenia is a serious, lifelong condition that can lead to many complications, including suicidal behavior.
With effective treatment, you can manage the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia and work toward leading a happier, healthier life.
Signs and symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia may include:
With paranoid schizophrenia, you're less likely to be affected by mood problems or problems with thinking, concentration and attention.
When to see a doctor
Getting treatment from a mental health provider with experience in schizophrenia can help you learn ways to manage your symptoms so that you have the best chance of leading a productive and happy life. If you're not ready to seek treatment, try to work up the courage to confide in someone, whether it's a friend or loved one, a health care professional, a faith leader or someone else you trust. They can help you take the first steps to successful treatment.
Helping someone who may have paranoid schizophrenia
If your loved one poses a danger to himself or herself or to someone else, you may need to call the police or other emergency responders for help. In some cases, emergency hospitalization may be needed. Laws on involuntary commitment for mental health treatment vary by state.
If you simply don't want to do that, for whatever reason, you have other choices for reaching out to someone:
Paranoid schizophrenia and other forms of schizophrenia are brain disorders. Genetics and environment likely both play a role in causing schizophrenia.
Although the precise cause of paranoid schizophrenia isn't known, certain factors seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering paranoid schizophrenia, including:
Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia typically develop between the teenage years and the mid-30s.
Left untreated, paranoid schizophrenia can result in severe emotional, behavioral, health, and even legal and financial problems that affect every area of your life. Complications that paranoid schizophrenia may cause or be associated with include:
Preparing for your appointment
In some cases, a health care provider, family member, friend or another acquaintance may ask about your behavior, thoughts and mood or suggest that you be evaluated by a mental health provider. Or you may decide on your own to schedule an appointment with your family doctor or mental health provider to talk about your concerns. In some cases, you may be taken to a hospital for an emergency psychiatric evaluation.
What you can do
In addition to your prepared questions, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment if you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
If your doctor or mental health provider believes you may have paranoid schizophrenia or another mental illness, he or she typically runs a series of medical and psychological tests and exams. These can help pinpoint a diagnosis, rule out other problems that could be causing your symptoms and check for any related complications.
These exams and tests generally include:
Diagnostic criteria for paranoid schizophrenia
Diagnostic criteria for paranoid schizophrenia include:
It can sometimes be difficult to diagnose paranoid schizophrenia, especially because other conditions may have similar symptoms. Be sure to stick with it, though, so that you can get appropriate treatment.
Treatments and drugs
Paranoid schizophrenia is a chronic condition that requires lifelong treatment, even during periods when you feel better and your symptoms have lifted. You may feel as if you don't need treatment, and you may be tempted to ignore treatment recommendations. But effective treatment can help you take control of your condition and enjoy a happier and healthier life.
Treatment options are similar for all types of schizophrenia. But the specific treatment approach that's best for you depends on your particular situation and the severity of your symptoms.
The team involved in treatment of paranoid schizophrenia may include your:
Main treatment options
Medications for paranoid schizophrenia
Choosing a medication
If one medication doesn't work well for you or has intolerable side effects, your doctor may recommend combining medications, switching to a different medication or adjusting your dosage. Don't stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor, even if you're feeling better. You may have a relapse of psychotic symptoms if you stop taking your medication. In addition, antipsychotic medication needs to be tapered off, rather than stopped abruptly, to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Medication side effects and risks
Be sure to talk to your doctor about all of the possible side effects and about being routinely checked for health problems while you take these medications. Antipsychotic medications can also have dangerous interactions with other substances. Tell your doctor about all medications and over-the-counter substances you take, including vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements.
Psychotherapy for paranoid schizophrenia
Hospitalization for paranoid schizophrenia
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for paranoid schizophrenia
Social and vocational skills training for paranoid schizophrenia
Lifestyle and home remedies
Paranoid schizophrenia isn't an illness that you can treat on your own. But you can do some things for yourself that will build on your treatment plan:
Coping and support
Coping with an illness as serious as paranoid schizophrenia can be challenging. Medications can have unwanted side effects, and you may feel angry or resentful about having a condition that requires lifelong treatment. During periods when you feel better, you may be tempted to stop treatment, which can trigger a relapse. Here are some ways to cope with paranoid schizophrenia:
There's no sure way to prevent paranoid schizophrenia. Evidence shows that some signs of schizophrenia may be present from early childhood or even infancy. Early identification and treatment for people at risk of schizophrenia, perhaps starting in childhood, may help get symptoms under control before serious complications develop and may help improve the long-term outlook. Also, sticking with your treatment plan can help prevent relapses or worsening of paranoid schizophrenia symptoms.
Last Updated: 2010-12-16
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