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Understanding Paranoid Schizophrenia

Medically reviewed by

Written by Riddhima Poddar

The human mind is a mystery yet to be unraveled. Given what little we know and understand of mental illnesses, pop culture’s fascination with and tendency to portray caricatures of what ails the mind only perpetuates stereotypes. One such disorder that is rarely ever justly treated is Paranoid Schizophrenia.

What exactly is Paranoid Schizophrenia? 

“Have you ever felt like you were being watched or followed? Imagine feeling that all the time. This paranoia around your daily functioning is one of the main traits of Paranoid Schizophrenia,” says Dr. BR Madhukar, Medical Director, Cadabams group.

Paranoid schizophrenia was previously a sub-type under Schizophrenia. It is a chronic condition that affects how people think, feel, behave and relate to themselves and the world. 

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5),  states that one can no longer be diagnosed with ‘Paranoid Schizophrenia’. However, symptoms of ‘paranoia’ or the ‘positive symptoms’ remain important criteria for diagnosing a person with Schizophrenia.

Signs of Paranoid Schizophrenia

The onset of paranoia is not abrupt. It is a gradual change that a person might experience in their perceptions about themselves and the world. Paranoid Schizophrenia symptoms usually entail:

  1. Hearing, seeing, and tasting things that others don’t
  2. Behaving strangely, holding on to unusual beliefs or thoughts
  3. Social Isolation: distancing from friends and family 
  4. Lack of personal hygiene or self-care
  5. Not being able to think clearly, pay attention, and function adequately.
  6. Disorganized speech

The above signs persist in people diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. Usually, a psychotic episode is accompanied by the delusion of persecution and hallucinations.

Delusion of Persecution:

It is a false and unfounded belief that individuals or government authorities are out to get them or hurt them. People may experience heightened feelings of anxiety and fear. Their ability to distinguish the real from the unreal diminishes.

They may start reading too much into people’s everyday behavior. They may also think that what they hear over the radio or on the television are secret messages directed toward them.

Hallucinations:

These are false visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile perceptions. The most notable of these are auditory hallucinations. People claim to hear voices outside their minds- in external spaces as if somebody was talking to them.

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Paranoid Schizophrenia Causes: What are they? 

The exact causes of schizophrenia with paranoia are difficult to ascertain. However, mental health professionals agree that genetic and environmental factors could increase the risk of developing schizophrenia. 

A neuropsychiatric disorder, it is suspected that dopamine and glutamate may also play a role in the development of the disorder.

Can psychoactive drugs cause Paranoid Schizophrenia?

Since the 1980s, research indicates a correlation between the use of psychoactive drugs like marijuana and the development of such disorders. However, little is known about its causality. Whether the use of drugs causes the disorder or if it is used by people with Paranoid Schizophrenia to self-medicate and cope with the symptoms is debatable. 

Research on the topic lacks specificity. Studies highlight that even among heavy cannabis users, only 2.5% of people show symptoms of schizophrenia. 

It is advisable to consult a professional if concerns surrounding the use of drugs and the development of psychosis emerge.

Paranoid Schizophrenia Treatment: What are your options?

Although there is no cure for schizophrenia, treatment focuses on minimizing the symptoms that a person with schizophrenia may experience. 

Mental health professionals rely on antipsychotic medications to treat schizophrenia with paranoia. 

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is used for those who might be resistant to medication or show catatonic symptoms. This is used as a last resort.

Individuals seeking treatment for paranoid schizophrenia also find it helpful to take regular therapy sessions along with their medication. 

These sessions help people to restructure their thoughts and perceptions. This subsequently brings about a shift in how they might respond in social situations. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a popular approach that is adopted. It helps teach people with schizophrenia coping strategies and skills that might come in handy to manage symptoms or difficult social situations.

Effects and Side-effects: Paranoid Schizophrenia Medication

Medication aims to block the effect of dopamine in the brain. This reduces the positive symptoms of schizophrenia such as delusions and hallucinations. Schizophrenia manifests itself differently in different people. This means psychiatrists may try different combinations of drugs and doses to achieve the desired result of managing the symptoms.

In some cases, anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs are also prescribed.

Possible Side-Effects of Medication

Antipsychotic drugs may or may not have adverse side effects. Possible side effects include:

  • dry mouth
  • dizziness
  • weight gain 
  • diabetes
  • blurred vision 
  • tardive dyskinesia- the movement of the jaw, lips, the tongue that cannot be controlled.
  • drowsiness or lack of energy
  • loss of menstrual periods in women
  • constipation
  • sexual problems due to hormonal changes

Severe reactions like blood dyscrasias, sudden death, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome are less common.

Dr. Arun, a consultant psychiatrist at Cadabam’s, notes that “They (families and individuals) sometimes fail to understand that the medication is imperative for an individual to stop their symptoms. Stopping the medication usually leads to relapses.”

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Is Rehabilitation Necessary?

Treatment for paranoid schizophrenia focuses on curbing the intensity of the positive symptoms. However, it is rehabilitation that makes all the difference!

WHO defines rehabilitation as “a set of interventions designed to optimize functioning and reduce disability in individuals with health conditions."

The rehabilitation process involves social skills training based on an assessment of the strengths of the individual. When the individual’s functioning is enhanced, it is natural that their dependence on their caregivers will decrease. It empowers them and improves their agency. 

Under the expert supervision of psychiatrists, psychologists,  and social workers, rehabilitation makes the transition of the individual- from the clinical setting into the society as a functioning member- seamless.

Caring for a person with Paranoid Schizophrenia

It is with family and friends that people with paranoid schizophrenia find immense support. However, the physical, psychological, and even economic challenges they face may often be overlooked or not adequately acknowledged. 

Delusion of persecution in people with paranoid schizophrenia hurts family members. They feel that they have been wronged- a feeling that may compound itself into unresolved resentment. 

Furthermore, psychotic relapses are often perceived by caregivers as a result of their shortcomings. This adds to their stress as well as evokes a sense of guilt. Caregivers also experience an emotional and economic burden that is often not addressed.  

This is where counseling plays an important role. It addresses the emotional needs of the caregivers and realigns their expectations. It assists in restoring the relationship between the caregivers and the patient by helping the caregivers separate the individual from the symptoms.

How do we help?

We have been treating Schizophrenia for over 3 decades. We understand what it means to watch a loved one fight paranoid schizophrenia. Through our journey to being a leader in mental healthcare, the goal has always been to offer comprehensive help for all disorders. 

Moving from place to place, professional to professional, hospital to hospital while trying to figure out how you can help your loved one is not an experience anyone deserves to go through. That is why we have consolidated all treatment offerings in one place. 

Our guarantee to you is that no matter the type of disorder, no matter the severity, you will find a treatment option at Cadabams. We are here to help you.

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