Freeman, Daniel Department of Psychiatry, Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom.
Last reviewed:August 2018
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- Paranoia, published June 2014:Download PDF Get Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Paranoia: mechanisms and treatment, published June 2012:Download PDF Get Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Causes of paranoia
- Internal feelings
- External events
- Treatment of paranoia
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A mode of thought, feeling, and behavior characterized centrally by false persecutory beliefs, more specifically referred to as paranoidness. Paranoia denotes the unfounded (or exaggerated) fear that others are deliberately trying to harm you. It takes a variety of forms, all the way from the occasional worry that our friends are deliberately trying to irritate us, or are spreading malicious rumors about us behind our backs, to the anguished belief that someone is out to kill us (Fig. 1). There are two key elements: the individual believes that harm is going to occur and that the perpetrator has the intention to cause harm. It is the second element—the intention of others to cause harm—that distinguishes persecutory from anxious thoughts. In social anxiety, we fear being foolish; in paranoia, we fear others trying to make us appear foolish. The difficulty can be establishing when the thoughts are unfounded. See also: Affective disorders; Cognition; Phobia; Psychosis
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