By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Paranoid personality disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent paranoia and a sense of mistrust and suspicion of others. Historically, personality disorders were considered part of an individual's nature and not as treatable mental health conditions. Nowadays however, personality disorders are recognised as part of the spectrum of mental health disorders and can be treated effectively.
Often, a person with paranoid personality disorder will believe that someone is trying to harm them and a diagnosis of the condition is made when the degree of paranoia starts to significantly effect a person's work, personal or social life.
In paranoid personality disorder there is a mal-adaption to stress and life events that affects the sufferer's coping behavior and the way they perceive and make sense of the world. Paranoid personality disorder is considered a chronic mental illness and is more common in men than women. A long-term and generalized mistrust and suspicion of other people and their intentions severely impacts on the person's ability to develop or maintain social and personal relationships.
Causes of paranoid personality disorder
No specific causes of this condition have been identified. Genetic traits, familial factors and traumatic life events may, however, play a role in the development of the condition. Paranoid personality disorder may also run in families with a history of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
Most people with paranoid personality disorder are convinced, for no rational reason, that others are trying to harm them. They look for evidence that others are out to harm them, repeatedly questioning peoples' hidden motives and trustworthiness.
Some individuals with the condition may be hostile, aloof or aggressive. A typical feature of individuals who have the condition is a lack of humour. They can also misinterpret compliments and take them as criticisms. Also, they may have other mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Care and treatment
There is known way to "cure" paranoid personality disorder but counselling and group therapy can help. While caring for a person with the condition, the carer is advised to avoid directness, excess honesty or kindness and to refrain from showing frustration or hostility.
A non-judgemental attitude is helpful when assisting a person with paranoid personality disorder and humour should also be avoided. Medications may be used to treat anxiety and depression in some individuals.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jan 14, 2014