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Paranoid Schizophrenia: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Treatment

Paranoid Schizophrenia

Paranoid schizophrenia is the most common type of schizophrenia characterized by the presence of persecutory or grandiose delusions, often accompanied by hallucinations. Paranoid schizophrenia is no longer included in DSM-5. Psychiatrists now refer to paranoid schizophrenia as schizophrenia with paranoia.

Not everyone with schizophrenia will develop paranoia. The average age of onset is late adolescence to early adulthood, usually between the ages of 18 to 30.

Symptoms of Paranoid Schizophrenia

Prominent symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia are delusions, sometimes accompanied by hallucinations. Other less common symptoms can include disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, and negative symptoms. Suicidal thoughts can also occur. Depression and anxiety might accompany the disease.


Delusions are fixed false beliefs about things, which the patient is resistant to correct even if shown opposite evidence. Usually, these beliefs are not in keeping with the prevalent beliefs in the culture they belong to.

The delusions might make you falsely believe:
  • A co-worker is trying to hurt or kill you.
  • Your spouse is cheating on you.
  • The government is spying on you.
  • Neighbors are plotting against you.
These unreasonable, untrue, and unjustified suspicions about others’ motives and intended actions can make it hard for them to hold a job, run errands, have friendships, and even consult a doctor.


Hallucinations are false sense perceptions of things that are not there. For example, you may hear voices that are talking about you, discussing about you, making fun of you (or insulting you), and even urging you to do harmful things. These are auditory hallucinations. Other types of hallucinations, such as visual or tactile, are not common.

Disorganized Speech

The speech might be disorganized in the form of repetition of words and phrases or interrupting in the middle of a sentence. You may make up your own words as you go along (neologisms). These symptoms usually result due to difficulties with concentration.

Disorganized Behavior

This refers to behavior that is inappropriate to the circumstances of work life, social life, or home life in which it occurs. You are not in control of this behavior. You may:
  • Neglect ordinary daily activities
  • Be unable to control your impulses
  • Be overemotional
  • Indulge in odd or inappropriate behavior.
They do not usually resort to violence. But sometimes, they may feel threatened and angry on account of their delusions. If they are pushed to their limits, they might take out their frustration on the family members at home rather than on the public.

Negative Symptoms

These symptoms include:
  • Diminished range of emotions
  • Blunted facial expressions and gestures
  • Marked loss of interest in the world
  • Lack of motivation to do anything
  • Social withdrawal
  • Neglect of personal hygiene and self-care

Paranoid Schizophrenia Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of paranoid schizophrenia is unknown. A combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers are thought to be at work. Symptoms may result from an imbalance of the neurotransmitters (naturally occurring chemicals in the brain) dopamine and serotonin.

The most important influence is genetic, with about 80% of the risk being inherited. The genes – some of which have recently been identified – act as risk factors, not determinants of illness.

As of now, no single, or major, environmental risk factor influencing the occurrence of schizophrenia (or other psychoses) has been conclusively determined. Environmental risk factors can be:
  • Maternal infections
  • Maternal malnutrition
  • Birth complications
  • Winter birth
  • Advanced paternal age
  • Urban birth and upbringing
  • Childhood trauma and adversity
  • Being an immigrant
  • Cannabis smoking
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Life events

Paranoid Schizophrenia Treatment


There is a strong evidence base supporting the use of antipsychotic drugs in the treatment of schizophrenia for the prevention of relapse. However, there are significant limits to their effectiveness, and, major side effects and other potential harms.

About two-thirds of patients show a significant therapeutic response, but one cannot predict whether an individual patient will respond. It is important to note that antipsychotic drugs only treat the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. They have little or no clinically significant effect on negative or cognitive symptoms, although a recent clinical trial reports the efficacy of the new atypical antipsychotic cariprazine against negative symptoms.

A 2014 study reported a 1-year recurrence rate of 77% in those who discontinued medication, but only 3% in those who remained on medication.

However, there is less evidence as to how long maintenance treatment should last after an acute episode, reflected in differences between guidelines: some suggest 1–2 years, whereas others recommend 2–5 years.

Partial or non-adherence to treatment with antipsychotic drugs is common and is associated with worse outcomes. Long-acting depot injections of antipsychotics were introduced to deal with the problem of non- (or uncertain) adherence to treatment. Depot injections are found to be more successful than oral medication in preventing relapse.

Some of the antipsychotics are:
  • Haloperidol
  • Risperidone
  • Aripiprazole
  • Asenapine
  • Paliperidone
  • Quetiapine
  • Olanzapine
  • Clozapine
  • Cariprazine
Electroconvulsive Therapy

The traditional indications for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in schizophrenia are catatonic stupor (periods where the individual moves very little and does not respond to instructions), severe comorbid depressive symptoms, and severe behavioral disturbance.

In this, the patient’s brain is zapped with electricity via electrodes placed on the scalp. During treatment, the patient is usually put under anesthesia and often also given a muscle relaxant to prevent any physical injuries due to convulsive movements.

Psychosocial Approaches

Psychosocial interventions in the treatment of schizophrenia are of several different kinds, but share the following aims: (1) Enhancement of interpersonal and social functioning, including promotion of independent living in the community, and (2) Attenuation of symptom severity and associated comorbidity. They are:
  • Family therapy (psychoeducation)
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Cognitive remediation
  • Art therapy
  • Social skills training
  • Illness management skills
  • Supported employment
  • Integrated treatment for comorbid substance misuse
  • Exercise
    Learn more: Treatment for Schizophrenia

Resources for Support

  • This U.S. government website provides a wealth of information and resources on mental health topics, including schizophrenia, treatment options, and support services.
  • The Jed Foundation: This non-profit focuses on mental health resources and support specifically for teens and young adults, and can be a valuable resource for children navigating a parent's mental illness.
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): NIMH is a leading federal agency supporting research into mental health conditions. Their website offers reliable information on schizophrenia, treatment options, and clinical trials.


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