Causes of Paranoia


Paranoia is a condition in which an individual experiences irrational fears of persecution. Paranoia is a tricky disorder both to diagnose and to treat. Fears of persecution have to be irrational and treatment must somehow bypass the sufferer's paranoid delusions. Fortunately, paranoia is not always a personality disorder, and paranoia can sometimes have real medical causes that can be treated.

Medical Causes

Many medical conditions can lead to paranoid thoughts. Alzheimer's disease, chemical deficiencies, cathinone poisoning and neurological degeneration disorders can harm the nervous system and lead to confusion and unstable emotions. Sufferers of these conditions sometimes forget who they can trust and also lose the ability to differentiate between trustworthy and suspicious behavior.

Associated Mental Illnesses

Some mental illnesses are associated with paranoia. An inability to think clearly can cause an individual to lose the ability to differentiate between trustworthy and not trustworthy individuals. Schizophrenia causes an individual to have bizarre or disorganized thoughts. Some individuals hallucinate and begin to believe that which they hallucinate rather than their friends and family members. Psychosis involves a detachment from reality that can lead to paranoid thoughts.

Substance Abuse

Many substances lead to paranoia if abused: alcohol, amphetamines, crack, crystal meth, cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, narcotics, opioids, opium, pain killers, oxycodone, sleeping pills and tranquilizers. Withdrawal from many of these substances can also trigger paranoid thoughts, so withdrawal must be handled carefully with close supervision.

Personality Disorder

Some individuals have personalities that exhibit general mistrust and suspicion towards others. This usually occurs when an individual is raised by family members who are delusional or psychotic. Paranoid personality disorder also is common among those who were abused and felt that they had no way to predict when they would be abused next. These individuals often believe conspiracy theories and entertain notions of persecution. This disorder is more difficult to treat because there is no medical basis for it.


Some fears are legitimate and are not considered paranoid. In order for someone to be considered paranoid, someone has to have no foundation for fears of persecution, constantly doubt the loyalty of others, a fear of confiding in others, finds threats in innocent remarks and holds long-term grudges. An individual whose life really is threatened is not considered paranoid. For instance, if an individual lives in a dangerous country or was the survivor of a homicide attempt, persistent suspicion and fear are justified to an extent.

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