What is paranoid schizophrenia? Paranoid schizophrenia is a sub-type of schizophrenia, a serious mental health disorder affecting around 0.5% of the global population. The DSM-IV contains five sub-types of schizophrenia and paranoid is one of them.
Ask any person on the street: what is paranoid schizophrenia and they will probably conjure up an image of a delusional person who claims to hear voices inside their head. This is partly because paranoid schizophrenia is the most common type of the illness and patients suffering from the other sub-types of schizophrenia are more likely to withdraw from view.
We are also familiar with the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia thanks to its portrayal in the media and films: Russell Crowe’s performance as brilliant mathematician, John Forbes Nash in the 2001 film, A Beautiful Mind, gave us a great insight into the mind of a functioning paranoid schizophrenic.
What are the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia?
Suffering from delusions and hallucinations are classic symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, but patients suffering from paranoid schizophrenia will exhibit a range of different symptoms. The patient might develop an extreme sense of paranoia and believe that loved ones are plotting against them or persecuting them. They may also think they are special in some way or in possession of super human powers, or they start to show irrational jealousy for no apparent reason.
A paranoid schizophrenic often hears sounds and voices that are not real. They might start to hear voices inside their head telling them to do certain things. They might also experience strange smells or taste things that are not real, although auditory hallucinations tend to be more dominant.
Delusions and hallucinations are not purely confined to paranoid schizophrenics and other people suffering from mental illness can also exhibit symptoms of psychosis, but these so-called “positive” symptoms form the main criteria for a diagnosis of schizophrenia to be made.
Symptoms will vary in severity and at their worst the patient may be at risk of suicidal thoughts. Signs to watch out for include a rising obsession with death and violence, an increasing pattern of drug use or reliance on alcohol, changes in sleeping patterns and social withdrawal.
What is schizophrenia and how is it diagnosed?
For a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia to be made, other conditions must be eliminated, including drug induced psychosis. Delusions and hallucinations must be present, but flat emotions, disorganised thoughts and behaviour should not be evident.
Can paranoid schizophrenia be treated?
The symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia typically start to show in early adulthood and like many other chronic types of mental illness, schizophrenia is a life-long condition. However, with the right treatment, paranoid schizophrenics can lead happy and productive lives and since they suffer from fewer problems with memory, flattened emotions and concentration than other sub-types of schizophrenia, these patients can find it easier to integrate into normal society.
Treatment will normally be on a permanent basis, even if the symptoms disappear and the patient feels well, because if treatment stops, the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia are likely to return.