To be paranoid is to have great fear or anxiety about something. Having delusions means believing something that is not true and is possibly far-fetched. Taken together, paranoid delusions create fearfulness or anxiety, amplified by feeling/believing things that are false. It’s often thought that these delusions are only present in illnesses like schizophrenia, but other conditions may feature them. The most common illnesses associated with this symptom are schizophrenia, paranoid personality disorder, delusional disorder, and bipolar I, which may show such symptoms during mood swings.
A few examples of paranoia include when people believe that others, including government agencies or extra-terrestrials, are attempting to harm them; that people are regularly saying bad things about them behind their backs; that other people are trying to cheat them; or that a specific person is deliberately hurting them by behaviors like infidelity. These delusional stances exist despite repeated demonstration of evidence to the contrary. Although there may be some chance that such behavior could be true — the person's spouse could be cheating, for example — the paranoid person's belief has no actual basis in reality.
Paranoid delusions can lead people to act in a number of self-damaging ways. Paranoid jealousy could destroy a relationship, for example, or someone who thinks that aliens have implanted a tracker in his mouth might pull out his teeth in an attempt to remove it. Other characteristics may be present with delusions, making life much more difficult. Depending on other conditions present, a person might hear voices, hallucinate, have additional phobias, or be quite unable to function at most times. Though often mocked because these beliefs can seem so outlandish, paranoia is no joke, and it can destroy a person's chance to live normally.
How these delusions are treated may depend on the underlying condition. In many instances, medicines called anti-psychotics are used to help tame them and other symptoms like hallucinations, which may or may not be present. Mood stabilizers are used in the treatment of bipolar disorder to prevent cycling moods that might produce paranoid states.
Additional support through counseling is also needed. Although there may be a biological component to paranoid delusions, they may also spring from traumatic experiences, that when processed, help to produce more normalized thinking. No single treatment or single medicine is appropriate for all cases and significant work in therapy requires the cooperation of the person suffering from these delusions.
People suffering from what they believe to be paranoid delusions may want to begin by speaking to a psychiatrist, who can prescribe medication and provide initial or ongoing therapy. Should a delusion be so severe that it suggests a person might die or commit self-harm, he or she should immediately contact emergency services or emergency psychiatric services in his or her community to get the help. Of course, people who are suffering from delusions greatly believe in them, and they may be unwilling to take this step. When danger is suspected, friends or family are advised to try to help by getting in touch with professionals for advice.