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Paranoia: causes and signs of this type of delusional thinking

Paranoia: causes and signs of this type of delusional thinking

May 26, 2024

Paranoia is one of the concepts associated with mental disorders that have to do with delusions, that is, crazy ideas that are believed with an intensity that goes beyond the reasonable.

Because of its striking and enigmatic nature, paranoia, as a phenomenon, has aroused the interest of many people who have gone on to use the term as one more component of their vocabulary, applicable to day-to-day situations lived with friends, family and acquaintances. . However, it must be taken into account that it is a concept of the clinical scope of psychology and psychiatry, and is used only in very specific cases. Let's see what it really consists of.


  • Related article: "The 16 most common mental disorders"

What is paranoia?

Paranoia is a style of thinking associated with mental disorders that is characterized by shaping self-referential delusions . That means that whoever expresses a paranoid behavior has a tendency to believe that everything that happens and what is conscious is given because of the same fact, a truth that normally tries to be hidden by mysterious entities (supernatural or not) but that oneself is able to see.

For example, the belief that someone is inserting encrypted messages into television ads to brainwash us is a delirium very typical of this kind of mental state. Other examples: there is someone listening to us through the plugs, followed by a pigeon with a microphone hidden among the feathers, etc.


The delusions of persecution are typical of paranoia , since, by recognizing all kinds of clues in the details of what surrounds us, we reach the conclusion that there is someone very interested in following our steps discreetly, camouflaging their trail very well.

Keep in mind that although the use of the term "paranoia" is relatively lax and refers to a type of thinking and behavior, in practice it usually refers to delusional disorder, or paranoid psychosis , a type of disorder related to the group of disorders close to schizophrenia.

  • Related article: "Delusional disorder (paranoid psychosis): causes, symptoms and treatment"

How this delusional thought works

The basic characteristics of paranoia are the following.

1. Hostility, defensive attitude and persecutory mania

People who express paranoia Constantly see reasons not to trust almost anyone , since anyone could be a potential attacker or spy. This, in addition, makes it very complicated to attend to these people from the clinical setting in the most serious cases.


  • Related article: "The 12 most curious and shocking types of delusions"

2. Adoption of protection routines

Although it does not occur in all cases of paranoia, it is very common for the person to adopt certain habits and characteristic routines whose purpose is only the defense of external threats . For example, wrapping the head with aluminum foil is a popular choice among those who believe that their thoughts can be "read" or "stolen" by someone.

3. Cognitive rigidity

Another of the main differences between paranoia and other types of mental states not related to disorders is that the first is based on a clear cognitive rigidity, or inability to self-correct .

When the predictions based on delusions are not fulfilled, we simply look for another explanation, whose only requirement must be that it does not go against the main idea that structures paranoia.

That means that as long as this criterion is met, the new explanations can be as convoluted and unreasonable as the others.

The causes of paranoia

Paranoia is one of the symptoms associated with psychosis, but this fact, by itself, does not say much about its causes. In fact, as a symptom, paranoia can be due to different types of mental disorders or purely neurological problems. There are different theories that try to account for why this pattern of thought appears.

1. Appearance due to learning and contingencies

The environmental and social influence can cause thousands of people to express patterns of paranoia without becoming part of very severe clinical cases. Various theories of conspiracy For example, they can be understood as explanatory schemes that resist all kinds of evidence against and that, on the other hand, are based on an entity (physical or organizational), which has its own political and economic interests, as well as the power of manipulate at will what happens on the planet.

Thus, indoctrination and integration in some social circles can, by themselves, make people get used to thinking through paranoia or something very close to it.

two.For disorder and complications of clinical type

Normally, our ability to think and create abstract concepts is conceived as a skill that makes us intelligent beings, highly prepared to adapt to new challenges. The flexibility of our cognition allows us to find innovative solutions, no matter how changing the environment.

How do we manage to cope so well with these variable and to some extent unpredictable situations? For this, we automatically use one of the abilities in which we are more skilled thanks to the fact of having a very developed brain: the ability to recognize patterns and regularities in all kinds of stimuli . Thanks to her we put order in what would otherwise be a chaos of perceptions and memories.

In addition, this reorganization of information is carried out both in the most concrete aspects of perception and with the most abstract concepts, the ideas through which we interpret reality through what is known as cognitive schemes. For example, it is very easy, and even automatic, to detect musicality patterns in certain sounds, or to recognize faces where there are only spots, but it is also common to recognize intentions in the actions of others.

Paranoia is what happens when this ability we show when recognizing underlying ideas and perceptions that underlie all others becomes pathological, a sign that we impose a very forced story to explain reality, instead of assuming that we can anticipate everything and limit ourselves to experiencing our experiences, assuming that there will always be questions to be resolved.

A) Yes, certain mental disorders can alter the functioning of cognitive processes that already exist in every human being can "overreach", although it is not known how this happens.

3. Due to brain failure

Some brain injuries They can be related to specific types of paranoid thinking. Capgras syndrome, for example, consists of a tendency to believe that friends and family have been replaced by other people physically identical to the former, and it is believed that it is caused by damage to the connections between the limbic system and areas of the cortex. cerebral.


Schizophrenia Overview | Clinical Presentation (May 2024).


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