Paranoid fears are common and have a variety of causes but new research shows specific issue cognitive behaviour therapy can bring significant benefits
Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman
Wednesday 4 March 2015 07.00 GMT
If you’ve ever experienced a feeling of paranoia – that’s to say, an unrealistic or exaggerated belief that other people mean you harm – you’re certainly not alone. Around one in four people have regular thoughts filled with suspicion, and almost all of us experience paranoia at some point in our lives.
For most people these thoughts are temporary and relatively mild. But for a small minority they’re persistent, powerful, and profoundly distressing. In psychiatry the experiences at the most debilitating end of the paranoid spectrum are termed persecutory delusions and they’re associated with a variety of serious problems, including anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. As a result, people with severe paranoia are often admitted to psychiatric care, typically with a diagnosis such as schizophrenia, and are treated with anti-psychotic drugs.
But as we’ve noted previously on Guardian Science, anti-psychotics don’t work for everyone. And their side effects can be so unpleasant that many people refuse to take them. Moreover, there’s compelling evidence to suggest that the concept of “schizophrenia” doesn’t stand up scientifically, operating instead as a catch-all for a variety of distinct and frequently unrelated experiences.