Paranoid Personality Disorder

What are personality disorders?

We all have unique personalities that have developed as a result of both genetics and environment. As we grow our personalities are constantly shaped by our experiences and behaviour choices.

Those with a personality disorder have developed rigid or extreme thoughts and behaviours that they cannot control. They have trouble relating to others and are often limited in their ability to deal with daily life. Personalities normally continue to develop through teenage years so disorders are generally not diagnosed until adulthood.

There are 3 main groups or clusters of personality disorders.

Cluster A – odd or eccentric behaviour

  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder

Cluster B – Dramatic or erratic behaviour

  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Cluster C – Anxious or fearful behaviour

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Dependant Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder


What is Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD)?

Paranoid Personality Disorder is characterised by a constant distrust and suspicion of others. Those with the condition are generally very socially isolated as they are convinced others want to threaten or harm them in some way. Conversely, they have an exaggerated sense of trust in their own beliefs and behaviours.

  • More men than women are diagnosed with Paranoid Personality Disorder
  • The exact number of sufferers of PPD in Australia is not known.
  • Many sufferers also have one or more other mental health conditions such as Depression or an addiction.


What causes Paranoid Personality Disorder?

There is no confirmed cause of Paranoid Personality Disorder but there are a number of theories and contributing factors.

There does appear to be a high incidence of PPD within some families suggesting genetics does play a part. Research has also shown that neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) have abnormal activity in those with personality disorders but no studies have proven a specific link with PPD.

Social and environmental factors are believed to be the most significant factors in the development of Paranoid Personality Disorder. Major childhood trauma such as sexual abuse, physical or emotional neglect or the sudden death of a loved one can have a negative influence on personality development. Symptoms may be very slow to develop so early intervention is unlikely.


What are the most common symptoms?

Sufferers can often appear cold, distant, jealous or scheming. Their distorted perception of the behaviour of others can trigger angry or aggressive outbursts. These radical behaviours can be difficult for friends and family to understand or tolerate which adds to the cycle of isolation.

Those with paranoid Personality Disorder do not generally lose touch with reality; however they lack the ability to recognise their own negative feelings and thought patterns. They may be aware there is a problem but perceive the fault to lie with others and not themselves. As sufferers fear betrayal, they are unlikely to confide in others. For this reason, it is believed that many cases of PPD are never reported.

Sufferers of PPD generally exhibit several or all of the following symptoms:

  • Being suspicious of others without sufficient cause. Sufferers expect to be exploited, deceived or harmed in some way.
  • Reacting with anger to perceived attacks from others.
  • Being convinced that others are hiding something - including having hidden motives being unfaithful.
  • Misinterpreting innocent remarks as being insulting or damaging to their reputation.
  • Avoiding confiding in others for fear of betrayal.
  • Being unforgiving of perceived insults or injuries.


What are the main treatment options?

Psychotherapy is the most effective treatment for Paranoid Personality Disorder. A qualified counsellor or therapist will work with the sufferer over a long period – often over a year – to help them learn to recognise their own negative behaviour patterns. As sufferers generally believe that others are the cause of all their problems, changing this belief can be a difficult process.

Depending on the circumstances, the therapist may incorporate different behavioural therapies into the treatment. Medication is rarely used except to stabilise erratic or harmful behaviour. In exceptional cases, hospitalisation may be required to ensure the safety of the sufferer and others.

Group therapy can be very effective to help PPD sufferers learn to interact with others and recognise other points of view.

The earlier that treatment is started, the better chance the person has of learning effective ways of coping with everyday life and experiencing happiness.


Why seek professional help?

Mental illness can be frightening and isolating, especially if you are in a depressed or suicidal state. Talking to friends and family may help but having the support and guidance of a professional counsellor is usually more beneficial. Therapy sessions are confidential and non-judgemental. Seeking help early gives you a greater chance of overcoming your condition and getting your life back to normal.


Where to find help

Our True Counsellor Directory lists hundreds of psychotherapists and counsellors from Australia.

Some psychotherapists and counsellors listed in our directory offer counselling over the phone and online in addition to one-on-one consultations. Many also offer workshops and seminars.


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