What is paranoid psychosis?

Paranoid psychosis is a break from reality that includes the extreme fear and anxiety associated with delusions. Paranoia is a common feature of many delusions, especially in cases such as delusions of persecution in which people become convinced that they are under attack or that someone is trying to get them. A number of psychiatric conditions can contribute to the development of paranoid psychosis, and it can also develop in response to neurological disorders, certain medications, and some other causes. Treatments are available to help the patient deal with the delusions and associated paranoia.

Paranoia itself is fear and anxiety on an irrational level that can be exaggerated, often based on something not very believable. Informally, the term is often used to describe fairly reasonable precautions, such as being alert for police cars while speeding. In psychiatry, this would not be considered paranoia, but it would be to believe that the police were tracking a driver with a vehicle-mounted device.

People in a state of psychosis may experience hallucinations, sensory experiences of things that aren't really there, along with delusions, beliefs about things that aren't really happening. In paranoid psychosis, hallucinations and delusions are accompanied by intense fear. This can cause the patient to behave suspiciously and view anyone who is trying to help with extreme suspicion; a doctor may become an enemy agent, for example, or a family member may be possessed by aliens.

While in a state of paranoid psychosis, people genuinely believe that a credible threat exists and can take steps to protect themselves. This can make interacting with and treating patients challenging. Treatments may include medication and psychotherapy. Medication to treat delusions and hallucinations may not be readily accepted by the patient while an episode of paranoid psychosis is occurring. Performing medical evaluations such as brain imaging studies can be challenging for a paranoid patient, as the patient may not want to undergo medical tests.

If someone starts behaving erratically or unusual and appears to be experiencing a disconnect from reality, it may be a sign of psychosis. Some psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia do not present themselves until later in life and can appear in people who were previously healthy and emotionally balanced. It is important that people receive treatment, as early intervention can help improve patient outcomes. People should try to remember that the patient's reality is real to the patient and, although it may seem irrational or ridiculous, it should be taken seriously. Expert psychiatric care may be needed.

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