Paranoid schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by delusions and auditory hallucinations. It is a chronic disease and the possibility of a cure is controversial. Male paranoid schizophrenics commonly begin showing symptoms in the late teens or twenties, while female patients usually begin showing symptoms in the twenties or early thirties. Many people who suffer from paranoid schizophrenia make at least a partial recovery, but most, if not all, people diagnosed deal with the illness to some degree for their lifetime.
Paranoid schizophrenia is one subtype of schizophrenia, the others being catatonic, disorganized, and undifferentiated. Paranoid schizophrenia is so named because the patient suffers from paranoia, or the irrational feeling that she is being persecuted or is otherwise in danger. The symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia are collectively known as psychosis. The illness is diagnosed through the observation of symptoms.
Delusions are basically beliefs about the world that are held by virtually no one else in the patient's culture. As explained above, these often take the form of feelings of persecution. For example, a paranoid schizophrenic may believe that he is under constant surveillance by the government and that they can read his thoughts. Delusions may also take the form of grandiose beliefs, in which the patient believes herself to have superhuman abilities or a famous identity. Another typical symptom, auditory hallucinations, is the perception of sounds no one else hears, often voices.
Early symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia are less severe and may include anxiety and social withdrawal. Some patients develop psychotic symptoms with no warning, in what is known as acute onset as opposed to gradual onset. Other symptoms associated with the disorder include disorganized thinking, irrational behavior, inappropriate emotional expression, impaired ability to communicate with others, and either physical immobility or excessive mobility with no purpose.
Paranoid schizophrenia is treated with antipsychotic medication, psychotherapy for the patient and family, and vocational and social skills training. Hospitalization can be helpful, either short-term or long-term as necessary. It is essential for family and friends to be involved in the coping process whenever possible, as the disease itself makes it difficult for the patient to follow a course of treatment without assistance. Organizations such as National Schizophrenia Foundation and the National Alliance on Mental Illness hold support groups for paranoid schizophrenics and their family and friends.