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Paranoid Personality Disorder

Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD) is a mental disorder marked by pervasive paranoia, long-standing suspiciousness, and generalised mistrust of others. The condition can manifest in hypersensitivity, a tendency to bear grudges, and a propensity to interpret others' actions as hostile or contemptuous.

Patients often exhibit a vigilant scanning of their environment for threats, leading to an emotionally constricted and socially isolated life.

Signs & Symptoms

PPD is characterised by several symptoms, which can include excessive sensitivity to setbacks, persistent grudges, suspiciousness, and a pervasive tendency to misinterpret neutral or friendly actions as hostile. Patients may display a combative and tenacious sense of self-righteousness, recurrent suspicions regarding the fidelity of their spouse or partner, and a preoccupation with unsubstantiated conspiratorial explanations of events.

Symptoms as per ICD-10 Criteria:

  • Excessive sensitivity to setbacks and rebuffs.
  • Persistent tendency to bear grudges.
  • Suspiciousness and a tendency to distort neutral actions as hostile.
  • Combative self-righteousness.
  • Recurrent, unjustified suspicions regarding a partner's fidelity.
  • Persistent self-referential attitude.
  • Preoccupation with conspiratorial explanations of events.

Symptoms as per DSM-5 Criteria:

  • Suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving them.
  • Preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates.
  • Reluctant to confide in others due to unwarranted fears.
  • Reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events.
  • Persistently bears grudges.
  • Perceives attacks on their character or reputation and reacts angrily or counterattacks.
  • Has recurrent, unjustified suspicions regarding the fidelity of spouse or partner.

Causes

PPD has both genetic and psychosocial underpinnings. A genetic contribution to paranoid traits and a possible linkage with schizophrenia is noted. Psychosocial theories suggest that negative internal feelings are projected outward, and early parental modelling plays a role. Cognitive theorists propose that the disorder arises from an underlying belief that others are unfriendly, combined with a lack of self-awareness.

Diagnosis

ICD-10

The World Health Organisation's ICD-10 lists paranoid personality disorder under (F60.0). Diagnosis requires a set of general personality disorder criteria to be met and at least three of the specific symptoms mentioned earlier.

DSM-5

The American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5 requires the presence of lasting distrust and suspicion of others, interpreting their motives as malevolent, from an early adult age. At least four of seven specific symptoms must be present.

Differential Diagnosis

PPD needs to be differentiated from other psychological conditions such as delusional disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and other personality disorders like borderline personality disorder. PPD may co-occur with conditions like major depressive disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and substance-related disorders.

Treatment

Treatment of PPD is challenging due to patients' reluctance to seek help and their difficulty in trusting others. Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications for PPD. However, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilisers may be prescribed to treat symptoms. Psychotherapy, particularly psychoanalysis and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), has been suggested as potential treatment options.

Though case studies show symptom improvement with CBT, systematic data supporting its effectiveness specifically for PPD is lacking.

Epidemiology

PPD occurs in about 0.5–4.4% of the general population and is seen in 2–10% of psychiatric outpatients. Clinical samples indicate higher rates in men, whereas epidemiological data suggest higher rates in women.

History

Paranoid personality disorder has been listed in all versions of the DSM, with early descriptions dating back to the French psychiatrist Valentin Magnan and Emil Kraepelin. Over the years, various psychiatrists have contributed to the understanding of PPD, noting its association with traits like suspiciousness, grandiosity, and feelings of persecution.


Self-assessment MCQs (single best answer)

Which of the following is NOT a symptom of Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD) as per ICD-10 criteria?



According to DSM-5 criteria, how many specific symptoms must be present for a diagnosis of PPD?



Which of the following is a common characteristic of PPD?



Paranoid Personality Disorder is listed under which category in ICD-10?



Which type of therapy is suggested as a potential treatment for PPD?



What percentage of the general population is affected by PPD?



PPD patients often misinterpret neutral or friendly actions as:



Which of the following is a differential diagnosis for PPD?



Historical contributions to the understanding of PPD were made by which French psychiatrist?



Which of the following is NOT typically associated with PPD?



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