What is Paranoia?

More than 6% of older adults in India suffer from paranoia. Paranoia is the irrational anxiety the elderly face. An older adult with paranoia may experience anxious and fearful thoughts related to persecution, threat or conspiracy. It may range from feeling someone is in your house at night to imagining spousal infidelity.

Paranoia is present in most mental disorders but is most common in psychotic disorders. A senior person suffering from paranoia can become delusional to the extent that nothing, not even logical arguments, and contrary evidence, can convince them that what they think or feel is not true.

Paranoia is often accompanied by memory loss.

Also Read: Dr. Dhanajay Chavan on Mental Health Awareness in India

Isolation and Paranoia

Older adults who have experienced isolated episodes in their past have a tendency to display paranoid symptoms earlier. However, there is no one particular reason for paranoia occurring in older adults. Each person suffering from paranoia has a different set of experiences and outcomes. Some researches have come up with general risk factors behind paranoid behaviour:

  1. Being continuously confused about your feelings and experiences
  2. Having low self-esteem and anxiety about other people’s thoughts and opinions
  3. Having strong opinions and inability to change your mind easily
  4. Isolation
  5. Having a traumatic past

Also Read: HelpAge India’s Rajeev Kulkarni on Elder Abuse in India

Isolation in Paranoia

Paranoia isolates an older adult. Paranoid thoughts make them feel alone. They may have thoughts that seem real to them whereas might feel misunderstood because no one believes them.

Many older adults with paranoia also tend to display specific behaviour like staying indoors and avoiding meeting people because they cannot trust them. This causes further isolation.

In such cases, as a caregiver it is necessary for you to make sure they have a list of people they trust.

Also Read: Dr. Dhananjay Chaven on Lifestyle Changes for Good Mental Health

Treatment for Paranoia

There is a lot of stigma in India around paranoia. Most people do not recognize it or refuse to acknowledge the symptoms. In many cases, the older adults themselves are extremely unreasonable to the extent of refusing to leave home or seeking treatment.

However, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be very beneficial in reducing paranoid thoughts. You can also talk to more people regarding paranoia and create awareness so that your older adult does not feel isolated.

Creating a support group of people, an older adult can trust is a great way to get them out of the house and make them interact with other people without anxiety.

Paranoia can be a very traumatic experience for an older adult. However, with proper treatment and support, you can help them regain normalcy in their lives.

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