A paranoid delusion is the fixed, false belief that one is being harmed or persecuted by a particular person or group of people. Paranoid delusions are known technically as a “persecutory delusion.”
It involves the person’s belief that he or she is being conspired against, cheated, spied on, followed, poisoned or drugged, maliciously maligned, harassed, or obstructed in the pursuit of long-term goals.
Small slights may be exaggerated and become the focus of a delusional system with a person suffers from a paranoid delusion.
The focus of the delusion is often on some injustice that must be remedied by legal action. The affected person may engage in repeated attempts to obtain satisfaction by appeal to the courts and other government agencies.
Individuals with paranoid delusions are often resentful and angry, and may even resort to violence against those they believe are hurting them or a loved one.
Paranoid delusions are most often diagnosed in the context of schizophrenia. But they can also occur in non-psychotic disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, or the use of certain medications or street drugs.
Example: A man refuses to affix his signature to anything, even something so trivial as a birthday card, because he fears the government is watching him and will use the evidence to track him down.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Jan 2012