Paraphrenia is a late-onset mental disorder similar to schizophrenia in that it features the positive symptoms of the disease, such as delusions and/or hallucinations, but lacks the negative symptoms, such as the deterioration of intellect or personality.
Compared to schizophrenia, paraphrenia is less hereditary, has a slower rate of progression and doesnâ€™t manifest until the patient is much older, with most patients developing the disorder around the age of 60 or older. Patients also seem more grounded and are better-oriented to time and space compared to patients with schizophrenia. Paraphrenia affects 2-4% of elderly people. While it occurs in both genders, it is more common in women.
Paraphrenia is not included in the DSM-5. More recently, clinicians have been classifying it as very late-onset schizophrenia-like psychosis. In fact, patients who present with these particular symptoms have been diagnosed with a variety of other illnesses, including atypical psychosis, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder or persistent persecutory state.
The hallucinations in paraphrenia are often auditory with approximately 75% of patients reporting such an experience. Visual, olfactory and tactile hallucinations have been reported as well.
Those who develop the disease in late life are often described as having eccentric and/or solitary personalities prior to the illness. Many are described as having been argumentative, overly-sensitive, overly religious, suspicious or cold.
It is very common for paraphrenia patients to experience delusions revolving around the idea of persecution. For example, a patient with this disease might believe that the police are staked out in his hedge at night waiting for him to come out, or be convinced that a neighbor is tapped into his phone line, listening to everything he says. Feelings of grandiose, hypochondriacal and erotic delusions have also been reported.
Example: Patricia had long been living alone before she developed full-blown psychosis. Her family members had been estranged for some time, and whenever they tried to contact her, she accused them of trying to steal her money.