Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford


Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_2124-1


Paranoia, or persecutory delusions, is a quintessential symptom of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Individuals suffering from paranoid ideations become increasingly isolated, avoidant of social situations, and unhappy. These unfounded fixed suspicions that others are out to harm the individual exist on a continuum of severity across clinical and community populations, with 1–3% of nonclinical populations having delusions of clinical severity, a further 5–6% having a delusion but of less severity, and 10–15% reporting regular paranoid thoughts. This dimensional approach has recently been applied to children and to groups from different countries. Much progress has been made on the causes and treatments of paranoia, and these remain significant areas of research and clinical interest. Understanding paranoia and its correlates developmentally continues to be critical to our understanding of the etiology of schizophrenia-spectrum disorders.


Delusions Suspiciousness Social mistrust Dimensional Developmental Cross-cultural 
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bentall, R. P., Kinderman, P., & Kaney, S. (1994). The self, attributional processes and abnormal beliefs: Towards a model of persecutory delusions. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 32, 331–341.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Freeman, D., & Garety, P. A. (2000). Comments on the content of persecutory delusions. Does the definition need clarification? British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 39, 407–414.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Freeman, D., Garety, P. A., Kuipers, E., Fowler, D., & Bebbington, P. E. (2002). A cognitive model of persecutory delusions. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 41(4), 331–347.  https://doi.org/10.1348/014466502760387461.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Freeman, D., Garety, P. A., Bebbington, P. E., et al. (2005). Psychological investigation of the structure of paranoia in a non-clinical population. British Journal of Psychiatry, 186, 427–435.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Freeman, D., et al. (2016). Virtual reality in the treatment of persecutory delusions: Randomised controlled experimental study testing how to reduce delusional conviction. British Journal of Psychiatry, 209, 62–67.  https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.115.176438.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Jaspers, K. (1968). The phenomenological approach in psychopathology. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 114(516), 1313–1323. http://dx.doi.org/10.1192/bjp.114.516.1313.
  7. Jaspers, K., Hoenig, J., & Hamilton, M. W. (1997). General Psychopathology. A Johns Hopkins paperback. Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Kraepelin, E. (1921). Manic-depressive Insanity and Paranoia. Ayer Company Pub.Google Scholar
  9. Wong, K. K., Freeman, D., & Hughes, C. (2014). Suspicious young minds: Paranoia and mistrust in 8- to 14-year olds in the UK and Hong Kong. British Journal of Psychiatry, 205, 1–9.  https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.113.135467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Clare Hall, Centre for Family ResearchUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Anna Czarna
    • 1
  1. 1.Jagiellonian UniversityKrakowPoland