Like any mental condition, paranoia is debilitating to both the person diagnosed, as well as their caregiver(s). If you suspect your loved one may be suffering from paranoia, there are several signs to look for, according to Dr. Laura Morton, director of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at UofL. “In a geriatric patient, the symptoms will be sudden and new,” she states. The patient may suddenly become suspicious of others. They might believe someone is stealing their money, hiding things from them, trying to hurt them, or trying to take advantage of them.
If your loved one is suffering from paranoia you might be wondering what caused this condition in the first place. Is this a condition that could have been avoided with a lifestyle change? Do genetics play a role?
According to Dr. Morton, mood disorders, cognitive impairment, and medication changes are a few potential causes of paranoia. She also mentions the importance of consulting the primary care physician (PCP) first to rule out any medical conditions, such as an infection, that could be contributing to paranoia. Major life stressors and changes can also cause a person to suffer from paranoia.
To get a patient’s paranoia under control, Dr. Morton stresses the importance of finding the cause and treating it first. Non-medicinal means of treatment are preferred, but pharmaceutical medications can be beneficial if the first route is not successful. If the patient is diagnosed with a mood disorder, such as depression, that is contributing to his/her paranoia, anti-depression medications can be prescribed. If the patient is diagnosed with schizophrenia, for example, antipsychotic medications can be prescribed.
Dr. Morton offers a host of ideas outside of medication that may help the patient cope with paranoia. “Some patients enjoy stuffed animals and baby dolls,” she says. “Pictures of family members, schedules, and routines may also help.” Other ideas include: music, robotic pets, and limiting loud noises.