By On March 6th, 2015

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy May Help Reduce Paranoia Symptoms in Schizophrenia

A recent study from researchers at the University of Oxford, the University of Southampton, and the University of Manchester has found that reducing anxiety with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help reduce issues with paranoia in individuals with schizophrenia. Paranoia is a prominent symptom of schizophrenia and can be one of the most debilitating or dangerous symptoms of the condition.

Paranoia often present itself in schizophrenia through intrusive fears which are largely irrational. These fears often center on the fear of persecution, making individuals feel people are out to get them or hurt them.

Schizophrenia can also cause people to believe others are able to read their minds, control their thoughts, or may involve hallucinations.

The new research, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, evaluated 150 NHS patients diagnosed with schizophrenia or other related conditions. All participants exhibited severe paranoia despite taking medication.

The participants participated in six sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy tailored to target worry. According to the findings, this type of therapy was highly effective for reducing the intensity of persecution fears, as well as increasing overall happiness in patients.

“We know that worry brings implausible ideas to mind, keeps them there, and stirs up fears,” said Professor Daniel Freeman of the University of Oxford, an author of the study. “It is one factor that causes paranoia.”

The researchers say anxiety often makes small problems or issues inflate to much more disabling fears. However they believe CBT aimed at limiting anxiety also has the potential to limit the severity of symptoms such as paranoia.

“We’ve translated this knowledge into a new treatment,” Freeman explaied. “The clinical trial convincingly shows that teaching people how to limit worry has a major impact on long-standing fears about other people. Brief, targeted, and active psychological help makes a real difference for patients with paranoia.”

The team used specific techniques such as helping patients recognize when intrusive or paranoid thoughts began to occur by interrupting them with sayings like “Excuse me, worry, I can’t listen to you because…” which allowed the individuals to stop the thought and move onto something else.

“Paranoid thinking is remarkably common in the general population, which is not surprising since every day we have to make decisions to trust or mistrust,” Freeman said. “The fears range from thinking that others are spreading malicious rumors to concerns about imminent physical attack. When paranoia gets a strong grip on a person it is typically associated with anxiety, depression, and isolation. We need much more of a focus upon problems such as paranoia.”

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