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ISSN: 1935-1232 (P)

ISSN: 1941-2010 (E)

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Abstract

Emotional, Cognitive and Behavioral Reactions to Paranoid Symptoms in Clinical and Nonclinical Populations

Author(s): Célia Barreto Carvalho , Carolina da Motta , José Pinto-Gouveia ,Ermelindo Manuel Bernardo Peixoto

Background: Paranoia is a disruptive belief that can vary across a continuum, ranging from persecutory delusions presented in clinical settings to paranoid cognitions that are highly prevalent in the general population. The literature suggests that paranoid thoughts derive from the activation of a paranoid schema or information processing biases that can be sensitive to socially ambiguous stimuli and influence the processing of threatening situations. Methods: Four groups (schizophrenic participants in active psychotic phases, n=61; stable participants in remission, n=30; participants’ relatives, n=32; and, healthy controls, n=64) were assessed with self-report questionnaires to determine how the reactions to paranoia of clinical patients differ from healthy individuals. Cognitive, emotional and behavioral dimensions of their reactions to these paranoid thoughts were examined. Results: Paranoid individuals were present in all groups. Most participants referred to the rejection by others as an important trigger of paranoid ideations, while active psychotics were unable to identify triggering situations to their thoughts and reactions. This may be a determinant to the different reactions and the different degree of invalidation caused by paranoid thoughts observed across groups. Conclusions: Clinical and nonclinical expressions of paranoid ideations differ in terms of their cognitive, emotional and behavioral components. It is suggested that, in socially ambiguous situations, paranoid participants (presenting lower thresholds of paranoid schema activation) lose the opportunity to disconfirm their paranoid beliefs by resourcing to more maladaptive coping strategies. Consequently, by dwelling on these thoughts, the amount of time spent thinking about their condition and the disability related to the disease increases.