Paranoid Personality Disorder – DSM5

Disclaimer: Use this information for reference only. Please do no self diagnose. You must see a doctor or a mental health professional to get proper diagnosis.



DSM-5 Note: Personality Disorder

A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment.

Paranoid Personality Disorder

Diagnostic Criteria 301.0 (F60.0)

A. A pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

1. Suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him or her.

2. Is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates.

3. Is reluctant to confide in others because of unwarranted fear that the information will be used maliciously against him or her.

4. Reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events.

5. Persistently bears grudges (i.e., is unforgiving of insults, injuries, or slights).

6. Perceives attacks on his or her character or reputation that are not apparent to others and is quick to react angrily or to counterattack.

7. Has recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding fidelity of spouse or sexual partner.

B. Does not occur exclusively during the course of schizophrenia, a bipolar disorder or depressive disorder with psychotic features, or another psychotic disorder and is not attributable to the physiological effects of another medical condition.

Note: If criteria are met prior to the onset of schizophrenia, add “premorbid,” i.e., “paranoidpersonality disorder (premorbid).”

Diagnostic Features

The essential feature of paranoid personality disorder is a pattern of pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent. This pattern begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts.

Individuals with this disorder assume that other people will exploit, harm, or deceive them, even if no evidence exists to support this expectation (Criterion A1). They suspect on the basis of little or no evidence that others are plotting against them and may attack them suddenly, at any time and without reason. They often feel that they have been deeply and irreversibly injured by another person or persons even when there is no objective evidence for this. They are preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of their friends and associates, whose actions are minutely scrutinized for evidence of hostile intentions (Criterion A2). Any perceived deviation from trustworthiness or loyalty serves to support their underlying assumptions. They are so amazed when a friend or associate shows loyalty that they cannot trust or believe it. If they get into trouble, they expect that friends and associates will either attack or ignore them.

Individuals with paranoid personality disorder are reluctant to confide in or become close to others because they fear that the information they share will be used against them (Criterion A3). They may refuse to answer personal questions, saying that the information is “nobody’s business.”

They read hidden meanings that are demeaning and threatening into benign remarks or events (Criterion A4). For example, an individual with this disorder may misinterpret an honest mistake by a store clerk as a deliberate attempt to shortchange, or view a casual humorous remark by a co-worker as a serious character attack. Compliments are often misinterpreted (e.g., a compliment on a new acquisition is misinterpreted as a criticism for selfishness; a compliment on an accomplishment is misinterpreted as an attempt to coerce more and better performance). They may view an offer of help as a criticism that they are not doing well enough on their own.

Individuals with this disorder persistently bear grudges and are unwilling to forgive the insults, injuries, or slights that they think they have received (Criterion A5).

Minor slights arouse major hostility, and the hostile feelings persist for a long time. Because they are constantly vigilant to the harmful intentions of others, they very often feel that their character or reputation has been attacked or that they have been slighted in some other way. They are quick to counterattack and react with anger to perceived insults (Criterion A6).

Individuals with this disorder may be pathologically jealous, often suspecting that their spouse or sexual partner is unfaithful without any adequate justification (Criterion A7). They may gather trivial and circumstantial “evidence” to support their jealous beliefs. They want to maintain complete control of intimate relationships to avoid being betrayed and may constantly question and challenge the whereabouts, actions, intentions, and fidelity of their spouse or partner.

Paranoid personality disorder should not be diagnosed if the pattern of behavior occurs exclusively during the course of schizophrenia, a bipolar disorder or depressive disorder with psychotic features, or another psychotic disorder, or if it is attributable to the physiological effects of a neurological (e.g., temporal lobe epilepsy) or another medical condition (Criterion B).

Associated Features Supporting Diagnosis

Individuals with paranoid personality disorder are generally difficult to get along with and often have problems with close relationships. Their excessive suspiciousness and hostility may be expressed in overt argumentativeness, in recurrent complaining, or by quiet, apparently hostile aloofness. Because they are hypervigilant for potential threats, they may act in a guarded, secretive, or devious manner and appear to be “cold” and lacking in tender feelings. Although they may appear to be objective, rational, and unemotional, they more often display a labile range of affect, with hostile, stubborn, and sarcastic expressions predominating. Their combative and suspicious nature may elicit a hostile response in others, which then serves to confirm their original expectations.

Because individuals with paranoid personality disorder lack trust in others, they have an excessive need to be self-sufficient and a strong sense of autonomy. They also need tohave a high degree of control over those around them.

They are often rigid, critical of others, and unable to collaborate, although they have great difficulty accepting criticism themselves. They may blame others for their own shortcomings. Because of their quickness to counterattack in response to the threats they perceive around them, they may be litigious and frequently become involved in legal disputes. Individuals with this disorder seek to confirm their preconceived negative notions regarding people or situations they encounter, attributing malevolent motivations to others that are projections of their own fears. They may exhibit thinly hidden, unrealistic grandiose fantasies, are often attuned to issues of power and rank, and tend to develop negative stereotypes of others, particularly those from population groups distinct from their own. Attracted by simplistic formulations of the world, they are often wary of ambiguous situations. They may be perceived as “fanatics” and form tightly knit “cults” or groups with others who share their paranoid belief systems.

Particularly in response to stress, individuals with this disorder may experience very brief psychotic episodes (lasting minutes to hours). In some instances, paranoid personality disorder may appear as the premorbid antecedent of delusional disorder or schizophrenia. Individuals with paranoid personality disorder may develop major depressive disorder and may be at increased risk for agoraphobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Alcohol and other substance use disorders frequently occur. The most common cooccurring personality disorders appear to be schizotypal, schizoid, narcissistic, avoidant, and borderline.


A prevalence estimate for paranoid personality based on a probability subsample from Part II of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication suggests a prevalence of 2.3%, while the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions data suggest a prevalence of paranoid personality disorder of 4.4%.


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the handbook used by health care professionals in the United States and much of the world as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders. DSM contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. It provides a common language for clinicians to communicate about their patients and establishes consistent and reliable diagnoses that can be used in the research of mental disorders. It also provides a common language for researchers to study the criteria for potential future revisions and to aid in the development of medications and other interventions.

pic credit: Toby Allen