teen with paranoid personality disorder

How to Handle a Teen with Paranoid Personality Disorder

August 28, 2018

Teens and Paranoid Personality Disorder

Adolescence can be a stressful time for unprepared parents and their children. At that age, teenagers develop varied interests and acquire diverse personalities. Unfortunately, part of the acquired behavior involves challenging the authority of the parent and an unfettered desire to have more independence. Additionally, parents often find it difficult to ascertain whether an adolescent is undergoing typical mood swings or suffering from mental issues. Some parents often misconstrue typical teenage behavior to be signs and symptoms of mental illness such as paranoid personality disorder.

Like many other mental disorders, PPD is frequently diagnosed the moment the condition begins to interfere with a person’s routine activities. The condition is characterized by a longstanding suspicion and mistrust of others which are persistent qualities across much of the teen’s life. Such characteristics are often difficult for the teen to overcome and are not considered examples of acceptable social norms and thus evoke significant suffering and impairment. This article delves into how to identify the condition and how to handle teens with the disorder.

Symptoms of Paranoid Personality Disorder

Social Anxiety

One of the primary symptoms of the condition is the reluctance to engage in social activities. Also, the adolescent shows signs of visible distress when in social setups.

Underachievement in School

The adolescent shows poor performance or a sudden drop in performance at school especially in courses that they were excellent in previously.


The teens may become defensive, react angrily, and perceive that people are attacking them at a personal level. Further, the teen shows a tendency to find malicious intentions even in good actions.

Withdrawal and Poor Social Relationships

Withdrawal is the most challenging symptom to recognize as teens frequently go through periods of withdrawal and conflict within their social circle. If a period of withdrawal lasts more than six months, then it could indicate a personality disorder.

Intrusive Thoughts and Language

The teen may also show recurrent episodes of suspicion about others without any justification, experience fear of victimization, and interpret hidden meanings in everyday events and actions.

Handling a Teen Suffering from Paranoid Personality Disorder

Get Close and Assess Friends

Evidently, many of the symptoms are shared between other common teenage afflictions such as depression, anxiety disorders, or drug abuse. Being aware of a teenager’s friends and activities is a first and essential step in making an accurate inference about the triggers of specific behavior and thus provide sufficient support during treatment if needed. It is essential for parents to be close and comforting to such teens for the teens build confidence in them and confide in them.

Seek Treatment

One of the common resolves of many parents to such teens is to seek treatment. Treatment for paranoid personality disorder involves a mix of long-term psychotherapy and medication. A therapist often determines the appropriate treatment regimen with substantial experience in dealing with teenage paranoid personality disorders. Drugs are often prescribed to manage debilitating symptoms such as anxiety and are used in conjunction with therapy.

In addition to treatment, parents have a crucial role to offer support and empathy throughout the teen’s treatment regimen. However, it is vital to continue with regular parenting duties in regards to privacy, rules, consequences, and boundaries.

The following additional strategies are important for parents as they cope with the stress of supporting a loved one who has paranoid personality disorder and subsequently, assist in their recovery.

Establish Regular Routine

People with paranoid personality disorder exhibit inflexible thinking which makes it hard to adapt to situations. Therefore, a stringent routine is beneficial in setting up a structure through which the teen can navigate life. A stable structure in life offers a valuable frame of reference against which they can examine and overcome negative thoughts.

Ensure Consistent and Clear Communication

It is advisable to be cautious about word choice and avoid vague or ambiguous words while communicating with the teen suffering from paranoid personality disorder. Since such teens are hypersensitive and prone to negative thoughts, all communication should leave no chance for misinterpretation. Therefore, parents should use succinct, specific, and consistent language to avoid the possibility of misunderstanding.

Monitor for Substance Abuse

Alcohol and drug abuse pose a risk of exacerbating the teen’s paranoid personality disorder. The dangers of interaction between alcohol abuse and many types of personality disorders have been extensively documented in multiple scientific studies. It is common for those who have paranoid personality disorder to seek relief in alcohol or drugs. However, the disorder increases the possibility of developing an addiction. Consequently, parents should ensure that their teenagers stay away from drugs and alcohol.

Seeking Support

Having a family member who has paranoid personality disorder can be overwhelming. Therefore, it is also imperative for parents to ensure that they get support for themselves and other members of the household. Consulting a doctor about possible group therapy sessions might be beneficial.

At Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center, our mental health professionals provide services for both teenagers and their families for a successful recovery plan. For parents who worry that their teens have paranoid personality disorder, then our serene residential facilities offer an ideal setting for your teenager’s recovery.