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Psychol Psychother. 2007 Mar;80(Pt 1):1-22.

An experiential perspective on persecutory paranoia: a grounded theory construction.

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St Luke's Woodside Hospital, Clinical Psychology, London, UK.


Recently there has been a large volume of research on persecutory paranoia. Evidence has emerged for the role of social factors in the development of paranoia. There have, however, been no studies that have collaborated with users to develop an experiential perspective on paranoia. This study used a social constructionist version of grounded theory to develop an experiential perspective on persecutory paranoia. Ten individuals who had experience of persecutory paranoia were interviewed. The interviews were transcribed and analysed using the grounded theory method. A core process of fear and vulnerability was constructed. Subcategories of confusion and uncertainty, and self under attack contributed to the core process. These processes led to an engaging of the safety systems. Subthemes of these categories were identified. Many of these factors interacted to create the complex and dynamic experience of paranoia. Participants were often responding to genuinely frightening experiences but were also attacking themselves. Paranoia evolved as a mechanism of keeping oneself safe in dangerous situations. The need to negotiate a shared meaning of paranoia with users is emphasized. Direction for future research was discussed.

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