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Biology 202
2003 Second Web Paper
On Serendip

Your Brain, Your Enemy

Marissa Litman

As ridiculous as it seems, sometimes you read someone's online profile and they say something prolific. A carelessly placed quote prompted a debate in my brain that caused some ample paranoia. "The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one." Thank you to the friend from high school whose personal AIM profile gave me a topic for my neurobiology paper, PARANOIA.

If it has been confirmed that brain equals behavior, than why don't we fear our own thought processes? Persons with paranoia disorder are not aware that they are in fear of their own brains, but in some respect fear of oneself and what ones brain can create is exactly what persons with paranoia disorder experience. Everyone experiences small doses and bouts of paranoia on nearly a daily basis, but not everyone exists on its affects. Those with paranoia disorder deal with a constant nagging that they cannot control because it tends to control them, hence your brain as your enemy. Though the causes of paranoia are not clearly defined in either social or medical fields, the obvious truth is that paranoia stems from the brain and the nervous system causing persons to be "highly suspicious of other people" (4). According to studies paranoia stems from several possible areas. "Potential factors may be genetics, neurological abnormalities, [and] changes in brain chemistry. Acute, or short-term paranoia may occur in some individuals overwhelmed by stress" (4).

In terms of genetics, paranoia is not defined as something strictly hereditary, however there is a tendency towards its occurrence in families with members with schizophrenia or other mental disorders (6). Socially speaking paranoia appears to be passed down from parent to child through shear exposure and environment. If certain personality traits are innate within a person, than the possibility of a genetic inclination towards paranoia does not appear way off base. This of course stems from discussion on whether or not personality is developed or innate. In almost everything somebody does, his or her personality comes through. The question of nature versus nurture starts at the very root of the physical structure, straight from the brain and the nervous system, the decided director of behavior.

Biologically some studies of schizophrenia and other psychosis have shown actual irregularities in the composition and functions of a paranoid brain. "The search [for abnormal brain chemistry] has become very complex, as more and more of the chemical substances that carry messages from one nerve cell to another—the neurotransmitters—have been discovered" (1). Many examinations of the paranoid brain have shown irregularities in the firing of neural circuits and decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex causing what is assumed to be an "impaired ability to judge whether their [a person's] fears are rational" (6). Does simple misfiring cause paranoia disorder or just paranoia itself, which is perpetuated by a brain that insists upon creating fear within the individual? If everyone's neurotransmitters fall out of place now and than, what judges true paranoia? Is it created through an education of fear and insecurity or is completely biological, and than of course, is biology affected by ones surroundings? Whether or not paranoia is created in the brain and nervous system is a given; it is, however what consumes the brain so much that forces it to create, or innately have a personality disorder?

Stress is another external factor similar to the idea behind the environments affect on the upholding of paranoia disorder. Paranoia tends to be "more prevalent among immigrants, prisoners of war, and others undergoing severe stress" (6). This is also seen as more "acute" or temporary paranoia symptoms and causes, but is still a convincing argument towards nurture being the cause of paranoia disorder.

Paranoia is not something easily curable. Because sufferers of their own internal fears are so self-absorbed, they are "immune to reason" (5). They are also difficult to treat "because the person may be suspicious of the doctor" (4). Though medications and therapy are very common "attemptable remedies" for those with paranoia disorder, if the person cannot control their own mind, than how can they be expected to change what their own mind is doing to them? Because a paranoid personality has to deal with its own issues on a consistent basis, automatically, a person suffering from paranoia gets sucked into isolationism.

The basic symptoms of paranoia are "concern that other people have hidden motives, the expectation of being exploited by others, an inability to collaborate, a poor self image, social isolation, detachment, and hostility" (2). Everyone has their moments of each trait, but to what extent one harbors fears of isolation, detachment, etc. is what actually causes paranoia. Regardless of whether or not paranoia is a biological, chemical, natural, innate, external, or stress induced condition, in any state it cause a human being to fear their own control and their own brain. Persons with paranoia believe within themselves that they have control, and yet they are the ones that force themselves to become "aware" of their surroundings and insecure around all those surrounding them.

1) On the Couch: Faces of Paranoia

2) Paranoia

3) Paranoid Personality Disorder

4 Paranoid Personality Disorder

5) Self Protection or Delusion? The Many Varieties of Paranoia

6) Useful Information on Paranoia

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