Paranoia is a dimension of clinical and subclinical experiences in which others are believed to have harmful intentions. Mild paranoid concerns are relatively common in the general population, and more clinically severe paranoia shares features with social anxiety and is a key characteristic of schizotypy. Given that subclinical manifestations of schizotypy and paranoia may predict the occurrence of more severe symptoms, disentangling the associations of these related constructs may advance our understanding of their etiology; however no known studies to date have comprehensively evaluated how paranoia relates to social anxiety and schizotypy. The current research sought to examine the association of paranoia, assessed across a broad continuum of severity, with 1) the positive and negative schizotypy dimensions and 2) social anxiety. Specifically, the study tested a series of six competing, a priori models using confirmatory factor analysis in a sample of 862 young adults. As hypothesized, the data supported a four-factor model including positive schizotypy, negative schizotypy, social anxiety, and paranoia factors, suggesting that these are distinct constructs with differing patterns of interrelationships. Paranoia had a strong association with positive schizotypy, a moderate association with social anxiety, and a minimal association with negative schizotypy. The results are consistent with paranoia being part of a multidimensional model of schizotypy and schizophrenia. Prior studies treating schizotypy and schizophrenia as homogenous constructs often produce equivocal or non-replicable results because these dimensions are associated with distinct etiologies, presentations, and treatment responses; thus, the present conceptualization of paranoia within a multidimensional schizotypy framework should advance our understanding of these constructs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas