Investigating Paranoia in a University Student Population

Prof Doc Thesis

Timmons, Caoilfhionn 2016. Investigating Paranoia in a University Student Population. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London Psychology
AuthorsTimmons, Caoilfhionn
TypeProf Doc Thesis

A growing body of research demonstrates that paranoia is an experience best understood on a continuum and is common in the general population. Previous research suggests elevated levels of paranoia among student populations, yet subsequent qualitative investigation has been sparse. The aim of this study was to qualitatively explore the experiences of paranoia of students who scored highly on a measure of paranoid ideation. Participant perspectives on the causes of, effects of, and ways of managing paranoia in their daily lives were sought. The study also sought to provide a quantitative contextualisation of the incidence of paranoia in the student sample. A qualitative design was employed and quantitative measures were included to aid recruitment. London university students (n = 174) completed quantitative measures of paranoia via questionnaire. An experience of paranoia that involved a belief that others had intended to harm them was reported by 32.8% of the total sample. Seven individuals that reported comparable levels of paranoia to that of a clinical sample were subsequently interviewed regarding their experiences of paranoia. Interview data were analysed using grounded theory methodology. Two core categories were constructed; ‘The Process of Becoming Paranoid’ and ‘Living with Paranoia’. The first core category captured the factors that participants felt might have shaped their tendency to become paranoid in the present, as well as outlining the contextual aspects of the situations that appear to trigger experiences of paranoia. The second core category, ‘Living with Paranoia’ represents a ‘macro view’ of how participants were negotiating paranoia in their daily lives. It is comprised of two subcategories that captured participant accounts of how their lives were being affected, as well as their attempts to cope with and manage paranoia. Attention was paid to both the intrapersonal and intrapersonal aspects of participant accounts. Implications for future research and practice are outlined.

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Publication dates
PrintMay 2016
Publication process dates
Deposited22 Nov 2016
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