7 Traits of Paranoid Personality Disorder

Do you know of someone who is always so suspicious of everything? What about someone who thinks that everyone has malevolent intentions? Patterns of persistent distrust and suspicion are characteristic of paranoid personality disorder. In this article, we’ll discuss 7 traits of paranoid personality disorder for informational purposes; though do not diagnose yourself or others and consult a health professional for further information.

1. They suspect that others are out there to harm them, even when there’s no proof

Even something minor can cause a person to feel that he or she is a subject of harm. Let’s take a fictional person, John, to illustrate these 7 traits of paranoid personality disorder. Here, suppose that John accidentally forgets to say “hi” back to his co-worker. Now, he might be kept up all night because he worries that his co-worker harm him during his sleep for his mistake, even when there’s no proof. As a result, he feels extremely distressed and worried to the point that it significantly impairs his functioning.

2. They doubt the trustworthiness of their friends and co-workers

Another trait of paranoid personality disorder is the unjustified doubts about their social circle. For example, at work, John might be paranoid about the fact that his coworkers are conspiring together to frame him as a horrible employee, when there is no evidence to prove it. Furthermore, he can interpret a simple “hi” from his co-worker as a plot to frame him as a murderer. His typical day at work is filled with worries that he’ll get fired or that his coworkers are out to get him.

3. They are unwilling to confide in others because they think information they reveal will be used against them

Following our case with John, we all know that he has been experiencing pretty rough days at work. He has not been able to focus because all he thinks about is that his co-workers are out to get him! However, he’s unwilling to speak to his friendly manager about this because he worries that his manager will fire him for causing trouble. In short, he is unwilling to confide in others, even if they are a trusted individual, because he thinks information will be used against him. When asked about his well-being, John would respond with short answers such as “it’s nobody’s business!” This is a common response amongst people with paranoid personality disorder.

4. They read too much into events or remarks

It can be hard for people with paranoid personality disorder to function in a social setting. Another trait of paranoid personality disorder is reading too much into events or remarks that truly have no significance. For example, a casual co-worker could complement John saying, “good job John, I wish I could have as many sales as you!”, and John would interpret this to be a selfish complement. Here, he reads into the complement into too much detail, when in fact, it was intended to be a positive encouragement.

5. They hold grudges

People with paranoid personality disorder often hold grudges for a very long time. They feel that any mistake made against them is a permanent attack on their character, which reinforces their paranoia. For instance, someone may have accidentally spilt coffee on John’s briefcase one morning at work, to which he would despise that co-worker for days, months, or even years.

6. They think that everything is an attack on their character, and so they react with hostility

Continuing on with the coffee example mentioned earlier, John may think that his character has been wronged in some way, even if there’s no clear indication how he arrived at that conclusion. Instead of cleaning up the spilt coffee, he may react angrily to the person who caused the accident. For people with paranoid personality disorder, many mistakes are viewed to be an attack on their character – something they must quickly, and angrily defend.

7. They are suspicious about the fidelity of their partner

Not only is the work quality significantly impaired in people with paranoid personality disorder, so is their relationships. The 7th trait of paranoid personality disorder is a persistent suspicion about the faithfulness of their partner. As an example, John may be persistently suspicious that his partner is cheating on him, even if they spend every waking morning with him.

As described above, these 7 traits of paranoid personality disorder are present in many contexts and can cause decreased work satisfaction, poor peer relationships, and distress in personal life. As such, it’s highly recommended that individuals with paranoid personality disorder seek additional resources or professional help to manage it.

Interested in learning more about personality disorders? Read my post about avoidant personality disorder here.

Disclaimer: Please feel free to reach out to me by e-mail [e-mail: monica[at]psych2go.net] or comment your thoughts, questions, or concerns below. However, please note that I am not a mental health professional and I can’t provide diagnosis. I would be happy to engage in a discussion with you or guide you to resources that you may find helpful. Simply educating yourself and learning about paranoid personality disorder though is encouraged for everyone!


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.

Paranoidparrotx. (2015). R/AMA – i’ve been suffering from paranoid personality disorder for over 15 years AMA. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.reddit.com/r/AMA/comments/3b89o7/ive_been_suffering_from_paranoid_personality/

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