Paraphrenia is a mental disorder, or psychosis, that involves a single delusion or a collection of delusions. This can be related to feelings of grandeur, jealousy or persecution. It is considered a form of schizophrenia, although there are notable differences between the two conditions. Several other terms for paraphrenia exist, which include paranoic type schizophrenia, paranoid schizophrenia, paraphrenic schizophrenia, atypical psychosis, schizoaffective disorder and delusional disorder.
German psychiatrist Karl Ludwig Kahlbaum is credited with coining the term, drawing from the Greek words "para" meaning "beyond" and "phren" meaning "mind." He used it to describe and differentiate certain forms of mental disorders, which included paraphrenia hebetica for adolescents and paraphrenia senilis for elderly patients. It lapsed from significant use in the medical world until 1919, when another German psychiatrist, Emil Kraepelin, lumped a small group of cases under the umbrella of this particular psychotic illness. He published his findings in the four-volume treatise Dementia Praecox and Paraphrenia. Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler suggested that the term "schizophrenia" should replace "dementia praecox," thereby establishing two different disorders.
In his writings from 1913 to 1917, the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud theorized that paranoia, which constitutes delusions with or without grandeur, should be treated as a mental disorder apart from schizophrenia. He held to this theory even when paranoia blurred the line between paraphrenia and schizophrenia. Such an assertion has barely been challenged ever since.
The separation of paraphrenia from schizophrenia is based on patients of the former having the ability to act in a relatively normal manner and exhibit no signs of intellectual decline. Also, unlike schizophrenia, people afflicted with paraphrenia can have and maintain a level of comfort and connection with other people. Notably, though, this disorder has schizophrenic-like characteristics.
The most common symptom of paraphrenia is delusions, which involve holding thoughts or beliefs that are not true. Confabulation, an unrestrained speech of events that never took place, is also common. Additionally, intrusive thoughts can appear without warning or invitation and grow into annoying, unpleasant and indelible obsessions.
By the late 1990s and early 2000s, paraphrenia was most commonly documented in Spain and Germany. Still, there had been no systematic research on the disease since the time of Freud. The psychosis is rarely diagnosed. Also, it lacks a listing in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which specifically serves as the publication for the classification of mental diseases; and in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which provides codes for a vast array of medical conditions.