How do you tell if someone is paranoid?
The word paranoia was invented by Hippocrates, the founder of medicine. This term comes from the Greek ‘para’ = away from, ‘noos’ = mind. So, it's literal translation is being away from your mind.
Someone suffering from this condition interprets every situation, and focuses on every words and behaviours. A single word might be enough to awaken their suspicions or a deep feeling of persecution. That’s why it causes isolation. Indeed, these people believe that they cannot rely on anyone and often build walls up around themselves. They are naturally distrusting and they feel that they have to protect themselves from the world. Paranoid people are often angry, scared and want to get revenge. If they have friends, it’s only because they see them as harmless.
Distrust is therefore an important characteristic of their personalities, as well as looking ahead. Indeed, their thoughts are centred around the future, they are scared of what might happen and so try to predict violent attacks or betrayal. In doing so, they tend to behave like bullies. Interpreting everything, including what seems obvious to everyone else, they sometimes go as far as manipulating or depriving others of their freedom, just to get to the truth. And woe betide those who don’t do what the sufferer wants, they will therefore be seen as going against the paranoid person and presumed guilty.
There are two types of paranoia:
- Paranoid personality: This is a personality disorder; the condition is constant and completely embedded within the individual’s personality.
- Delusional paranoia: This involves episodes of acute paranoia affecting those who are not necessarily overly suspicious.
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What are the symptoms to look out for?
- Distrust and doubt: a sufferer will always tend to think that those around them are trying to harm them.
- Tendency to be secretive: scared that what they say will be used against them, a sufferer will trust very few others.
- Resentment: it's impossible for them to forgive.
- Aggression: anger and hostility are part of their behavior because they always feel persecuted, threatened and humiliated.
- Isolation: doubts about everyone around them will persist, including their own family members. It is therefore difficult for them to maintain relationships.
Some signs are both symptoms and triggers for paranoia, these include;
- Loss of sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Increase in alcohol consumption or drug use
Interesting fact: This condition seems to more commonly affect those who live in cities, but it can also have an effect on the elderly or depressed individuals. It would also seem that men are generally more affected by this than women.
What are the most common causes of paranoia?
There are several factors which can lead to this condition.
- The influence of parents: experiences during childhood can play a big role. Children who are raised by distrustful parents (thinking that the world is a dangerous place and that people are not to be trusted) can form the basis of paranoia later on.
- Social context: it can also be a response to stress or a traumatic experience.
- A narcissistic injury
- Drugs and alcohol abuse: the condition might also originate from the use of chemical substances designed to ease it.
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Can it be cured? And do any treatments exist?
Unfortunately, it is difficult to treat paranoia because the person affected doesn’t feel ill, never questions themselves and doesn’t trust anything. This is why a psychotherapist will only be effective if the ill person agrees to get treatment.
The editor's advice - Help and get help
It’s rare for a paranoid person to want to get help. That’s why the role of those around them is crucial. It is not however easy to reassure them. In order to calm them down, you have to give them narcissistic recognition and above all never contradict them or lie to them.
Reassuring them requires lots of energy, and sometimes those around them end up suffering from psychological fatigue. So, you shouldn’t hesitate to get help from a psychologist.
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