Suspicious Souls

Along the continuum of psychological disorders, we have many different experiences that aren’t necessarily full blown psychosis. However they’re visible or serious enough to affect the quality of our health and relationships.

One of those is known as Paranoid Personality Disorder, a condition more prevalent in men, especially with a history of psychological diseases in their family, where a person has a long-term distrust of people, is constantly on guard and suspicious of those around them.

These people have an unjustified tendency to interpret the actions of others as insulting, demeaning or deliberately hurtful. Innocent or objective comments are often misinterpreted as taking stabs at or hitting them below the belt. They experience great shifts in mood and often isolate themselves instead of trying to seek clarification for their delusions. Most confusing here is that people suffering from this condition aren’t able to recognise their own negative feelings towards those they mistrust, nor are they able to identify their contribution to the problem.

On the outside, they may appear cold, unresponsive, non-communicative and calculating. Their thoughts are preoccupied with constantly trying to analyse the words and motives of others. Rarely do they let their guard slip by just being themselves, without hiding behind layers of suspicion. They go to great lengths to mask their true insecurities. However, their underlying character may surface during conflict or triggered by intoxication.

Common symptoms of paranoid personality disorder include:

  • Concern that other people have hidden motives
  • Are unforgiving and hold grudges
  • Expectation that they will be exploited by others
  • Inability to work together with others
  • Inability to respect authority
  • Sense of avoidance and withdrawing from relationships
  • Hypersensitive to criticism
  • Constant sense of unresolved anger
  • Self-loathing
  • Silent treatment
  • Selective memory
  • Have difficulty relaxing
  • Stubborn and argumentative
  • Chaos manufacturing by creating an environment of destruction and confusion
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Engulfing or attaching to one person, believing that they only exist in the context of that relationship
  • Read hidden meanings to the words or looks of others
  • Controlling and jealous
  • Do not take responsibility for their actions
  • Social isolation
  • Detachment
  • Hostility

Paranoid personality disorder usually results from negative childhood experiences. These people may have been raised in a threatening domestic atmosphere, ‘prompted by extreme and unfounded parental rage and/or condescending parental influence that cultivate profound child insecurities’ (Psychology Today).

One of the latest medical breakthroughs here is the discovery that individuals might be increasingly prone to depressive disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, alcoholism, and substance-abuse problems.  Paranoid thoughts are often kept hidden since these people believe they see things others don’t and telling them about it would lead to being judged, ridiculed or humiliated. Confirmation bias is a huge problem as well because they tend to look for factors that confirm their negative thoughts rather than have a more balanced perception of events.

There is no doubt that thoughts and perceptions shape our reality and in turn, shape our personality therefore it’s very important that we’re in tune to contemplations that may be distorted or inaccurate. Worse yet, these negative thoughts become their own self-fulfilling prophecy, confirming their worse fears and assumptions. Jennifer Marr, of the London Business School, found that people’s fears about being viewed negatively by others actually influenced those views themselves. Furthermore, these people are more likely to have dysfunctional relationships and be gossiped about because they’re insanely self conscious and hyper vigilant, making others uncomfortable with their disposition.

As with most psychological concerns, it’s imperative that these people receive treatment in order to understand the deep foundational factors that have contributed to their intense private insecurities.  A qualified clinic psychologist will slowly help the client confront their symptoms and better understand what they’re going through. At times, medication may be necessary along side regular counseling sessions.  The good news is that recovery is possible with the help of a supportive family and regular psychological intervention.

Samineh I Shaheem is an author, an assistant professor of psychology, currently lecturing in Dubai, as well as a cross-cultural consultant. She has studied and worked in different parts of the world, including the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, and the UAE. She co hosts a radio program (Psyched Sundays 10-12pm) every Sunday morning on Dubai Eye 103.8 FM discussing the most relevant psychological issues in our community.  

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