Do You Know Anyone With Paranoid Personality Disorder?
The main characteristic of Paranoid Personality Disorder is a general suspicion and distrust of others. Other people’s motives are interpreted as malicious. This pattern is usually identified in adulthood, although there may be signs before which can be seen in a variety of contexts. People who suffer from this disorder assume that other people are exploiting, harming or cheating them, although there is nothing solid to support these ideas.
People with Paranoid Personality Disorder suspect, without any evidence to back it up, that other people are conspiring against them. They also tend to think that other people can attack them suddenly for no reason. So they always show a defensive attitude.
The world is a hostile place and I must protect myself
People suffering from this often feel that they have been deeply and irreversibly harmed by one or more others, even when there is no proof of this damage or that the damage was intentional. They have unjustified doubts about the loyalty of their friends or acquaintances. For them, the world is an insecure and very threatening place to live in.
People with Paranoid Personality Disorder carefully examine the actions of their loved ones to try and find hostile intentions in them. Any violation of honesty or loyalty that they perceive simply serves to support their hidden presumptions. We all have a certain confirmatory bias when it comes to highlighting some aspects of reality versus others, whereas they have a much more pronounced bias.
These people are surprised when a friend shows loyalty to them, and they cannot really trust or believe it is true. If they get into trouble, they expect friends and family to attack or ignore them. If they receive help, they will think that the person who is offering that help has ulterior motives.
“The essential characteristic of Paranoid Personality Disorder is a pattern of generalized suspicion and distrust of others”
Individuals with Paranoid Personality Disorder are reluctant to trust or maintain a close relationship with others because they fear that the information they share will be used against them. They may refuse to answer personal questions, saying that the information is nobody’s business. They see hidden meanings that are deregatory and threatening in innocent comments.
For example, a person with this disorder may misinterpret an innocent error by a shop worker as a deliberate attempt at deception. They may also perceive a funny comment from a co-worker as a directed and premeditated attack. In addition, they often misinterpret praise, and may perceive an offer of help as criticism of their way or doing things. They may also feel that the other person is helping them because they think they are incapable.
You’d better treat me well or you’ll suffer the consequences
People with Paranoid Personality Disorder are resentful and are not willing to forgive the insults or contempt they believe they have received. Even minor snubs can make them very aggressive. In addition to this, this anger and hostility can last a long time.
As they are always looking out for the supposed bad intentions of others, they often feel that their character or reputation is being attacked or that they have been undermined in some way. They are quick to counterattack and react with anger to the insults they receive. These people can be pathologically jealous and often suspect that their partner is not being faithful to them, without having any evidence at all.
The 7 main symptoms of Paranoid Personality Disorder
As you can imagine, people with Paranoid Personality Disorder are usually very difficult to deal with and often have problems in their relationships. There are many symptoms and consequences connected with this disorder. Here are some of the main ones:
- Suspicion, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting or harming them. They also frequently feel that people are letting them down.
- Unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trust of friends or colleagues.
- Little willingness to trust others, due to the unjustified fear that the information is being used maliciously against them.
- Seeing threats or derogatory meanings in innocent comments that are made without any malice at all.
- Holding grudges (they don’t forget supposed insults, offences or snubs).
- A perception that others are attacking their character or reputation. They are prone to react quickly with anger or to counterattack.
- Recurring suspicion, without any justification, regarding the fidelity of the spouse or partner.
Suspicion and hostility are their hallmark
The excessive suspicion and hostility of people with Paranoid Personality Disorder means that they often argue about everything openly. This can take the form of continual complaints, or a distant, and apparently hostile, attitude. Because they are excessively watchful of potential threats, they can act in a cautious, secret or malicious way.
These people often seem cold, lacking in feelings, and devoid of love. Their belligerent and suspicious nature can provoke a hostile response in others, which in turn will serve to confirm their original expectations (a type of self-fulfilling prophecy).
“People with paranoid personality disorder often have thoughts of the type: “They want to con me”, “They’re going to betray me”, “They’re making fun of me”.
When controlling everything is not enough
Because people with Paranoid Personality Disorder don’t trust others they have an excessive need to be able to cope all by themselves. This gives them a strong sense of autonomy. They also need to have a high degree of control over their environment. They tend to be rigid, are not able to collaborate, and are overly critical with others. Yet they themselves have great difficulty accepting criticism from others.
Everyone is to blame, except me
People with Paranoid Personality Disorder usually blame others for their own shortcomings. Due to how quickly they go on the offensive, responding to the perceived threats around them, they can quickly become involved in legal disputes. They blame others by attributing malicious motivations to them. This attitude is actually a projection of their own fears.
Fantasies of power
People with Paranoid Personality Disorder often have grandiose, but unrealistic, hidden fantasies. These often have to do with power and rank. They often tend to build up negative stereotypes of others, particularly of ethnic groups other than their own.
The simple worlds beliefs and overviews tend to attract them. This means that they are often by nature very cautious about ambiguous situations and hardly ever put themselves at risk. We can perceive them to be fanatics. They tend to attach themselves to cults or groups of other people who share their paranoid belief system.
People with Paranoid Personality Disorder feel great distrust and intense suspicion of other people. They interpret other people’s motives as malicious and blame them for all their ills. They are cautious and monitor their environment continually to detect potential attacks or threats.
For these people life is difficult and they need all the help they can get. Think for a moment how you would feel if you spent your whole life thinking that those around you constantly want to harm you.
Grossman, Seth & Millon, Carrie & Meagher, Sarah & Ramnath, Rowena (2001). Personality disorders in the modern life. First edition, second edition 2006. Barcelona: Ed. Masson & Elsevier.
American Psychiatry Association (2014). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5), 5th Ed. Madrid: Editorial Medica Panamericana.