Persecution Mania

Persecution mania is a symptom that occurs in the context of certain mental disorders. Those who suffer from it believe that they're being persecuted.
Persecution Mania

Last update: 01 July, 2022

Aliens are chasing me, they want to kidnap me, I can’t leave the house because they’ll catch me.” These might well be the words of someone suffering from persecution mania. To an outsider, they sound outlandish but for the people who suffer from this disorder, the situations they describe are real, thus the tension they experience is immense.

Those with persecution mania can experience these types of threats, even when they’re not really in a dangerous situation or there’s no evidence that their story is real. Additionally, they often name high-profile groups such as the FBI, the CIA, aliens, God, and the devil, among others, as their persecutors.

Woman with fear due to persecution mania
People who experience persecution mania feel threatened and afraid because they believe they’re being persecuted.

Persecution mania: disease or symptom?

What some call persecution mania, for others is delirium, as described in the DSM-5 (one of the most important diagnostic mental health manuals). The term ‘mania’ is associated with the manic state that some patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder may present.

People with persecution mania, although they don’t exhibit intellectual deterioration, have a tendency to associate their ideas in an unusual way. This association usually tends to confirm the idea that they’re being followed or persecuted.

Persecution mania is a symptom characterized by fear of persecution or kidnapping. The symptoms usually last for more than a month. The condition could be related to many types of psychological disorders. For example, a patient suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder may have persecutory ideas.

The causes of persecution mania

Although the causes are unknown, statistics show that it may occur more often in middle-aged or older people. Some specialists believe that its appearance may be associated with narcissistic traits along with high degrees of anguish and frustration.

There are also various risk factors that are a combination of family or biological history. Within the environmental or situational, are the following factors:

  • High-stress events.
  • Drug use. For example, the effects of certain recreational drugs are known to precipitate an episode of persecution mania.
  • Social isolation.
  • Sleep disorders.
  • Biographical circumstances of the patient. For instance, someone belonging to an ethnic minority who’s suffered a situation of harassment.
Man looking out the window
Those who suffer from persecution mania need to constantly check if they’re being persecuted.

How to identify the symptoms

A person with persecution mania may put all their attention, time, and even money into trying to make themselves feel safe from the dangers of persecution. There are certain behavioral characteristics that may indicate someone is suffering from persecution mania. For example:

  • They’re worried about the loyalty of those close to them. If they’re in a relationship, they might worry that their partner has a lover and is being unfaithful. This can cause a great deal of conflict as well as discomfort for the sufferer.
  • In normal situations, they interpret threatening meanings. They tend to be obsessive over the idea of being in danger and being attacked. Furthermore, they might spend hours ruminating over conversations and thinking that something that someone said to them had a hidden meaning.
  • They feel spied on or persecuted. This is the main characteristic of the disorder, which they take to the extreme.

These kinds of behaviors could also occur in people who aren’t necessarily suffering from a psychological disorder but are simply going through a difficult time that exceeds their emotional and cognitive resources. This doesn’t mean they’re suffering from persecution mania.

Professional help

If you think someone close to you is suffering from persecution mania, you might be tempted to convince them that their mind is working in a parallel universe. However, doing so can be extremely complicated and also counterproductive. Therefore, we recommend you consult a professional. Not only so they can treat the sufferer, but so they can also guide you toward helping them attend therapy.

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  • Bernal et al (2020) Subtipo Persecutorio Del Trastorno Delirante:Estudio De Series De 129 Casos. REV. CHIL NEURO-PSIQUIAT 58 (2); 116-126
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