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Are People Out to Get You?

Published on July 28, 2008

I've always found paranoia to be a perfectly defensible position. -- Pat Conroy

Personality disorders can be very distressful to the individuals who suffer from the disorders. Nonetheless, family and friends are usually the ones complaining. Please understand, people do not choose to have a personality disorder, though the reality is-- their behavior and attitudes can be painfully difficult to understand and accept. This can be especially true with Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD). I would be surprised if many of individuals with PPD seek counseling. It is highly improbable, unless someone in their environment is persistently and persuasively pushing them to "talk to someone." Individuals with PPD are not likely to trust a therapist or the person pushing him or her to see a therapist.

According to the DSM IV, "Their excessive suspiciousness and hostility may be expressed in overt argumentativeness, in recurrent complaining, or by quiet, apparently hostile aloofness" (DSM IV, 1996, p.635). They may appear cold, lacking in emotions, secretive and guarded.

Individuals with PPD make up approximately 0.5% of 2.5% of the general population. Consequently, if after you read this, you start seeing them under every shrub and behind every door, it is just the "New Therapist Syndrome" - or you are living in a bizarre neighborhood. Or, perhaps reading about the personality disorders has made you paranoid. The New Therapist Syndrome strikes after we read too much about psychopathology. While working on my Master's at the Citadel in Charleston, I took an Abnormal Psychology class. By the end of the semester, I was convinced that I had several serious and ineffably fatal disorders AND my friends were more psychotic than I. Don't worry, this passes with time. Though to tell you the truth (our secret—quiet—people are listening), I still have suspicions about a few of my friends, especially the cop and the minister.

The personality and belief patterns listed below are those likely to be noticed in a person with Paranoid Personality Disorder. They must have had these symptoms since early adulthood, and the symptoms must be present in a variety of contents.

1. Individual frequently expects, without sufficient basis, to be exploited or harmed by others.

2. Individual often, without justification, questions the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates.

3. Individual often reads demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events.

4. Individual tends to bear grudges.

5. Individual is easily slighted and tends to react with anger or counter attack.

6. Individual normally doesn’t confide in others because she or he is concerned the information may be used against her or him.

7. Individual is, without justification, often concerned about the fidelity of his/her sexual partner or spouse.

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