When you think of paranoid people, you may think of some weird bearded hermit in the woods, muttering about how “they” are out to get him.
But paranoid personality disorder (PPD) is a real mental disorder which hits real people. As it afflicts between 2.3 percent to 4.4 percent of the general population, you have likely met someone with this disorder in your life. Perhaps you have tried to be their friend, or perhaps you are or want to be even closer than that.
Such a situation can be difficult. But it does not deserve sympathy, but understanding. Attempting to sympathize with someone with PPD is one of the worst things which you can do. The paranoid person will just grow suspicious at seeing someone be sympathetic towards him, and will just spiral deeper into further paranoia.
What is PPD?
Psych Central states Paranoid Personality Disorder “…is characterized by a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent.”
The most important thing to remember is that paranoia is not just that fear that “they” are out to get him. It is an inability to trust others and a willingness to believe the worst of others as well as their motives. All emotions are amplified, like having a constant cell phone booster attached to your head. A colleague’s slight ribbing can be interpreted as vicious mockery. And as noted above, sympathy can be viewed as a clever ploy which will be used to eventually deceive them.
Because of the fear of being called “paranoid” by society, those who suffer from this disability will it. But there are successful people who psychologists have good reason to believe suffered from this disorder.
Perhaps the best example is Richard Nixon. Nixon had a difficult time trusting others throughout his career, and was always worried about being defeated or losing. It was this fear which caused him to order the Watergate break-in even though he was all but certain to win the 1972 election, and it was this fear which made him record everything in the White House – records which would eventually lead to his downfall.
But while Nixon’s name will be forever associated with the Watergate incident, we should not forget that he did many great things as President. He established relations between America and China. He established the Environmental Protection Agency, and desegregated Southern schools. Nixon is an example of how those with this disorder can be both great, intelligent individuals who are held back by their constant suspicious of others.
What does PPD mean to you?
Those outside the world of paranoid personality disorder may feel shocked or irritated when they are pushed by someone with this disorder. But they have to understand just how difficult it is to trust.
We all have someone who we just do not like or trust at all. If that person came up to you, offered you a beer, and acted like he was your best friend in the world, would you feel happy? Perhaps. But most people would wonder, “Just what is he up to?”
For someone with paranoid personality disorder, everyone is that person. Some do not even realize that they are so suspicious but cannot help themselves. But that suspicion of ill intentions is always there, and it can hurt their work and their relationships.
Now, people with PPD can eventually trust others. But it is hard work, and can be lost easily if you are not careful. Those in a relationship need to understand this.
How can you help?
If you think that someone you love has this disorder, just straight up suggesting counseling is not the best idea. Someone who is naturally suspicious will only grow more so upon such a suggestion, both of you as well as the very idea of counselling. If someone with PPD does not think he has a problem, then there is nothing you can do.
But this does not mean to just let them get away with everything they want. While some may think that people with PPD will go nuts if their relations do not do everything which they command, this is absolutely not the case. They can understand that everyone has their limits, especially because their limits are so low.
Setting boundaries is an important part of any relationship, both in establishing a strong relationship and repairing a broken one. It is even more crucial in these cases. If there are no boundaries, your partner may very well begin pushing you into areas you do not want to test your trust. Do not play those games, be firm, and respect yourself to respect him.
Understand that in the world of one with PPD, everyone is mistrustful. But trust is not impossible to gain. And if you can find a relationship with someone like that, understanding can help establish boundaries which can get through almost anything.
Featured photo credit: Yun Huang Yong via flickr.com