Why do people get paranoid? I don’t think anyone is born that way. I sure wasn’t. I was brought up in the 60’s and we assumed everyone was good. We trusted everyone and everyone loved everyone else. We were told that if we needed to cross the street, we should press a button, a light would turn, and all the cars would stop for us. Or we should find a nice friendly policeman or police lady.
Later, I grew up and had no reason not to believe what everyone told me. So if during my job interview an employer told me my pay would be a certain amount and I would have certain hours, I believed it. Often, his words (the boss would invariably be male) wouldn’t be true. After a few days on the job, I’d notice I didn’t have as many hours scheduled as were promised. I’d notice the prettier girls were getting raises, and I wasn’t. The boss repeatedly asked to sleep with me. Was this how to get ahead in the world? What the heck was I going to college for? The other employees had no interest in college. They just wanted their booze. Was this what life was about? But by then, it was the 1970’s, and jobs were scarce. You had to take what was out there. It wasn’t like you could pick and choose.
But this, of course, is typical life experience. Everyone goes through shit like this, especially young folk. You get out when you get the chance, or hopefully you do, shake yourself off, and start afresh.
What causes paranoia? Very few people become truly paranoid, and it can come in varying degrees. I think some people are naturally prone to it, and others aren’t. I think there is a recipe for it, and not being a scientist, I can only guess from what I have observed from my own personal experience and the experience of others.
People who are paranoid are socially isolated. That is part of the recipe. They are separated from their peers both physically and in terms of ability to communicate with them. So this person might live alone, might have limited transportation, might have limited telecommunications, and has few social outlets such as a workplace, club, sports, church, etc. The paranoia feeds into the isolation and makes it more extreme.
Persecution is also part of the recipe. A person who is paranoid believes they are persecuted and by the time the paranoia becomes fully manifest, much of the persecution may be imagined, and any onlooker is bewildered as to what is real and what isn’t.
However, this is key: At first, the persecution is very, very real. Take a kid who is badly bullied. Many different things can happen to a bullied kid. I’ve seen a lot. Often, the kid lashes out and becomes a bully him/herself. The kid might turn inward, turn to self-harm or attempt or succeed at suicide. Kids get depressed and get all sorts of mental health issues.
It makes sense to me that a handful of kids would react to the world by becoming paranoid. After all, someone was mean to them, so it makes sense that maybe the whole world, everyone is mean, right? You couldn’t trust the bad kids, so you can’t trust anyone at all.
Don’t we see this with women and girls who are sexually abused? Some of these folks get to the point where they do not trust anyone male. There was one bad male, or two or three, therefore, half the human race can’t be trusted. I’ve seen this plenty of times.
We see this with abused animals. It’s very sad. The unthinkable happens to an animal, and then this unfortunate pet is scared of people in general, and it cowers and shakes for a long time. Or maybe the little one is scared of people with objects in their hands. Or they have certain deep-seated associations with sounds and smells.
So what happened to me? This is how I see it. It was a combination of things. I used to be very nice and sweet and naive. But a bunch of bad things happened to me that sent me over the top. I guess I’ll just make a list.
1. I was badly dumped by a bunch of friends. This changed my whole view of the world. Thankfully, I have told new people in my life about this incident, and they have assured me that what these “friends” did was wrong. New people in my life are helping me move past it.
2. I was treated very badly at the psychiatric unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in 2011. What’s worse, the therapist I had at the time did not believe me that the experience was so bad, and thought I was lying and exaggerating. All she saw was the “lovely architecture” when she came to see me. Thankfully, again, I do have folks in my life now that believe me about the inhumane treatment and subsequent trauma I suffered there. I am still considering a human rights complaint against the unit.
3. The above therapist threatened me repeatedly for months, telling me she was going to send me to the state hospital. She used fear tactics in her “treatment” of me. She also repeatedly accused me of doing things I did not do. She was controlling and manipulative, telling me I would die without her.
After I dumped this therapist about a year ago, I was totally isolated. Within the months that followed, I had very few human conversations. I took myself off the drug Imipramine because it gave me side effects I could no longer tolerate. So I was going through Imipramine withdrawal and going for weeks without any human conversation. Maybe there would be an exchange at a cash register while handing the cashier some cash or my debit card, but that was it. There were no phone conversations, nothing. I was suffering from severe binge eating, weight gain, and suicidality. I have an eating disorder and I felt that due to weight gain, my life was a living nightmare. I no longer wanted to live.
I sure wouldn’t want to go back to those days. The therapist I saw recently (I just wrote about him, if you’ve read my recent posts) said, “Stick with people who are nice to you, like me, and you’ll never be paranoid again.”
Like him? Like him? What happened with him has shattered my faith in humanity. But I cannot allow the paranoia to come back. I will stay strong.
Folks, please don’t tell me what happened with him is my imagination. That’s not what I need right now. I need validation. When no one believed me about M, the therapist that kept threatening to send me to the state hospital, it crushed me. When no one believed me about Mass General, that sent me practically over the top. A person needs validation. A person doesn’t need to be told, “You are a mental patient, don’t you think you were perceiving things wrong?” Or, “Don’t you think you deserved that kind of treatment? Weren’t you asking for it?” Does this sound a little familiar to you?