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Delusions Of Persecution: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Delusions of persecution refer to false beliefs or perceptions in which a person believes that they are being treated with malicious intent, hostility, or harassment – despite significant evidence to suggest otherwise.  Imagine waking up and thinking that your next-door neighbor was plotting to kill you, or that your spouse had sprinkled some poison in your morning coffee.  These are a couple scenarios that may occur for individuals afflicted with persecutory delusions.

Perceiving that someone is out to harm your reputation or sabotage your life are common themes of persecutory delusions.  It is estimated that approximately 10% to 15% of the general population will experience paranoid thoughts, and in some cases these thoughts result in persecutory delusions.  A majority of individuals experiencing this specific type of delusion have a preexisting psychiatric condition such as schizophrenia.

What are delusions of persecution? Definition.

To help you get a better understanding of the phrase delusions of persecution, it is important to first understand the term “delusion” as well as the term “persecution.”  It is important to realize that delusions aren’t always related to persecution, and in some cases, persecution is not a delusion.

Delusion: This is a term that signifies a false belief or perception that is held with full conviction, despite significant contradictory evidence.  These false beliefs or perceptions are usually refuted with legitimate science, refuting logic, or rationality.

Persecution: This is a term that refers to mistreatment, discrimination, or victimization of a person or group of people for a specific reason.  In some cases, there may be a logically valid reason for persecution such as torturous imprisonment for an individual that committed a heinous crime.  Most popular types of persecution are related to religious affiliation, ethnicity, and political affiliation – these are not usually justified with rationality.

Delusions of Persecution: This is a phrase combining the term delusion (a false belief held despite significant contradictory evidence), with the term persecution (mistreatment, discrimination, or victimization).  It refers to a falsely held belief or thought that another entity (person, multiple people or a group) is on a mission to harm or mistreat them.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17258852

What causes delusions of persecution?

It is unknown as to what specifically triggers persecutory delusions.  Some experts speculate that anatomical differences of the brain may contribute, particularly injuries to various lobes.  In other cases, the delusions may result from drug abuse, genetic polymorphisms, neurotransmitter concentrations, and receptor densities (of specific neurochemicals).

Brain anatomy: It is believed that among those with persecutory delusions, there may be anatomical differences of specific brain regions.  Some researchers believe that there is likely dysfunction within the amygdala, fronto-striatal circuitry, and/or the parietal cortices. Dysfunction in these particular regions may result in a mismatch between experience and expectation – resulting in delusions and prediction errors.

Defective brain wiring can lead to perceptual alterations, leading to delusional perceptions that a normal, healthy individual doesn’t experience. Other researchers have hypothesized that persecutory delusions may be a result of spatiotemporal disturbances.  These spatiotemporal disturbances may result in deficits in the ability to perceive the “chance nature” of events and circumstances.

This deficit in assessing “chance” could make a person conclude that others are out to persecute them, despite the chances of that being very slim.  The anatomical wiring of a person’s brain, coupled with environmental inputs, may be responsible for generating specific persecutory delusions.  Other research has found reduced gray matter in the prefrontal and temporal regions to cause persecutory delusions.

Brain injuries: Those that experience persecutory delusions may have experienced brain injuries.  Specifically, research has shown that injuries to the temporal lobe – particularly lesions, could be responsible for delusions of persecution.  In some cases, a combination of both temporal and frontal lobe injuries may be responsible for causing persecutory delusions.

Drugs: Abusing or ingesting certain drugs may provoke delusions of persecution.  Those that have dealt with episodes of drug-induced psychosis may have experienced delusions of persecution.  Certain drugs can increase dopamine concentrations to abnormally high amounts, leading a person to feel stimulated or euphoric.

In some cases, the stimulation becomes intensified to the point that the fear-center of the brain is triggered, and paranoia sets in.  The paranoia can make an individual believe that others are out to harm them, the feds are spying on them, or that nobody can be trusted.  This tends to be more common among those that exhibit stimulant psychosis, but can sometimes occur with ingestion of non-stimulatory substances.

Genetics: There is likely a genetic component that plays a role in facilitating a neurochemistry susceptible to experiencing persecutory delusions.  Specifically, researchers have suggested that polymorphisms of genes responsible for dopaminergic neurotransmission may cause persecutory delusions.  The DRD2, DRD3, and/or TH genes may result in heightened dopamine sensitivity, leading to paranoia, and ultimately persecutory delusions.

The “DRD” genes are responsible for regulating dopamine receptors, while the “TH” gene serves to facilitate the synthesizing enzyme for dopamine called tyrosine hydroxylase.  Among those with the persecutory subtype of delusional disorder, a “dopamine psychosis” stemming from the aforementioned genes (DRD2, DRD3, TH) occurs to produce the delusions.

Hemispheric activation: Researchers have reported that those with neurodegenerative diseases that exhibit delusions of persecution, left lateralization is a causative factor.  This means that among individuals experiencing persecutory delusions as a result of neurodegeneration, the left hemisphere of the brain is dominant, and possibly hyperactive.  Whether lateralization of the left hemisphere occurs in all cases of persecutory delusions remains unknown.

Neurotransmitter concentrations: The concentrations of specific neurotransmitters likely influence whether someone experiences delusions, as well as the persecutory subtype.  It is believed that stimulatory neurotransmitters, particularly that of dopamine, is likely to be an influential factor.  Some research suggests that chaotic firing of dopamine in the ventral striatum region of the brain could lead to delusions of persecution.

The theory is that when dopaminergic neurons aren’t firing properly in the ventral striatum, it causes us to pay careful attention to benign, non-threatening stimuli.  In other words, we become more vigilant, and may experience suspiciousness, aggression, and ultimately persecutory delusions.  Others believe that an overall high dopamine concentration with deficient receptors may contribute to delusions.

Receptor densities: The densities of neurotransmitter receptors, particularly those responsible for processing dopamine are thought to cause delusions of persecution.  When there are low concentrations of dopamine receptors in certain regions, the existing receptors may become bombarded or overwhelmed with processing dopamine – leading a person to experience delusions (of persecution) or hallucinations.  It is this reason that atypical antipsychotics are often prescribed to treat delusions of persecution – they act as dopamine receptor antagonists.

Note: It should be mentioned that 2 people may experience persecutory delusions for completely different reasons.  One may exhibit abnormal neurotransmitter concentrations, while another may have a lesion on a particular brain region.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20558235
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19419772
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3895617/
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12007750
  • Source: http://www.springerpub.com/localization-of-clinical-syndromes-in-neuropsychology-and-neuroscience.html

Conditions associated with persecutory delusions

There are several psychiatric and neurological conditions associated with persecutory delusions.  Any condition that is capable of provoking or inducing paranoia should be considered as having the potential to cause delusions of persecution.  The persecutory delusions may occur on an acute basis or may be a chronic symptom of a condition.

Bipolar disorder: Those with bipolar disorder are at increased risk of experiencing delusions.  Since the most common delusional subtype is that of persecution, many individuals with bipolar disorder deal with persecutory delusions.  Bipolar disorder involves transitioning or “cycling” between elevated and depressive moods.

During certain transitory phases of bipolar disorder, an individual may be prone to deluded thinking.  This may manifest along with psychomotor agitation associated with transitioning between the two poles of “mania” and “depression.”  During this transition, certain regions of the brain may become overactive, neurotransmission may become chaotic, and persecutory delusions may ensue.

Depression: While is isn’t common for people with major depression to experience comorbid delusions of persecution, it can occur.  Persecutory delusions are a well-documented symptom of individuals with psychotic depression in which a person becomes so depressed, that they also experience psychosis.  It should also be noted that psychiatric drug or antidepressant roulette may provoke transitory delusions of persecution among severely depressed individuals.

Drug abuse: Those that have abused drugs are likely to experience delusions of persecution.  These delusions may occur during intoxication, but may also occur as unexpected side effects, or a result of long-term drug-induced brain changes.  Someone that has abused a stimulant over a long-term, may have killed brain cells, damaged certain circuitry, and depleted receptors.  It may take awhile (protracted withdrawal) before a person recovers from their past drug abuse.

Encephalitis: There have been case reports of delusions of persecution following acute encephalitis.  Encephalitis is a condition associated with inflammation of the brain, and can cause a variety of symptoms.  While most people with encephalitis will not exhibit persecutory delusions, it has been reported and therefore should be noted.

Neurodegenerative diseases: Those with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease may experience delusions of persecution upon disease onset, during treatment, or in advanced stages of the disease.  These neurodegenerative diseases tend to alter regional activity and connectivity, neurotransmitter and receptor functioning, and overall brain volume.  Furthermore, treatments for these conditions often involve dopaminergic drugs (i.e. Levodopa), which may induce temporary delusions of persecution as a result of heightened dopamine levels.

Other neurological conditions: Various neurological conditions such as Fahr’s disease may result in delusions of persecution.  This is a disease characterized by calcium deposits within the basal ganglia, significantly affecting the globuspallidus region.  In one case, a 23-year old woman developed psychosis and delusions of persecution as a result of this neurological condition.

Paranoid personality disorder (PPD): This is a condition associated with excessive suspicion and distrust of others, to the extent that they interfere with social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.  Those with paranoid personality disorder are highly prone to experience delusions of persecution.  This condition is generally treated with administration of atypical antipsychotics, which serve to regulate dopaminergic activity.

Schizophrenia: While there are many types of schizophrenia, the subtype most associated with delusions of persecution is paranoid schizophrenia.  The persecutory delusions are considered positive symptoms, and may be directly related to hallucinations (i.e. hearing voices).  For example, someone with schizophrenia may hear a voice that tells them “your friend is talking behind your back” or “your neighbor is planning to kill you.”

These delusions are treated with administration of antipsychotic agents, which reduce chaotic firing of dopamine.  It should be noted that any subtype of schizophrenia could experience persecutory delusions, but the paranoid subtype seems to be most commonly associated.

  • Source: http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/75/310/532.3
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19522881
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20540394

Do persecutory delusions serve a functional purpose?

Some experts have theorized as to whether persecutory delusions serve an evolutionary or functional purpose.

Attributional bias: Bentall et al. developed an theory that persecutory delusions were the result of negative events that may threaten a person’s self-esteem, and thus get attributed to others.  Through attributional bias, or attributing negative events to others, it protects a person’s ego and preserves self-esteem.  During pathogenesis of diseases like schizophrenia, a person may exhibit preferential recall of delusional material, resulting in psychological reinforcement of their persecutory delusion.

Automatisms: The French psychiatrist De Clerambault believed that persecutory delusions should be considered reactions of an abnormal personality to automatisms.  Automatisms are essentially actions or thoughts without conscious intention or unconscious processes.  De Clerambault’s theory is that hallucinations and delusions were a result of anatomical alterations to the brain, which lead to automatisms resembling psychosis.  He believed that a patient with these automatisms may explain them as intentional persecution, despite the fact that they are delusions.

Emotional expression: Other experts believe that delusions are driven primarily by mood or a person’s underlying affect.  Hence persecutory delusions could be considered mood-congruent in that they may stem from a paranoid, anxious, or fearful mood.  Researchers have theorized that a person’s mood, gives rise to specific autobiographical memories related to that mood, which in turn influence the delusion.  If someone had a past experience of persecution, they may believe that the same thing will happen as a result of the similar emotion that they’re experiencing.

Paranoid subtypes: Some researchers believe that delusions of persecution are a result of paranoid subtypes.  There are different reasons for which a person may feel paranoid such as “bad me” or “poor me.”  In cases of “bad me” paranoia, theorists believe that a person targets themselves with guilt or deserved blame, leading to low self-esteem.

This may result in hypervigilance of others in effort to avoid criticism, which may lead to delusions of persecution.  Those with “poor me” paranoia hold the perception that they are inherently good, and believe that others may be out to compromise their reputation or persecute them.  While both subtypes may manifest delusions of persecution, the thought-based mechanisms that give rise to these delusions may differ.

Spatiotemporal disturbance: For certain individuals, delusions of persecution may be a result of a single fundamental disturbance or a “trouble generator.”  This is a theory developed by Minkowski in which he believes that delusions of persecution are a result of spatiotemporal disturbances.  In other words, individuals with these delusions isn’t able to understand the chance occurrence of events or circumstances, leading to feelings of restriction of freedom and/or movement (spatiotemporal).  The feelings of restriction of freedom and/or movement then create a delusion of persecution in which a person feels trapped.

Threat anticipation model: A model called the “threat anticipation cognitive model” is one hypothesis of what gives rise to persecutory delusions.  Those that support this model believe that delusions of persecution are a result of emotional processes, anomalous experiences, and reasoning biases.  This supports the idea that a person’s emotions give significant meaning to strange or coincidental experiences, and reasoning biases induce paranoia or delusions of persecution.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17258852
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3016695/
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4278784/

Other factors that influence persecutory delusions…

Several other factors may influence whether someone experiences delusions of persecution and/or the severity of these delusions.  These factors include: age, sociodemographic status, personal religiosity, and sex.  It should also be considered that several of these factors may overlap with those analyzed in the causes of schizophrenia.

Age: It seems as though the specific persecutory delusion of being poisoned was directly related to an individual’s age.  Those that believed they were being poisoned were generally of older age.  There are numerous theories as to why age may be correlated with perceived poisoning, but those who are paranoid and aging may believe that younger generations are out to extract their financial savings.  It should be mentioned that parental age (age of a person’s parents) was found to be younger than average among those experiencing poison-based persecutory delusions.

Chronic vs. periodic illness: Those with more chronic illnesses experienced persecutory delusions at a greater rate than those with periodic or episodic illnesses.  This makes logical sense due to the fact that chronic illnesses are more debilitating and take a greater toll on the brain.  Additionally many individuals with periodic illnesses have more favorable prognoses, potentially making full or significant recoveries.

Family size: Individuals with smaller family sizes tend to experience persecutory delusions at a greater rate than those with larger families.  This may be a result of lifetime or cumulative social trust or interaction minimizing activity of the brain that would lead to persecutory delusions.  Additionally social isolation may be a more prevalent theme among those with smaller families.

Personal religiosity: There appears to be an link between individual religiosity and whether someone is likely to experience delusions of persecution.  Those who have a faith of personal importance are less likely to experience delusions of persecution compared to atheists.  The percentages compiled from research were 73% among those with faith, versus 87% among atheists.

Males vs. females: There appear to be substantial differences between males and females in regards to experiencing persecutory delusions.  Females with schizophrenia tend to experience delusions of persecution at a significantly greater rate (82%) than do males with schizophrenia (67%).  Therefore a logical conclusion would be that females in general are more likely to exhibit this delusional subtype than males.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20516758

Delusions of Persecution Symptoms

Those experiencing delusions of persecution will exhibit a variety of symptoms.  To meet a formal diagnosis for persecutory delusions, a person must meet some psychological criteria.  The psychiatric term “querulous paranoia” refers to the persecutory subtype of delusional disorder, and appears in the DSM as well as ICD.

2 Primary Elements (Persecutory Delusions)

There are two primary elements that need to be present in order to meet the formal diagnostic criteria for delusions of persecution.

  1. Believing that harm is occurring, or will occur.
  2. Believing that a perceived persecutor holds the intention of inducing harm.

In addition to these two diagnostic elements, a person will generally exhibit an exaggerated belief of other criteria.

A grossly exaggerated belief of being:

  • Followed: An individual believes that they are being followed by another person, multiple people, or group.  This may lead a person to constantly look over their shoulder, carefully analyze their environment for potential followers, or avoid going certain places.
  • Tormented: In some cases, a person may believe that another individual is out to torment them.  This tormenting may be physical, psychological, or a combination of both.  Someone may believe that they are going to be poisoned, physically wounded, or psychologically manipulated.
  • Tricked: Certain people may believe that they are being tricked, scammed, or lied to – which could result in financial loss or an impaired reputation.  They could believe that a seemingly harmless person (e.g. a little girl selling cookies) is out to steal their money, take their home, or claim their vehicle.
  • Ridiculed: Those with persecutory delusions may think that others are mocking them or making fun of them, usually behind their back.  They may believe that others are gossiping about them, laughing at them, and doing whatever possible to harm their reputation.
  • Spied upon: Some people experiencing persecutory delusions believe that they are being spied upon.  They may believe that a person is spying on them through their window, has set up video surveillance, tapped their phone, or has installed a chip in their computer or phone to track their activity.

Examples of Persecutory Delusions

Below is a list of some common examples of persecutory delusions.  Keep in mind that this is a short list and that many specifics regarding delusions of persecution are subject to significant individual variation.

  • Being followed: A very common example of a delusion of persecution is when an individual believes they are being followed, but they really aren’t.  They may claim that a person is following them, but they haven’t got a good look at them, or may perceive a random stranger that coincidentally happens to be walking behind them as a follower.
  • Familial threats: There are episodes in which people believe that their family members are plotting against them in some way.  This may result in the individual thinking that their family is attempting to steal their money, get them killed, or poisoned.  Familial delusions have been reported, and can be highly distressing for the individual with delusions to see their family; especially on a daily basis.
  • Government spy: Some people are convinced that a government spy has set up cameras inside their house, car, and work to monitor their behavior.  In addition to video surveillance, a person may believe that their TV and phone are bugged with microphones to hear every word they speak.  They may see a man in a suit with glasses and believe that he works for the government and is on a special mission to monitor their life.
  • Murder attempts: In extreme cases of persecutory delusions, some people may believe that others have hired a hit-man to murder them.  In other cases, they may believe that their own family or work colleagues are conspiring to have them killed.  This results in paranoid behavior such as constantly checking who’s behind them, being careful of the food that they eat (for fear of poisoning), and looking out for traps.
  • Obstruction: In other cases, people think that others are deliberately attempting to inhibit them from accomplishing certain goals.  Someone may think that their boss is trying to prevent them from getting a deserved raise.  In other cases, they may believe that road construction was an operation to prevent them from making it to work on time.
  • Phone tap: Due to the fact that the government has actually tapped phones of individuals that may pose a security risk to the country, paranoid individuals get the idea that their phones have been tapped.  They believe that their phone is being tapped to collect personal information that will be used against them.  They believe that everything they say during a phone conversation will be used to harm their reputation.
  • Poisoning: A fairly common theme that individuals with delusions of persecution may experience is that of being poisoned or drugged.  They may believe that a worker at a fast-food chain deliberately put arsenic in their sandwich in effort to poison them.  In other cases, a person may believe that someone has spiked their water with a lethal dose of drugs, despite the fact that no one even touched it.
  • Police interest: Some themes of persecutory delusions involve individuals believing that they are being followed, watched, or are a special person of interest to the police.  Each time a person sees a police officer and/or squad car, they may believe that the police were stationed in a particular area to stealthily monitor them.
  • Stalked: In many cases, people feel as if they are being stalked by someone, despite the fact that there’s no actual stalker.  They may claim that their neighbor is spying on them and watching their every move, or that each time they go to the grocery store, they are being followed.  They may even believe that someone is taking pictures of them in the grocery store and tracking each of the food items they purchase.
  • Talking behind your back:  You may believe that people are talking behind your back, conspiring to get you fired from your job or harm your reputation.  In some cases, the perception of persecution may become so vivid that people are saying mean things behind your back, that you may end up confronting them with anger and anxiety.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13340385

Delusions of Persecution Treatment

There are several methods that can be used to treat delusions of persecution.  The most common method involves prescribing an antipsychotic medication to reduce delusional occurrences. In addition, cognitive-behavioral interventions may help an individual learn effective coping strategies for when medications may not work effectively.

Antipsychotics: The most common medication utilized to treat delusions of persecution is that of an antipsychotic.  Generally the newer, atypical antipsychotics are administered over typical (older) antipsychotics due to favorable side effect profiles and safety.  These are drugs that tend to act as dopamine receptor antagonists, meaning they effectively bind to these receptors, without triggering the response that dopamine would produce.  Hence they inhibit the effect of dopamine in the brain, reducing the likelihood of delusions – especially as a result of schizophrenia.

CBT: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often a helpful intervention for teaching a person how to react when they find themselves fearing persecution.  Although CBT may not be as much help for those with chronic psychiatric illnesses or severe schizophrenia, for others it may help teach them ways in which they can effectively cope with their faulty perceptions (delusions).  In addition, CBT can be used in conjunction with antipsychotics to target cognitive and/or behavioral components of delusions.

Treating underlying medical condition: Those with conditions such as neurodegenerative diseases often benefit from treating their underlying medical condition.  For example, someone experiencing delusions of persecution as a result of Parkinson’s disease may require a certain combination of medications to improve their mental well-being and functionality, which in turn may reduce delusions of persecution.  Other neurological conditions should be properly treated, and in many cases, the persecutory delusions will subside.

  • Source: http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/76/suppl_1/i31.full

Have you (or someone you know) experienced delusions of persecution?

If you (or someone you know) have dealt with delusions of persecution, feel free to share the experience in the comments section below.  To help others better understand the particular case, you may want to mention any specific themes that emerged from the delusion and what you believe was the causative factor for the persecutory delusion (e.g. mental illness, drugs, etc.).  Also discuss how you (or the person you know) coped or overcame the persecutory delusion.

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{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Ann October 9, 2015, 12:05 pm

    I had delusions of persecution a few years ago. It’s frightening because you feel you can’t trust anybody. I was so stressed out I was vomiting so I went to the Docotors who did a blood test and it came back that I had opiates in my blood but I had not had any opiates not even a Panadol so I began to think someone was trying to poison me. I would buy a sealed yogurt and an apple each day for lunch at work so no one could interfere with my lunch.

    Someone had hit my car and left a mobile number but when I rang it it didn’t connect so I thought the phone was tapped .I worried myself sick until finally I agreed to medical intervention and it worked over several months. I was asked by Doctors. if I felt suicidal and I said no as I was determined to find out who was doing all these things to me.l was convinced it was real.

    I had had a lot of stress in my life over several years and I just kept soldiering on and on never saying “no” until I finally had a break down. I was a strong level headed person and I thought the last person to fall that is one thing I have learnt we all have limits. We’re human not a machine!

    • Nicole October 22, 2015, 6:05 pm

      Hi Ann, I have a loved one going through what you have described above. What did you find most effective in helping you?

    • Robert September 5, 2016, 12:00 pm

      Hi Ann. I read your story. Posting it so publicly is very brave. How are you doing now? Are you feeling better?

  • Devin December 2, 2015, 6:47 am

    I have experienced something I haven’t been able to identify for many years. I feel like everyone is talking about me behind my back, or trying to ridicule me. I think people are collectively trying to mock me or trick me. I also fear that there are unknown individuals out there that are trying to cause me or my loved ones physical harm. Now it doesn’t seem to be severe, I mainly experience anxiety and distrust. But it often leads to me pushing people away before they can accomplish what I believe they’re trying to do. Is this paranoia? If so, what should I do about this?

    • GLOOM December 2, 2015, 10:31 pm

      Sounds like it could be a case of paranoid personality disorder. I’d suggest seeking psychological evaluation for an accurate diagnosis. After a proper diagnosis, a professional can determine viable treatments and/or attenuation strategies.

  • Devil Daughter December 10, 2015, 8:02 am

    My mother appears to be suffering from delusions of persecution, and I am her persecutor. Everything I say or do, or don’t say or don’t do, is twisted into my vicious plot against her. Sadly, my step-father is too weak to challenge her in any way, so instead of trying to help her, he validates her irrational thoughts.

    I’m an only child, my children are still young, and there is no other family member that could help. It is to the point that I cannot have a conversation with her or participate in a family event with her without setting her off. She can find malice in the most benign things, and then I’m told that I’m hateful, mean, disrespectful, unloving, etc., when nothing can be further from the truth.

    I’m sick of being the bad guy, but if I cut her off to protect myself she often gets much worse. She has had breakdowns and many suicide attempts, beginning in her teens. She seems worse in the past few years, and I notice a concurrent issue with her recall/memory and ability to process complex information. I think she needs a neuro eval (and then a psych eval), but that suggestion would NOT be well received!

    How do I help her? How do I get her the help she needs? This is destroying our little family.

    • Diana Richardson September 16, 2016, 4:11 pm

      This is how I grew up. My mother died in 2008 at 80 years old. She rejected me on her death bed. I took her abuse my entire life. I say I am brain damaged because of her. My advice; get away from her and you get help for the damage that is done to you. Whatever is wrong with her it will always be your fault.

  • A concerned Guy February 18, 2016, 7:19 pm

    A year ago I took pity on this old bloke I was introduced to, he seemed to be going through a lot of hassles, lost his wife to cancer 3 years previous, his daughter put a freezing order on his accounts, and the list goes on. I started helping him out with email correspondence, as he didn’t seem too able with reading and writing English, and the emails were all to do with the court case with his daughter.

    The bloke is Iranian but with UK citizenship. I ended up living there doing more and more things for him, for no money, but he did supply food and cigarettes. I helped fix up numerous houses he had, so he could sell them. Drove him around, and was basically doing whatever he asked of me.

    A year later, it was getting a bit much for me, so I moved out. During the time there I realized he was a compulsive liar, he was always trying to cause some kind of rift between myself and another guy that worked for him (also for next to nothing), I started to realize all was not as it seemed. He smoked crack when he was younger, for 20 years or so. He was always asking certain people if they knew anyone that would kill for money.

    Also, he says his daughter had tried to kill him a few times, once was poisoning, then by fire, which I think was caused by himself. When I had had enough, my move out resulted in lots of seemingly obsessive, threatening text messages, about him getting me in trouble for something. Firstly, he said a few garden ornaments have gone missing from the garden, as if I had stolen them…

    These were sold a year ago, at his request, and he was paid in full for the items. I replied and mentioned I still have the messages on my phone about this. After a few more messages, he said “may the best man win”. I really do think he is a paranoid psychotic or delusional. All these messages I got today, but am not sure what to do.

    He is also a Lord, so I don’t know if I would be taken seriously, but I am a little concerned to say the least. Is there anything I can do?

    • Jen July 8, 2016, 6:53 am

      I would ignore him… He will probably move onto his next adversary/obsession soon. If you feed the argument it will just go on and he will never see your point anyway. You did your best to help him, but some people cannot be helped, which I have recently discovered sadly.

    • Nelda July 18, 2016, 2:44 am

      Geez, that’s uneblievable. Kudos and such.

  • Orb April 12, 2016, 8:59 pm

    My mother-in-law has always been a conspiracy theorist. My first realization of this with her was in discussions where she talked about something called the “illuminati”. She believes this group is controlling or influencing world events. She also once pointed to bright star in the night sky and told me that she believed that is was a spy satellite watching us.

    All of this seemed simply eccentric until it began to worsen. For several years my wife and I shared a duplex with my mother and father-in-law and my mother-in-laws father. In one year my Mother-in-law lost her father, and her husband, and the same year my wife, children, and I moved out into our own home. It seemed that things escalated after this. My mother-in-law is deeply religious and usually attributes spiritual or religious meaning to events in her life.

    Shortly after we moved out we found a wonderful tenant for the apartment. He is a Rabbi and a very quiet gentleman. Not long after he moved in my Mother-in-law began to believe that he was putting spells on her. She claimed to have pains particularly at night which she insisted were caused by him. She eventually began to tell us that he had an “orb” which he kept in his bathtub that he used to inflict pain on him.

    We tried to convince her otherwise but she wouldn’t have it. Eventually we asked him if we could inspect his apartment to satisfy her and of course no “orb”. She just said that he hid it. Eventually he moved and things seemed to normalize but then she began to say that she was infested with flees. She said she couldn’t sleep because of flee bites.

    She kept picking at her skin and caused makes and scabs. When we took her to a Doctor there were no bites or evidence of flees. She then filled a plastic bag with her evidence of flees and when we looked at it, there was nothing but bits of lint or flecks of dirt. No flees. She also called this a plague which was being inflicted upon her by spiritual forces.

    We had the house fumigated to pacify her but she continued to imagine flees. Eventually we moved her to a small apartment where she lives now and there is a very nice older woman upstairs. My mother-in-law torments this woman by calling the police regularly accusing the woman of having a machine which targets her intentionally to cause severe pain and headaches.

    The police have found no such machine. She has researched this online and she believes it’s possible. She also ordered a copper mesh hat which she believed would protect her from the “rays”. It doesn’t work. When she sleeps at our house she says it’s the only time when she gets relief. Now she want’s us to call homeland security and she has tried call the FBI on the woman claiming that her “machine” is a threat to national security.

    We got her to go to a psychiatrist who prescribed something but when she looked it up on-line she found out what it was and accused us of treating her like she was crazy. We are still dealing with this.

  • Becca April 26, 2016, 8:44 pm

    My kid thinks people are staring at him and trying to hurt him. He responds by holding up his arms to block the strangers gaze, and gets very hostile like he wants to lash out, grimacing and nearly growling. He was diagnosed with ASD at age 6 and is now 12. Anyone have experience with ASD and persecutory delusions? I want him to have an MRI but his doctors said no.

  • Ethel May 4, 2016, 7:02 pm

    There are two people in my family that I feel have this. My son & and a daughter in law. My son for years has been very upset with anything said, that would be the opposite to what he thinks. He will be verbal that everyone is wrong, and shows signs of being ‘persecuted’ all the time. It’s never his fault but someone else, or one is “having a go” at him.

    He did take drugs when younger, and I feel that may be part of the cause. He believes he is always right. No amount of love or understanding seems to help. My daughter in law has been showing signs over a good few years now, and will become harsh, and unbelieving that she is a nice person. We had a falling out some time ago, and she sees me as the worst person in her life.

    Thinking that I am out to say bad things, and her perception is very badly distorted that no amount of love, kind words will help. I now have to stay away, and badly miss my little grandchildren. Having one person in the family with this condition is very sad, but for me two is hard. We are not a big family.

    My other two children are grown up, and I am thankful they have no issues and we have great relationships. Life is very hard at times, but knowing the cause of their behavior helps a great deal. Both are not the kind of people who would even understand the problem is theirs and would be very angry if told.

    • Jen July 8, 2016, 6:48 am

      I’m sorry for your situation. It sounds similar to my friend and her husband. Nightmare. They never think it’s them who has the problem.

  • Christine July 10, 2016, 10:23 pm

    Our 34 yr. old son has had delusions at times. He will not seek help, but has had issues since he was a kid. He has trouble keeping jobs and relationships. Around the age of 25 he had a failed marriage and after that we saw some patterns of behavior. Sometimes he wouldn’t speak to us, or would get angry very quickly. Then he started going to church a lot, when he was never religious before.

    It got to be an obsession. Reading the bible constantly and preaching to us. He cut out anyone that wasn’t living life the way he thought they should. It was like a drug for him. It’s been 9 years since then and he’s had many jobs, been homeless, ran away from an area because someone in the church he was attending was after him. That happened 2-3 times in the last few years.

    The last church’s minister knew someone in the FBI and he thought they were after him. The delusions die down after a time, but they seem to happen under a great deal of stress, like losing a job. So he packs up and leaves with no idea as to where he’s going. He’s holding a job for now, but we hold our breath hoping it lasts.

    I work in a psychiatric clinic and think he’s probably BPD along with ADD and who knows what else from what I’ve read. We had him arrested once because he assaulted his father. The prison system did not help determine any diagnosis except OCD and did not require any follow up psychiatric care except anger management.

    We have moved on since then and his anger is much better. We love him very much, but don’t really want him living too close to us. If anyone has advice on getting him to seek treatment, I would appreciate it.

  • charles j. hirsch m.d. August 2, 2016, 4:48 am

    Excellent article. Very comprehensive.

  • PARANOID ALWAYS September 6, 2016, 3:10 am

    Are you suffering from some sort of delusions? Have you in the past? Here is a tip: Don’t apply for social assistance. My case worker would like to follow up with me via a regular appointment. Because Ive stayed at my exes, and my mom is paying her off for damages to her house (not a court order) I believe they will consider us common law, calculate a huge fee (Ive been on social assistance for only 8 months) and then vote to persecute. And I mean jail time.

    There is no reason to think she is out to get me. If she decides that I am visiting my ex too often, (in another town) she will probably have me fill out a form and charge the excess, it wouldn’t likely go to court. Nope. Not for me. I am 100% convinced I’m facing some absurd sentence in a maximum security federal prison. Its escalated to a point where I cannot leave my house, as I believe agents are watching me, confirming where Im staying, as I’m currently at my exes place.

    I guess by now its worth mentioning our 7 year relationship warranted grounds for friendship after it ended. This all started because I realized I forgot to claim a 160$ gift in June, and was only reminded by the letter I received for the appointment. It is now September. It starts a little irrational, wow maybe Ill get kicked off welfare, then it escalates. I’ve gone from being yelled at for forgetting to make a claim, to having a full federal investigation.

    I am in a state of hypervigilance. Every time I deal with one fear, the next one pops up, more obscure than the last. I have had these delusions in the past when my place of work was broken into. I believed I was going to be falsely imprisoned. And finally, even during my normal months, (I seem to go full paranoid once a year for a few months) I am convinced every squad car is watching me. “That guy is really recognizable, and sure goes to some odd places, we better keep an eye out”

    I have moments of clarity where I realize things wont be so bad. They probably wont even follow up about my alleged ‘spouse’. Thats thanks to my amazing support system. When dealing with a paranoid individual, remember you cannot see the world their way. You will never understand, but in that basis, you now have a reason to be a little less upset. You cant help it, not understanding, so don’t take it to heart when your advice or affirmations don’t hit home.

    Paranoia is a tricky beast because there is usually some form of validation to the thought or obsession, even if the chances are low. I am only on welfare while I wait for disability. Obviously I have issues holding a job. At this point though, I may withdraw from social assistance shortly after my meeting. I am in no mood to answer to half trained cops that have all the same investigation tactics legally bound to their position.

    This is a week of paranoia, all in a few paragraphs. Any sufferers reading this: Hang the hell in there!

    • PARANOID ALWAYS September 11, 2016, 3:58 am

      As another few days have passed, my paranoia has teetered out into obsession. Is it illegal to visit another town each month? Just because my ex lives there? Will it warrant investigation? Am I forgetting more claims? Will I last in prison? How long will my sentence be? Was that program non-deductible, or did I misunderstand the situation?

      You get the idea. I have called my caseworker and fessed up to the 160. I fessed up to the non-deductible program. She was not upset and asked me to just bring in the relevant statements on my appointment. Regardless, from paranoia to obsession, and back again, it’s time for a trip to the ward. After I cancel my social assistance, I will be admitting myself. My psych actually works the ward, a real plus.

      I may also speak to a social worker and see what my options for a better, more stable social assistance plan might be. One that won’t worry me sick. Don’t be afraid to get help. Hospitals, especially being held in them under legal form, can be terrifying. You miss your friends and family, many freedoms are restricted. There isn’t a whole lot to do, but it’s safe, and within those walls you can begin true healing.

      It’s amazing what one week around doctors and nurses can do for a person. I just hope it sticks this time.

  • My crazy life September 26, 2016, 9:58 am

    I honestly can’t say when the delusions started. I’ve always been hesitant to talk about illegal activities around smart phones and in cars with OnStar, and even went so far as to demand a former roommate remove his XBox Kinect because I believed it was recording us, even while turned off. Any financial crisis I face is directed specifically at me from the person issuing the bills and not due to my own problems with money management.

    Then, everything got much worse when I discovered my husband was cheating on me. I believe that he was manipulating and lying to me through our entire relationship and still is, despite being separated for over 2 years. I believe that the 2 mutual friends we still have are spying on me and reporting my activity to him. This is encouraged by the fact that the last 2 times I spoke with them, he has contacted me within 48 hours.

    The roommate I got after kicking my husband out went above and beyond to make my delusions even worse. My former boss told me she had called to tell him I had broken a very strict rule, in an attempt to get me fired. After that, she stole from me and did everything in her power to make me move. Before I finally left, I was to the point that I would simply lock myself in my room, storing all of my food there instead of using the kitchen we shared.

    Several months later, I had a falling out with someone I considered a friend. I still carry physical scars from her attack. Before the court date, my tire was popped, and shortly after the hearing, the door to my apartment was tampered with in an attempt to break in. I called the police for each incident, but nothing came of any of it.

    Now, I’m unable to trust anyone. I believe that my co-workers are plotting to get me fired, despite my recent promotion. I believe that my boyfriend is scheming to drive me to suicide, despite him being the most supportive and rational person I’ve ever known. I believe every car in traffic is aiming to involve me in an accident and every cop is waiting to catch me making a mistake.

    Lately, I’ve become suicidal, only because I don’t see a point in living like this. I have an appointment with a psychiatrist in a week, and I can’t wait to have someone I can actually talk to about this…

  • Pitaya November 26, 2016, 9:12 am

    My boyfriend is threatening to sue an ex. He’s convinced his online accounts are being manipulated; that he doesn’t have control over his personal information; and is being watched online 24/7 by this guy. He has even implied that other people are part of it, me included, and made other nonsense accusations.

    He has gone to computer experts and our cell phone provider trying to get some sort of evidence. All he gets are reports that state that he says his cell phone is wired, but when they run tests, there is no wrong-doing. Family and friends have tried to convince him he’s not right. Want to know if there could be a kind of fine or whatever.

  • Mitchell Kallen November 30, 2016, 4:15 pm

    Very interesting Article. I’m a 25 year old male who has grown up with the same core group of close guy friends. From high school to college to present there is a core of about 15 of us that are as close as can be. Inside in that 15 there’s 5 of us that are centralized because of of work. One of my close friends now is suffering from what I’m sure is some sort of mental health disorder, I will refer to him by Adam.

    We are always laughing, happy-go-lucky dudes. Randomly yesterday we get a text from Adam claiming he now “knows everything we have been doing and that if we don’t cut he’d through all our electronics in the bath tub, lock his room mate out, and break our phones”. At first I couldn’t help but laugh figuring I missed something from when someone was last together but these claims and accusations of us “hacking” him.

    At this point we tried talking to him and it was as if he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t even describe what it was we did he just knew we were hacking him, video tape, and recording him. We voluntarily offered all electronics for him to search through hoping it would clear the air. No luck. Adam didn’t need to see anything because “I know, I just know, I don’t need to see, you guys are all doing it I’m not sure how many are in on it.”

    Keep in mind we were lucky to get this out of his as most questions we asked him were followed by him physically tensing up while shaking his head but it looked like he was choking up. From there it moved fast. We contacted other friends who had moved on but remained close to reach out. One buddy JON texted him saying cant wait to come home for the holidays and talked about football, a subject he knew ADAM liked.

    ADAM responded “I KNOW WHAT YOU’VE DONE AND WHAT YOUVE ALL BEEN DOING FOR OVER THREE YEARS NOW, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA THE STRESS IS CAUSES, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS, ALL OF YOU, DOES THE THOUGHT OF ME WANTING TO KILL MYSELF MAKE YOU HAPPY?” and then right back with another text “IS THIS EVEN JON I’M TEXTING?…” After that all phone numbers were blocked. He lived with GREG one 1/5 close core friends.

    He wouldn’t talk yet he stayed living there for two more weeks. He moved out without notice after that (had his brother help him move his stuff to car, I know the brother and this made me feel a little better cause he was going back home). Looking back on it, his whole life he was always very argumentative regardless of subject. It was a debating disagreeing argue not a fighting argue. According to past girlfriends he was very peculiar sexually and didn’t ever show interest them outside of the bedroom where his focus was usually anally fixated.

    He had two other places with roommates before GREG and both times he got sick or fed up of the roommate and moved on. Looking back both times he got fed up and left the roommates were beginning a relationship. GREG had just started to date someone two weeks before this latest “hacking” episode.

    Question – I am not sure but would it be possible to develop a mental health disease if a subject was suppressing homosexual tendencies he despised in himself? Anyway that self hatred developed into something more? Because if not I know him to well for most other possible scenarios besides hereditary.

    We all would drink here and there but nothing crazy. No hard drugs other than weed once or twice. SOMEONE PLEASE TAKE THE TIME AND HELP BECAUSE I KNOW HIS FAMILY WELL AND ALTHOUGH THEY ARE VERY NICE THEY WILL JUST SAY “OHHHHH THATS xxxxxxx FOR YA!!!” THANKS.

  • J.S. December 11, 2016, 1:54 pm

    Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place: I am so glad I read this article and finally been able to pinpoint all the symptoms my spouse has been exhibiting for the 6+ years we have been married. I thought it was somewhere along the lines of paranoid schizophrenia and/or bipolar disorders, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on an exact match. After reading the article I was able to identify many of the constant symptoms he displays that I never understood the origin or cause of, which include: a grossly exaggerated belief of being followed, tormented, tricked, ridiculed, or spied upon; family threats/plots, police interest, staring/stalking; taking behind his back.

    This has been his constant behavioral pattern for all these years and it wears me down mentally, emotionally and physically trying to deal with his untreated symptoms. It has gotten to the point now that I am prepared to get written letters attesting to his behaviors w/ others from both a relative and a landlord to take to a magistrate to take out an involuntary commitment, but I don’t want to affect his business that he runs and the fallout w/ customers when he’s not available if he is committed as an inpatient for 1-2 weeks. Plus, there is the very real fear of increased physical harm upon his release from a mental evaluation/stay.

    I’ve endured years of varying degrees of physical & verbal abuse from him, but he is still a very good-hearted person that tries so hard to cope and understand why he is like he is, but not believing that it IS him and not blaming everyone else. I feel like medication would greatly improve his life & lessen the risks I take daily in being w/ someone that is so quick to become irrational and possibly violent towards others.

    I’m just not sure I’m ready to deal with even more heartache in forcing him into treatment and dealing w/ the outcome of most likely having to also take out a restraining order. Additionally, I have nowhere to go to protect my physical safety, other than a women’s shelter and I know how hard restraining orders are to enforce & can cause problems w/ my job that I surely don’t need. I also cant afford to pay rent if he’s not there bringing in money from his business.

    So, I’m at a crossroads on if or when to take ‘the next step’, b/c there’s no turning back once its in motion. I grew up with a father that had acute paranoia schizophrenia/bipolar disorder & was on medications all his life, and I saw how my mother took advantage of his mental health disease and vulnerability and would have him repeatedly committed and it ruined his career. I don’t want that for my spouse and I don’t want to go through another separation/divorce at my age.

    The article mentioned other non-medicinal treatments like CBT, but I’m pretty sure the severity of his behaviors and the consistency warrant treatment w/ prescription meds. Its also a hard decision going to any of his family who knows his behaviors can have physical outcomes, because this disorder runs in his family very strongly, as well as untreated. So, I’m worried that I won’t be able to trust them to keep what I’m asking them about a written letter attesting to his behaviors as strictly confidential.

    If they were to say something to him about my confiding in them to help me to get him professional help, then my life would be in great jeopardy. So, I’m just not sure what to do at this point. Any advice/feedback would be most welcome.

  • Theresa December 14, 2016, 10:16 am

    I’m 32 from the UK and I’ve been suffering with this for around 8 years (since my grandad passed away). I suffered for about a year with no help as I couldn’t trust me own doctor. I was convinced he wanted me locked away. I travelled from the UK to Poland to see a private doctor and was diagnosed with bipolar.

    I was given Xanax as well as other prescribed medications which seemed to make me worse, I had to quit my job. On a good day (few and far between) I pushed myself and broke down at the doctor’s, he diagnosed me with SAD and prescribed me with mirtazapine and propranolol which has been a godsend. I still have bad days like today & I still cannot go shopping or walk through busy places (the thought of going to these places makes me feel sick) as I’ve learnt what things/places set it off.

    (Online shopping is a must). I try to keep to my safe places i.e. home and work. I try not to hide anything from them, then when I do have a bad day they pick up on it and do their best to leave me be to ride it out. My point is there is help out there, I never thought I would be able to live a relatively normal life & I’ve come to terms that this is the closest I’m ever going to get.

    If I find myself somewhere that makes me feel anxious the paranoia & delusions are not far behind I get out as fast as I can and find a safe place. If anyone (or some one they know) is suffering alone please get help. I know what it is to live like that and it’s no life it’s survival & I also know there’s life after. PLEASE DON’T LET IT CONSUME YOU. GET HELP & TAKE BACK CONTROL.

  • Blue (anonymous user) December 30, 2016, 9:52 pm

    My uncle has some paranoia. And as a nephew I’m kind of worried a little. He believes all his neighbors are bad, like thinking the neighbor upstairs has hacked his WiFi. I told him there’s no chance someone would do that, and they would have no gain in doing so. He thinks a gardener that his parents (my grandparents) are friends with, poisoned his plants.

    He thinks even the sofa is contaminated and only takes little effect if you sit on it for too long. He’s got no proof for any of this, he just believes it. My mum has gotten him so far as to the door to the doctor after booking an appointment, but it ended with him never entering. I need to tell him, that all this is a paranoia effect he has, none of its real.

    When he isn’t going on about how everyone is out for him, me and him get along very well. He’s really funny and pretty cool. I’ve only recently found out about this disorder he has. He’s still living with my grandparents. But he should soon move out. He’s also paranoid about his health, not allowing himself to eat tomato soup as the sugar content is slightly too high.

    But that’s fine, he really needs to realize that all his despicable neighbors are actually really nice, if he would go up to them and have a nice chat. Thank you if you read the whole way through, tell me what I can do for him.

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