Paranoia is characterized by an interpretation of the world based on an overestimation of oneself and a more or less general feeling of persecution, which can go as far as delirium.

Hystero, schizo, mythology… Since the 1970s, neuroses and psychoses have entered everyday language in the form of diminutives. A simplification of form and content which, most of the time, only defines one-off behavior. In this sense, paranoid is used to describe an excess of worry or mistrust at a given moment. We can even address it to ourselves (which a true paranoid will never do, except to ignore it and justify his mistrust). The term is also part of a certain rhetoric of democratic debate to disqualify the positions or the speech of the adversary (it is today often replaced by conspiratorial).

Paranoia: an interpretive delirium

In psychiatry, the term paranoid qualifies a personality disorder (paranoid personality) based on overestimation of oneself and a feeling of persecution that can progress to a delusional pathology called paranoid psychosis. It results in an interpretative delirium where any external event is perceived by the subject as the bearer of a message – generally hostile and persecuting – for him. We observe a denial of his psychic life (no capacity for introspection).

Paranoia: taking your fantasies for reality

” The paranoid subject defines the world from his fantasies which he takes for reality, which is the definition of delirium”. Suffice to say that it happens to everyone. But the difference is played out in the capacity to doubt one’s interpretations, that is to say to take them at least for what they are (interpretations). For the paranoid, these are certainties and he does not budge. The contradiction, experienced as humiliating, reinforces his feeling of persecution and his resentment.

A coherent delirium from false premises

At variable intensity, it is therefore a question of delirium in both forms (paranoid personality or paranoid psychosis), hence identical symptoms: egocentrism, feeling of exaggerated threat, suspicion, excessive pride, susceptibility, resentment, authoritarianism, relationship difficulties, claim, aggressiveness, fixed relationship to knowledge (knowledge closed in on itself) and the certainty of having access to the truth.

In its psychotic version, the paranoid delirium is reinforced until determining the whole of the judgment, either in a sector (love life, professional or relational, etc.), or in all the fields (“in network”) like, by example, in a generalized conspiracy theory.

The subject will give coherence to his delirium by accumulating all forms of “proofs” (we speak of love for proofs) in such a way that they correspond to his fantasy of persecution. He can seek to obtain redress, either in a quarrelsome way, that is to say by increasing the number of legal procedures (lodging of complaints, etc.), or by resorting to verbal or physical violence, sometimes up to murder ( crime marital , or the other is suspected of cheating, for example (exacerbated jealousy being a very common paranoia).

Paranoia: a disease of narcissism

The overestimation of oneself and one’s own capacities is called in psychiatry “hypertrophy of the ego”. Hence the tendency of the paranoiac to bring everything to himself, a thirst for recognition and respectability, the taste for privilege, the inability to recognize his mistakes, bad faith , the tendency to authoritarianism and to claim. These traits are reminiscent of the “narcissistic personality”. In fact, paranoia is a disease of narcissism whose defense system is called projection. That is to say that, without being aware of it, the paranoiac perceives in others his own functioning. From where answers often “in mirror”, that is to say by seeing again with the other, almost in the same terms, the reproaches which are made to him. For example : “What? do I talk about myself all the time? But you don’t get along! it’s you who talks about you all the time! “ .

The refusal to submit to societal demands

Since it is he who judges, the paranoid wants to be above the situations where he could be judged, that is to say which could reveal his shortcomings (pride). For example, if he fails (an exam, an assessment interview, etc.), he will find reasons other than his limitations or his lack of work, and deduce that we want to persecute him. Hence, for example, multiple conflicts and procedures with his hierarchy to reverse the balance of power, or, in order not to expose oneself with its shortcomings, the choice of a self-taught path where some will also be very successful, while others will leave the circuit to do their little cooking in their corner and refuse to expose themselves to social judgment. For example, painting or writing, but without ever exhibiting their work, except in a closed circuit, because it claims to be “misunderstood” by the greatest number. The paranoid, by refusing the necessary compromises imposed by life in society, translates an idea that he has of his “purity”: he is intact, the “evil” is always external (others, but also Nature and animals (“vectors of disease”), even God!); never in him. Which makes any introspective work almost impossible.

For the paranoid, everything beckons

” A paranoid is someone for whom everything beckons “, said Freud. The traffic light that turns red when it approaches, the black cat that pops up when it has an important meeting, etc. In other words, for the paranoid, there is no chance: everything is a sign, which concerns him (the world revolves around him). ” As long as it is outside his psycheThat is to say that if he makes a slip or a failed act he will say that it is by chance, that he is tired, etc. But if he spots a book in my library, he will say that it is a sign that I am sending him. Now, for the psychoanalyst, it is the opposite: everything that comes from the patient’s psyche is not not by chance, but everything that happens outside the psyche is only chance. “

Paranoid takes himself for a champion of clairvoyance

If the paranoid has no lucidity about himself (incapable of self-criticism and self-mockery) and does not want to know anything about his psychic life, he is obsessed with that of others whom he constantly seeks to capture. He thus pretends to guess their hidden intentions, like a detective in search of the truth. Here again, everything beckons: a word, a look, an expression, which he seizes to feed his interpretations. It happens that he falls right and gives the impression … of great lucidity! A way to impose its control while escaping its own introspection. This breaking and entering thought reading is also part of the paranoid’s defense system. He cultivates a taste for secrecy (and lets you know it), fearing that his confidences will be used against him or that his reputation will be damaged (feeling of superiority and contempt of others). No need to blame him: he will justify himself and drive the point home. Because he is never wrong. If he recognizes one, it is to have trusted someone who, obviously, has not been up to the task …

Some examples of ordinary paranoid

  • This neighbor who watches you, knows what time you are going out and coming home, knows your passing friends by sight, can go so far as to search your trash cans, takes for a personal attack the fact that leaves from your trees sometimes fall in his garden , accuses your cat of coming “knowingly” to damage its flowerbeds … And hides at home as in a bunker to escape the intrusions of others …
  • The spouse who regularly searches your things, snoops in your emails and messages in order to find proof of your infidelity which obsesses him.
  • This relationship which accuses you of having humiliated it one day, by detecting your intention in a trivial and very old fact. You are so amazed that you even apologize …
  • This individual who scolds his young child who “does everything to provoke him” while he is only being in his child’s life: discovering the world by touching everything, observing the laws of physics by throwing objects , eat enough but not beyond and therefore do not finish his plate …
  • This person who punishes or violates his pet for the same kind of reasons: he looked for it. An anthropomorphism (therefore a projection) fixed on the alleged manipulation of the animal with regard to its master.
  • This friend who makes you understand that the person who is interested in you, is actually seeking to get closer to him or her and uses you for this purpose.
  • The hypochondriac who accuses you of insensitivity to your doubts about his umpteenth symptom of “fatal” disease …
  • The erotomaniac who convinces himself, wrongly, that he (she) is wanted or loved and takes revenge when he (she) feels rejected …

The origins of paranoia

  • It is probable that, in part, the family lies , the troubles about the origin have disorganized his psychic life. The stakes of the paranoid disorder indeed revolve around the phantasmatic purity, the truth and the authenticity of the origin. Freud recognized that in all paranoid delirium there is a core of historical truth.
  • For Freud again, in his clinic of exacerbated jealousy, in particular masculine, observes an impossibility for the man to think himself homosexual whereas it appears that his jealousy with regard to his wife concerns, without his knowledge, the man who is supposed to have her behind his back.
  • Certain political contexts, such as surveillance dictatorships, based on denunciation, force people to hide, make them paranoid.
  • For Lacan, when the father is excluded from the signifying chain, that is to say that he is not part of what the mother is talking about, this makes a hole in the psyche where delirium will rush in, to fill it. . Let us not forget what psychoanalysts say after Freud: delirium is an attempt at healing …

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