Paranoid Personality Disorder: Peter’s Story
By: Beth McHugh 2010
Peter is a typical sufferer of paranoid personality disorder (PPD) and finds it difficult to function in both the workplace and in his personal life. Because this condition affects the core personality of the sufferer, it is permanent, pervasive and, as such, the person so afflicted in effectively unaware that there is something wrong with them. As with most of the personality disorders, the sufferers have little insight into their own behaviors, instead blaming others for what is isn’t right in their lives.
Peter was by his own admission in a bad situation. He believed his father to be mentally ill and his mother as well. Indeed, his brother suffered from schizophrenia. Although an intelligent man Peter, at the age of 45, was unable to make or keep friends, had never been married, had lost a series of jobs even though he was a highly qualified engineer and was estranged from his family and former friends. In his words he “had nothing”.
None of the above conditions are peculiar to PPD. Instead it was the way Peter viewed the world that made him so socially unsuccessful. Within five minutes of meeting Peter, the average person could easily tell that all was not right. He was full of suspicions about his colleagues’ behaviors, attributing malignant meanings to even the most benign statements.
Everything that any other person said or did was passed through the filter of Peter’s overly suspicious mind, so that even when corporations announced changes to the local area, he believed they were deliberately out to “get” to him.
Depressed about his lack of friends, he consulted a life coach and enrolled in a life management course. He was quickly at odds with the course director, arguing with him over payment procedures, and questioning his methods of “coaching”. And yet ironically here was a man willingly asking for help and yet putting up stumbling blocks all the way.
He was so disruptive in the workshops that he was asked to leave, but even then he believed that it was all conspiracy by the course leader and the other class members to “change him” and that the course leader had “an agenda”. His last session was marked by a shouting match and no-one was sad to see this disruptive influence leave. And yet Peter believed that the course leader, the other participants, and even the venue itself were all linked in a plot to somehow bring him down. The fact that Peter had willingly enrolled in the course completely escaped him.
Unfortunately the course leader was not psychologically trained to detect that he was dealing not with an ordinary man, but one who suffered from a mental illness. Peter continued to bombard him on his website. The leader continued to defend himself, something which is not achievable or even the best approach for a person suffering from PPD.
Peter still remains unhappy and isolated with no family, friends, spouse or children in his life. He continues to alienate himself from others due to his engrained thinking patterns and belief systems. As this disorder would have begun early in Peter’s life, and certainly would be diagnosable as such by his mid-20s, it will be hard for Peter to turn his life around.
Firstly he has to submit to the fact that his thinking is skewed and then, with the help of a therapist, undergo long-term therapy that may partially succeed in helping him to challenge his suspicious thoughts and react in a more balanced way to events in his life. He will always have a tendency towards paranoia and suspicion but with continued hard work, Peter’s life can be improved.
It is important to distinguish PPD from episodes of paranoia that are experienced during psychotic breaks. The latter are temporary and do not permeate the entire personality as they do in the present disorder. Therefore it is important to always consult a mental health professional to obtain an accurate diagnosis for any mental illness.