How Paranoid Is Your Spouse?
By Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC
Looking back over their 15-year marriage, Andrew began to see the early signs of paranoia in his wife not long after they met. She was overly fearful of new environments, believed her boss was secretly out to get her, and constantly worried that he wasn’t being loyal to her. But he loved her and thought that by marrying her things would get better and her fears would subside.
They did not. Instead, they got worse. To appease her fears of his accused infidelity, he would call her several times a day, allowed her to track his location, gave her his phone to review text and phone messages, let her read his emails (including work related ones), and tolerated random sniff tests looking for scents of another woman. Yet these efforts did not calm her, rather, things seemed to escalate.
Andrew noticed his wife’s fears intensified exponentially after the birth of their first child. Their son was not allowed to play at neighbor’s houses because she was afraid he would be abused by other kids. The curtains at their house were drawn during the day because she convinced herself if they weren’t someone would kidnap him. Family members weren’t allowed to take care of him because they secretly didn’t like her and would say negative things to the child about his mother. Even the mailman was in a plot to “destroy her” and “take her son away” because she felt he was too friendly with the young boy.
Andrew agreed to install cameras in the house, let her listen in on private conversations he made on the phone with his family, and tolerated the constant barrage of questions about every minor decision he made. But no matter what he said, Alice was not satisfied and routinely accused him of dishonesty, disloyalty, malicious deception, and disrespect. Embarrassed by his wife’s paranoia and unsure how to help the situation, Andrew withdrew from family and friends simply to make his life easier and less frustrating.
Tired of his wife’s seemingly unnatural behavior and missing the way things used to be, Andrew finally reached out for help from a therapist. After describing his life, it was suggested that Alice might have Paranoid Personality Disorder. Here are some more signs that can help you recognize it:
- The underlying belief of a
persona with Paranoid Personality Disorder, is that everyone is out to get
them. Even those who declare their love and loyalty are only doing that to
deceive so they can get information and hurt them later.
- A paranoid personality will use
past incidents of deception as evidence that it is going on all the time in
nearly every environment.
- They often imagine that there
is a master conspiracy plan to make them look crazy, take advantage of them,
and/or exploit their past.
- There is usually some period in
their childhood of extreme isolation that sparked this thinking. For instance,
they might have had a several childhood illnesses that prevented them from
going to school or playing with other kids for a year or more, or maybe their
parent’s overreactive nature in trying to protect their child from harm led to
a believe that the only way to be safe is to fully retreat from others.
- When their accusations are
shown to be false, this does not improve the situation or calm their fears and
- When they talk about their
fears with others, family members and friends begin to pull away because the
intensity is overwhelming.
- It is not just the infidelity
of a spouse that is questioned but even a boss or best friend is subject to the
same fears. While it might not be noticeable at first glance, eventually the
paranoia is revealed as it is pervasive in all environments and without
- They constantly hold back key
pieces of information from others (bank accounts, passwords, emails) because
they believe it will be used against them in the future.
- Once a person has insulted or
injured them, there is no turning back. One event is enough for mistrust to
appear and, regardless of the apology, it does not change the perception that
others are out to get them. It only reinforces the belief.
- Even offhanded remarks are
believed to be evidence of a conspiracy. Two people who don’t know each other
could give the same glance and this would be proof that they were involved in a
plot against them.
- They tend to be very defensive
about even misperceived attacks and go out of their way to silence anyone who
might see their paranoia.
- They are very hyper-vigilant
and are constantly scanning public and private environments for potential
- They react negatively to
criticism, are unforgiving, hold grudges, and refuse to let any minor detail go
for fear that they will open themselves up for another attack.
- They tend to be emotionally
immature and react irrationally when they get angry. The very slights that they
don’t tolerate from others are ones that they will openly utilize.
- They keep their circles
separate. Home is not allowed to associate with work and vice versa. This
allows them to talk poorly about their spouse at work and poorly about their
boss at home without any consequence.
- They pass their fears onto their children and often use stories of kidnapping, abuse, and trauma as justification for their overly protective nature. They even say that it’s an act of love, claiming that if the behavior ceased it would mean the parent no longer cared for their children
Living with PPD can be exhausting, exciting, and challenging. They have the ability to fake social interaction in front of others despite their strong dislike of others. They say things like, “I was just trying to keep you safe” or “I can see things that you don’t” as a way of softening the paranoia. Ultimately this behavior has the opposite effect of what was intended as family members and friends remove themselves from the life of the paranoid person because it is too difficult to handle.
To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond,
Please call our office at 407-647-7005.