Although the paranoid personality is a tightly knit syndrome, its features nevertheless combine with those of several other personalities, producing variations of the core prototype, described in the following paragraphs and summarized in Figure 13.1. Actual cases may or may not fall into one of these combinations.
The Fanatic Paranoid
The fanatic paranoid pattern often resembles its less troubled cousin, the narcissistic personality, as this variant is an interweaving of both paranoid and narcissistic traits. Like the narcissist, the fanatic variant of the paranoid pattern comes across as arrogant, pretentious, and expansive and maintains an air of contempt toward others. A major difference is that narcissists often achieve some success, whereas fanatic paranoids have run hard into reality, their narcissism profoundly wounded. Thus fallen from grace, their self-image of perfection shattered, fanatic paranoids seek to reestablish lost pride through extravagant claims and intricate fantasies. By endowing themselves with illusory powers, they become superheroes or demigods, ready to prevail against an evil universe.
Eventually, delusions of grandeur become their primary coping mechanism. By assuming a grandiose identity, fanatic paranoids offset the collapse of self-esteem produced by objective reality. They may present themselves as a holy saint, inspired leader, or talented genius. Elaborate schemes may be devised by which to deliver the world from sin, lead the planet to world peace, solve long-standing scientific problems, or create utopian societies. Often, their plans are sufficiently detailed to draw at least passing interest. When their ideas are eventually dismissed by others, they are likely to attribute interference to intangible powers, perhaps secret government agencies that have conspired to preserve the status quo. Projection, righteous indignation, and a sense of omnipotence combine to create a defensive armor in this subtype.
Developmentally, fanatic paranoids are similar to compensating narcissists. Overindulged and unrestrained by their parents, their imagination of what they might become in life was given free reign and encouraged by caretakers, perhaps as a means of compensating for poor family status. Once beyond the protective confines of the household, however, their image of superiority was quickly and unmercifully destroyed by the outside world. Completely defeated, saddled with a crushed sensed of self-worth, and unwilling to face reality, they retreat deeper inside their private world of fantasy, creating a compensatory universe in which they can assume their former station, fulfill previous ambitions, and salvage their existence (see "Focus on Culture: Paranoid Conditions and Cult Leaders").
Malignant paranoids combine aspects of the paranoid and sadistic personalities. Such individuals have built expectations that they will be on the receiving end of others' aggressions. Highly sensitive to power issues, their strategy is to dominate you before you can dominate them. Intimidating and belligerent, they possess a ruthless desire to avenge past wrongs and triumph over others. Even when they are alone, the long list of perceived wrongs done to them constantly rises into awareness, thus keeping a potential for aggression close to the surface. However, many have found that their actual efforts at abusing and terrorizing others routinely backfire, which leads them to seek retribution more through fantasy than action. These setbacks are wrought by their own hand, as their chip-on-the-shoulder attitude toward others provokes abundant antagonism.
As they become more isolated, left to ruminate over this self-created perpetual cycle of interpersonal hostility, fanatic paranoids begin to cogitate on the perceived malicious nature of their hostile environment, complete with the venomous individuals who inhabit it. Via the intrapsychic mechanism of projection, they begin to attribute their own acrimony to others, ascribing to them all of the enmity they feel within themselves. As the line between objective antagonism and imagined hostility grows thin, the belief that others are intentionally persecuting them may take on almost delusional proportions.
The need to protect their autonomy against any and all outside influence is a defining feature of this variant because nothing is so valuable and so vulnerable to them as their sense of self-worth. This is particularly evident in the content of their persecutory delusions. The malevolence they perceive emanating from others is neither casual nor random but designed to intimidate, offend, undermine their self-esteem, control their thoughts, and weaken their will. They are ever alert against their darkest fears: Others will make them soft and yielding, forced to submit to authority, or worse, tricked into surrendering their self-determination.
Obdurate paranoids combine aspects of the paranoid and compulsive personalities, but like all paranoid patterns, they are more unstable and pathological than their compulsive counterparts. Like the compulsive, they are rigid, perfectionistic, grim, humorless, tense, overcontrolled, small-minded, peevish, legalistic, and self-righteous. However, whereas compulsives temper their angst with the belief that success and happiness can be achieved by conforming to the dictates of authority, obdurate paranoids renounce this dependency, taking on a posture of unabashed self-assertion. They actively rebel against any and all external constraints in a maladaptive effort to regain their sense of perceived control and overturn injustices previously doled out on them.
While they do continue to seek clarity from imposed rules and regulations, they are now the imposers of a system that is used to attack others, usually through either legal action or the setting of impossible rules that cannot realistically be followed. Those in this paranoid personality's wake are despised for their weakness, their sloppiness and lack of regard for disciplined behavior, their failure to live an organized life, and their hypocrisy.
Despite these assertions of nonconformity and dominance, however, obdurate paranoids are not likely to eschew deep-seated feelings of guilt and fear of retribution. Further, they may appear to function normally much of the time but possess tightly compartmentalized persecutory delusions. These tendencies go largely unnoticed, but the individual's hypersensitive antennae are perpetually in alert mode, noticing any unusual twitch, remark, or facial expression emanating from nearby others. It is not unusual for this paranoid pattern to project their anger onto others—thereby creating the perception of hostile intent from innocuous or absent signals. In fact, what we now think of as "classical paranoia," that is, compartmentalized beliefs separate and apart from a patient's usual thought process, usually emanates from those of the obdurate variant because of their tightly controlled, segmented belief structure: When a sensitive nerve is touched, their otherwise normal functioning is impaired and the hidden beliefs become manifest.
The querulous paranoid combines aspects of the paranoid with negativistic patterns, with the latter contributing characteristics such as discontentment, pessimism, stubbornness, vacillation, and vengefulness. When combined with paranoid projection, these traits are amplified into overt hostility and forthright delusions. This result manifests in tones of faultfinding, sullenness, resentfulness, contentiousness, jealousy, and insistence on being forever wronged or cheated. It is rare to find these individuals in sustained, healthy relationships. Instead, these persons tend to give up their quests for affection and move to a contrived stance of autonomy and self-determination, renouncing their social needs yet harboring a cloaked sense of dejection. While they state their newfound independence with vengeful fury, the querulous variant remains deeply troubled by interpersonal discontentedness and feelings of indecisiveness, with hidden feelings vacillating between desiring the company of others and feeling repulsed by them.
As envy mounts, they often complain that the achievements of others reflect unfair advantages or preferential treatment. Grumbling turns to anger and spite as their fantasies of being taken advantage of accrete ever more injustices. Legal action against those who have wronged them is common, as are erotic delusions because the querulous paranoid does still seek affection even while refusing it. This is done via the intrapsy-chic projection mechanism, whereby the individual comes to believe that the feelings of the self are actually emanating from others. Thus, by projecting their own desires onto others, it becomes "them" who make lewd remarks or otherwise suggest sexual intentions. Accusations of infidelity, deceit, and betrayal are often made against innocent relatives and friends, a further synthesis of the negativistic and paranoid patterns.
The insular paranoid combines aspects of the paranoid and avoidant personalities. Such individuals are often moody, apprehensive, and hypersensitive to criticism, especially where their worth and achievements are concerned. Extremely vulnerable, many insular paranoids seek solace in self-focused ways. For example, they may engage in abstruse intellectual activities to enhance their self-esteem or indulge in drugs and alcohol to calm their fears. Especially fearful of shame and humiliation, insular paranoids seek to defend themselves against both real and imagined dangers. More than most, they seek to protect themselves from a world both threatening and destructive. As such, they may isolate themselves for long periods of time, a means of keeping the inevitable judgments of others out of their lives.
Insular paranoids also have an unusually strong fear of being controlled. They not only seek to prevent external influence but also desire to rely solely on their own conclusions and beliefs. Unwilling to check their thoughts against consensual reality, they grow more and more out of touch with the surrounding world, eventually losing the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality. Fears of shame and humiliation, an important component of both the paranoid and avoidant patterns, easily inflate to full-blown conspiracies. Eventually, their thoughts may become so painful and terrifying that they begin intentionally to interrupt the continuity and focus of their perceptions, distracting themselves from their own thoughts. By deserting themselves, their inner world becomes a chaotic mélange of distorted, incidental, and unconnected notions, the threshold of a decompensated paranoid state.
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This guide Don't Panic has tips and additional information on what you should do when you are experiencing an anxiety or panic attack. With so much going on in the world today with taking care of your family, working full time, dealing with office politics and other things, you could experience a serious meltdown. All of these things could at one point cause you to stress out and snap.