Sunday, 20 January 2013

Just Because I'm Paranoid....

Sometime over the Christmas break I spot a book in a charity shop which whets my interest - “Everyday Emotional and Psychological Problems and How to Overcome Them” (possibly triggered by my recent foray into the realms of psychotherapy).

It’s a very thorough and practical tome, and once I have got over my usual conviction that I suffer from everything contained therein, I find it quite reassuring. That is until I get to the chapter on Paranoia…

Here’s the helpful definition the book provides:
“Paranoia is the unrealistic thought that other people want to harm us”.

Apparently it is quite common – almost as widespread as depression or anxiety. Around 15 to 20 per cent of people have frequent paranoid thoughts, but about 3 – 5 per cent of people will have quite severe paranoia (what psychologists call persecutory delusions).

Oh! I think. How interesting. I didn’t know that. And then I turn the page, and I see a self-assessment questionnaire. Oh, again!! I love self-assessment questionnaires. I’m always filling them out at the hairdressers, in an attempt to discover whether I am in the wrong job/am married to the right husband/am sufficiently “high-maintenance” in my beauty routine/need to overhaul my wardrobe….

Here’s the paranoia questionnaire in full, each question of which needs to be scored between 1 (representing “not at all”) and 5 (representing “totally”).

1. Certain individuals have had it in for me
2. I have definitely been persecuted
3. People have intended me harm
4. People wanted me to feel threatened so they stared at me
5. I was certain people did things in order to annoy me
6. I was convinced there was a conspiracy against me
7. I was sure someone wanted to hurt me
8. I was distressed by people wanting to harm me in some way
9. I was preoccupied with thoughts of people trying to upset me deliberately
10. I couldn’t stop thinking about people wanting to confuse me
11. I was distressed by being persecuted
12. I was annoyed because others wanted to deliberately upset me
13. The thought that people were persecuting me played on my mind
14. It was difficult to stop thinking about people wanting to make me feel bad
15. People have been hostile towards me on purpose
16. I was angry that someone wanted to hurt me

© Cambridge University Press, 2008

Now this is slightly different from being asked whether I spend £5, £10, £20 or £50 on a moisturiser; if I possess any garments I haven't worn for over 2 years; or when was the last time I asked my boss for a raise. But I probably complete it more quickly than I have ever completed any questionnaire. Because the answers to the questions don’t take much thinking about…

Apparently, 85 per cent of people who answer the questions score between 16 and 31 (ie this represents a normal "healthy" mentality); while a score of more than 31 indicates an above-average level of paranoia. People with severe paranoia generally score between 40 and 70.

I SCORE 76 OUT OF 80 ?!?????!!!

(I would have scored 80, except that I don’t have particular recollections of being stared at, so Q4 only rates a 1….)

It’s not that I don’t know I am paranoid. It’s just that it appears I am now being asked to agree that my paranoia is totally unfounded; instead of being a symptom of having been bullied. Because I would contend, your Honour, that the statement “certain individuals have had it in for me” is in fact – um – FACT, and not merely belief.

The book further suggests that readers ask themselves other questions such as:

- Would other people think one’s suspicions were realistic ?
- Is it possible that one has exaggerated the threat ?
- Is there indisputable evidence for the suspicions ?
- Do my suspicions persist despite reassurance from others that they are unfounded

And I think – well, the people who “reassured” me that my suspicions that two of my managers and a nasty little clique of co-workers were bullying me were unfounded were HR and New Boss. Who conveniently ignored the “indisputable evidence” I had most helpfully provided (witness statement, emails). And I am in no doubt whatsoever that Remora the Remorseless, who meddled her way into a formal disciplinary hearing as a key witness to an event which took place when she was not even in the room, was motivated by a desire to cause me maximum damage (Line Manager actually admitted this, during our Mediation session !!)

However. However. 

I am very willing to concede that what happened had such a profound and lasting effect upon me that it severely damaged my sense of security and safety in the workplace for over a year, and made me wary even of co-workers who had played no apparent part in the proceedings. As a result, I became totally isolated, fearful, and began to suffer panic attacks....

The good news is that over the past six months I have reconnected with The Decent People.
But even today, I still wouldn’t trust one of The Jackals for a second.

Just because I’m paranoid…..?
Doesn’t mean they are not out to get me.

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