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How to Cope if Someone You Know has Paranoid Personality Disorder

written by: Nicholas Kuvaas • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 9/8/2010

Paranoid personality disorder is a difficult mental illness to handle, but it can even harder on the loved ones of those who suffer. Still, there are things that can be done to improve the situation.

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    What is Paranoid Personality Disorder?

    There are many times when loved ones mistreat, and this can occur for many reasons. They may be mad at someone else, at us, or even themselves. However, prolonged periods of mistreatment may lead to questions about a close friend or family member's mental health. While mental health issues can take many forms, there are specific symptoms that people with paranoid personality disorder exhibit1.

    There are seven possible symptoms associated with a diagnosis of paranoid personality disorder. These include the unfounded suspicion that people want to deceive, harm, or exploit them; others are not worthy of their trust or loyalty; the fear that information, even harmless, will be used against them; the interpretation of benign remarks or events as threatening; a lack of ability to forgive real or imagine insults; angry and aggressive responses to imagined attacked by others followed by an often rapid counterattack, and baseless suspicions about the fidelity of a sexual partner.

    If four of these symptoms are present in a person, they meet the criteria for paranoid personality disorder.

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    Coping with Paranoid Personality Disorder in Relationships

    People suffering from paranoid personality disorder are going to be difficult to handle for an extended period. Their suspicion can quickly become tiresome, as will their claims of blamelessness. Coping with someone who has paranoid personality disorder is an extremely difficult task, but the best thing a loved one can do for a person suffering from this personality disorder is to encourage them to seek treatment2.

    Although it is a difficult task, and, one that will easily garner an attack from the sufferer, it is the best way to help that person. However, it should be noted that treatment outcomes for paranoid personality disorder are poor due to the client's mistrust of a therapist. Also, being overly supportive or non-threatening is not a good way to handle those who accuse because people suffering from paranoid personality disorder are looking for anything that could be perceived as a threat.

    If someone suffering from paranoid personality disorder is in your life and will not attend therapy, the next best thing to do is seek treatment for yourself. Coping with paranoid personality disorder in relationships is incredibly difficult, but coping mechanisms can be learned to help deal with anger, depression, or anxiety from the stormy relationship. Also important to remember is that their behavior is not your fault. Someone with paranoid personality disorder has an irrational fear of being hurt3. They need an enemy and experience little joy in their lives. As they accuse and attack, they push people away and make their lives harder for themselves. In essence, their suspicions become a self-fulfilling prophecy where loved ones leave them for healthier relationships.

    If you find that you can't handle being around someone with paranoid personality disorder, and they refuse to seek any form of treatment, there is no need to stay in that relationship. It may sound cold hearted and difficult, but you can't fix someone who doesn't want to be fixed. If there is no hope of happiness in sight by staying in a relationship, it is better to pursue that happiness than suffer.