Paranoid Personality Disorder: Relationship on Egg Shells

Paranoid Personality Disorder is characterized as follows by the World Health Organization’s ICD-10 (PDF) —

At least three of the following:

  • excessive sensitivity to setbacks and rebuffs;
  • tendency to bear grudges persistently, i.e. refusal to forgive insults and injuries or slights;
  • suspiciousness and a pervasive tendency to distort experience by misconstruing the neutral or friendly actions of others as hostile or contemptuous;
  • a combative and tenacious sense of personal rights out of keeping with the actual situation;
  • recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding sexual fidelity of spouse or sexual partner;
  • tendency to experience excessive self-importance, manifest in a persistent self-referential attitude;
  • preoccupation with unsubstantiated “conspiratorial” explanations of events both immediate to the patient and in the world at large.

Includes: expansive paranoid, fanatic, querulant and sensitive paranoid personality (disorder)

Excludes: delusional disorder, schizophrenia

The way that I’d describe a relationship with such a person is as follows:

You are always and forever walking on egg shells. We never know when something we’d said would set this person off, because it is unpredictable how this person interprets our words and actions. This person sets her own interpretation to other people’s words and actions and then this person adds onto this entire personal histories of being abandoned, slighted, rebuffed, or rejected.

You are always the perpetrator. No matter what the circumstances, we were always the accused. We were the ones who did something to disrespect the person, or deliberately showing how we were abandoning the person. Never mind that each argument was started by this person. Usually we’d be so stunned at what had precipitated the argument that we’d be tongue-tied and mystified by what we’d said or done to offend this person, except being told (in the way of shouting at our faces) that we were victimizing the person.

You are always wrong and everything about you is fair game. I mean this literally — you start out from the position of being always wrong, and nothing you can say or use to reason with (i.e. logic) will convince the person otherwise. In fact, if you are try to show this person why you’re not wrong, you become the perpetrator who are victimizing the person and you will be told as much by the person. For example, the person will point at me and accuse me of disrespecting the person and on top of this, bring out my personal history and accuse me of disrespecting other persons in my life and then throw this all back in my face.

It is easy to confuse paranoid personality disorder with narcissistic personality disorder because of the level of self-absorption that people who are untreated with these conditions exhibit. This person can KNOW that you are going through the toughest times in your life that rivals hell-on-earth and the person will turn this around and make it all about them and you “doing it to them” (hence, the easy confusion with narcissistic personality disorder). I’ve seen this with my own eyes or I’d never believe that a person can twist things around to make it all about them when someone else is going through hell.

In our situation my solution is to ban this person from ever setting foot in my house. I have a young child and the stakes are too high to expose children to this type of untreated pathology.

  • Daniel

    I felt, after reading this text, that this is what I am suffering from. I honestly don’t feel like banning people like me is ever going to make this a better world.
    I am under treatment. I am trying to be a better person. I am now taking medication for that…
    I am not proud of some of the actions I take that are due to my disorder of personality…
    I would expect this website to be a bit more scientific, than judgemental…

    • Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      I’m sorry you feel judged, although you have come to an awareness that you want treatment and help because you want a better quality of life that includes better / healthier relationships with people you love. In this particular example, however, the family member not only refuses to recognize there’s anything wrong but in fact judges others and behaves in a way that is very traumatic to young children (a grand child.) This website is not a scientific website, but a personal one, and this is why the site is primarily personal stories and experiences that are not necessarily objective.

    • Anon

      Hi Daniel

      I agree, banning people with PPD isn’t going to help. Everyone deserves to be loved but please do understand the mental torture non PPD’s go through when their loved one has this condition. My boyfriend has this condition but I’m not ready to give up on him. He acknowledges he has a problem (at times) but won’t seek help. Can I ask what made you seek treatment?

      Many thanks

  • Thai daighter

    This is my mother. She is Thai… My father referred to it as the Thai temper while we were growing up. It was all I could do to survive physical and psychological abuse for the 17 years I lived there. The banning of my mother who was the abuser was of her own doing as a result of her parania. We attempted several times to get her help and those attempts failed as she turned the tables on the psychiatrists, psychologists, and doctors. I am tired of her being the victim. I was the victim. I have scars on my body that I have to answer for when I go to the doctor and when I delivered my babies. I drowned myself in working multiple jobs and going to school after school, completing degree after degree, and cleaning compulsively as to not to deal with emotional after affects of the abuse. I am a mother now of two boys. One with a genetic disorder who will require life long care. I am 38 years old. I have a 16 year old son. I have spent 16 years “staying busy” in a attempt to bury the abuse. If I have to ban my mother in order to keep my kids safe then I will. I am tired of the manipulation. That is what it is a manipulation tactic to act like the victim. She was not the victim. I was and my brothers. We don’t need to ban them they often ban themselves.

  • J

    I have been with my boyfried for 6 years. I have been so stupid and self-sabbotaging by even trying to be with a different man to get over him. That was the dummest thing I could have done because I didn’t love the other man but realized later that it is because I was continued to be called filthy names and being accused of being unfaithful when I wasn’t. I still do and always will love the one that has abused me. I have been trying to figure out what is wrong with him for a long time. I know I am not a doctor but research after research has indicated he has paranoid personality disorder. One of the biggest traits I have noticed is “holding a grudge”… he is even still mad at his friend from the first grade to getting him in trouble on the school bus and with his parents from bringing something to school that was illegal (a pot pipe he stole from his parents). I believe this is completely irrational because that was over 30 years ago. He holds grudges against me for things I have done “to him”. I have made some terrible mistakes in this relationship that I am truly sorry for and have even felt like suicide over – am beside myself… he agrees the past is the past and everything is wonderful, then they come up again and again. He either wants every single bit of me and is lonely without me… or he will give me the silent treatment and 3 winters ago, I didn’t see him for the entire season and he would not contact me or tell me where he was. Recently, there was a camping trip/memorial for his fater where his mom, brother, 3 uncles, and other family were going. He bitched for several weeks about the menu they chose and his brother was doing all the cooking that made him extrememly resentful… mad at each one of his uncles for various reasons and worked up in his mind how they were going to talk to him and how mad it made him. Upset with his mother for being firm with him that the menu was already decided and that is the way it was going to be (it was a memorial for the death of her husband, I mean really, let her eat what she wants). The latest thing is he finally told me after all of these years he is tired of me asking him what I can pick up from the store for him (milk, bread, etc.) whatever would make him feel good and he exploded and said I was overbearing and spent my money excessively and he was sick of me doing things for him. Then he said he was sick of me calling him my angel (my pet name for him is angel but sometimes I goof of in a joking way and refer to him as angel cakes… totally just for fun). He said he was sick of that and reminds him of “a bitch he hates called Ricki Lake that is in a movie and they call her Baby Cakes” and all of his muscles tense up and he hates me. I will admit it is very sick… all I want to do is tend to his needs because I love him so. He often determines I am “pissed” about something that I am NOT and accuses me of it as a matter of fact. When he gets in my face yelling and backs me up in a corner, I retaliate and yell back because if I try to talk calm, he doesn’t hear me because he is shouting so loud. I truly believe that most of these events are started with him and I often finish. I have NEVER had someome make me SO incredibly mad in my life. It makes me ashamed that I yelled back and stooped to his level. I have even hit him. I didn’t mean to. When a 6 ft 2 man hovers over me screaming filthy names at me in my own house trapping me in a corner… I felt no other way of getting through. He has hit me back occasionally. However, I feel discusted with myself for doing these things. And oh yeah… he puts on the guilt trip to me too. Why do I love him so? I could have other men but I don’t want them. Then everything is okay… to him verbally abusing me off and on and off and on and on has finally broken me. I am in such a terrible depression, I cannot function. It is bad. We haven’t spoken in 4 days. He threatens to get me in trouble at work and lose my job. He has caused me to feel nothing but remorse (doing and saying things I really wish I hadn’t), shame, chronic depression, and even thoughts of death. Just last week I told him I literally had a nervous breakdown at work because of our fighting and please try to hear me and I will hear him so we can communicate… his response was to cringe and stare at the ground and say well lets not talk about it… stop this… why are you doing this? i was just trying to sort things out. I love him so but I am so tired. Oh yeah…. he is totally pissed for any friend or family member that takes too much of my time. He thinks EVERYONE is against him. He has a reason to hold major resentments against EVERYONE. What is wrong?!!!

  • Keith

    I really like the last remark about having nothing to do with them. I have this issue with my father, and he is in his 60’s and it is at an all time high, since being prescribed steroids to deal with a cancer situation. After years of battle with him and confrontation after confrontation. I was done. However, he is now on a vandetta against me, and though I and my brother have decided not to have relationships with him, he has befriended my sons mother. Since he has been involved I hear stories from my son of how I sucked at football, though I was given scholarships to play in a Div 1A university, and on top of that my visits with my son being taken by him, which has now ended with me having to bring my sons mother to family court! It just doesn’t end with him!