Paranoia Versus Social Anxiety

As if people were not confused and idiotic enough about the mental disorders.

This is one of my pet peeves. Even very educated people don’t seem to know the slightest bit fuck-all about mental illness. I’m not really sure why this is. Most of them don’t have a dx, but many others do. Typically, the ones that do have never been formally diagnosed or treated by a clinician. This is really unfortunate.

There’s nothing really wrong with having a mental dx. If you have one, you have one, right? Isn’t it best to know, and to treat it as best you can, than to go on in denial, screwing up your life by acting crazy, denying that you have a problem, and not doing anything about getting better?

I am always stunned at the number of educated people who don’t even know the difference between neurotic and psychotic disorders. In addition to the third way split with the personality disorders, these are three of the top splits in mental illness. If you don’t understand the nature of these splits, you don’t know fuck-all about mental illness. If you don’t know anything about it, you have no right to talk about it, and you need to STFU.

This is a painful subject to me. I have OCD. That’s a neurotic illness, or more precisely an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders have a certain flavor about them, but the main one is that the person with the neurotic illness is still in touch with reality, that is, he is not crazy. Even Freud recognized this. In fact, he isn’t the tiniest bit crazy in any way, shape or form, which is what makes these illnesses so puzzling to deal with. In general, neurotics are not the slightest bit dangerous either.

I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps it is because of the nature of the person who gets these illnesses. This is often a very nice person. Nice, fearful, cautious, conservative. They are do-gooders. I’m told that people with OCD have the lowest rate of violence of anyone else, much lower than any random person.

So why are they non-violent? In addition to the reasons above, all of the energy is directed inwards, not outwards. This is characteristic of the introvert, and it why introverts are so nonviolent. The beloved extrovert externalizes most of his energy and almost all of his problems and issues, putting them onto other people. Hence, the average extrovert is many times more dangerous than the average introvert.

Indeed, almost all of the world’s serious violence is caused by extroverts. If all or nearly all of your energy is going inwards instead of outwards, you simply are not directing enough energy to the outside world to get violent, or even very aggressive. In order for substantial external aggression to occur, quite a bit of energy must be directed outwards towards the object(s) of the aggression.

With the introvert, so much energy has been exhausted going inwards that there is simply not enough reserve left over to put enough outwards to do anything violent. Combined with the introverts fears and worries, basic conservatism and do-gooderism and extremely high morals, and you just don’t see a lot of serious violence in these folks. Not to say some won’t fight back though. Some will, and people are always stunned at a counterattacking introvert.

They are ready to call the police, because they are sure that he must be insane or homicidal. This is because his behavior is so contrary to his nature. But even counterattacking, the introvert’s violence will be measured. He will throw food, dishes, water or books. If a serious object is flung, he will deliberately miss you. He will scream and yell and call you horrible names. If you really deserve it, he will punch you, but not very hard. Everyone has a breaking point.

Extroverts’ violence is much more likely to be the initial violent blow, to use fists or kicks or other weapons, or to have serious consequences. This is because the extrovert, by his nature, does not think of consequences of acts so much as the introvert does. He’s more likely to get caught up in things.

One of the things that is annoying about having OCD (other than having it) is dealing with all the dipshits who don’t understand it and insist that I must be crazy, a criminal, a killer, a rapist, a schizophrenic, a psychotic, a manic depressive, or some other bullshit. Some idiots keep on with these delusions after I have known them for years and they really ought to know better. It’s very frustrating!

Paranoia is totally misunderstood by your average dipshit. One of the prime splits in paranoia is between social anxiety and paranoia. It’s true that it’s a bit hard to tell the difference sometimes, but I am convinced that these are two completely different ways of looking at the world. They might as well be on two different planets.

The person with social anxiety may or may not be falsely evaluating situations. I have known folks who were afraid to go out because they thought that people thought that they were weird. Guess what? I knew these folks, and definitely, people did think they were weird! So that wasn’t a false analysis at all.

But many social anxiety types take this way too far. They assume that everyone that they know or meet hates them, usually because of some inadequacy that they may have. People are always talking about them behind their back. Whenever anyone laughs, they are laughing about them.

I’m convinced that this is probably a false analysis. The news is that most people are not looking at you all the time. If they are laughing, most of the time, they are not laughing at you. Sometimes they are looking at you, but you often can’t tell what the looks mean. Once in a while they might be laughing at you, but what of it? Let them laugh.

The problem here is that this person thinks that the world is focused on them. Not so. Most people are just thinking about their own stuff all the time and are not thinking about you at all. If you are acting very strange, a lot of people will be more likely to pay attention to you. The more normal you act, the less people will care.

I don’t generally think that everyone is looking at me. Most people seem to be ignoring me most of the time, which is the way it ought to be. When people are talking, most of the time, they surely are not talking about me. Every  now and then people seem to be talking about me. I try to figure out why, then adjust my behavior. Sometimes it’s something like, “Look at this guy staring at us.” In which case, I quit looking at them.

When people are laughing, I assume they are not laughing at me. A few times, I have caught some idiots laughing at me, and it pissed me off. I don’t know why they did it. Why doesn’t someone go interview them and ask them why? If I catch you doing that, I will hold it against you for a very long time, which is proper.

The truth that we are just not that important. We are grains of sand on the beach, blades of grass on the football field. Most people are not paying attention to you very much.

The paranoid takes this a lot further. The paranoid thinks people are watching them, following them, commenting about them in menacing ways, trying to kill them, trying to break into their homes, hatching conspiratorial plots against them, etc. In the vast majority of cases, this is simply not the case. Not only are folks too self-involved to notice you very much, but they surely have better things to do than hatch idiotic conspiracies against you.

Nevertheless, paranoids carry on with their paranoia. Why? For many, there is probably something wrong with their brains. They probably need to take a drug to make it go away. For others, they may have adopted an erroneous thinking style for some reason. For yet others, it seems to serve some sort of defensive purpose.

I don’t have much issues with paranoia. In fact, I’m the anti-paranoid. I tend to think that everyone likes me more or less and that no one or almost no one hates me. Sadly, this is just not true. I’ve definitely got some enemies out there. There are some others who just don’t like me. Where one ends and the other begins, I’m not sure. This is painful for me to acknowledge, so I keep falsely assuming that these folks are my friends. But they are not! And this causes me all sorts of trouble.

Where people may indeed by laughing at me, I am inclined to assume that they are not until proven otherwise. I assume that hostile persons actually are my friends, seeking out little bits of niceness amidst the emotional glaciers. Where people are talking about me, I assume they are not, or at best, it takes me a while to figure out that they are.

This anti-paranoia is probably better than being a paranoid, but it causes a lot of issues in that I am too friendly towards folks that just flat out don’t like me for whatever reason. I try to talk to them, and that’s typically a bad idea. I’m overcorrecting in the direction of mental health, but the best social actor is a very cautious person.

Here are some cases below, some of social anxiety, and some of paranoia.

Social anxiety first:

SA Case 1:

Well, what can I say? I am starting to believe that I genuinely suffer from one form of paranoia or the other. I started university last year and it has not been entirely easy, academically and socially. Although I have encountered feelings of anxiety and paranoia before in my life.If I am with a friend, who maybe has a closer friend with them who does not talk to me as much in the conversation, I always get the feeling that that other person does not want me around, or is slightly resentful of my presence. If someone I text does not text back, I assume it is because they do not want to talk to me, and just ignore or delete my text. I also feel they must be annoyed with me for bothering them, and wish I would leave them alone.

Also that they are only being polite with me in a conversation and eagerly want to talk to someone else who shows up.

When I am in shops or on the street, I presume they are watching me to see if I do something strange, so they can secretly laugh to themselves. Or if I have been in a group meeting, as soon as I walk away, they start making comments about how I acted. I also think people are going to make “look at loner/saddo” expressions when they see me on my own. I also panic and look to see if everyone else is with their friends.

I really want to be happy and stop looking behind my back for threats. I also don’t want to quit studying, and would like a job as an auxiliary nurse, as I do enjoy working with people on a professional level. I have one best friend and two or three other close friends, and people I talk to. However, I wonder if people pity me or think I am a loner because I do not go out clubbing or anything, and don’t have more buddies.

So do I suffer from paranoia, and/or low self-esteem? I really want to do something about this, and talk to someone professional who I can trust. But I am even afraid of a professional getting it wrong and putting me on a cocktail of drugs- which I don’t want! I would rather talk. I’m scared that I am just selfish, and want everyone to like me or at least think I am alright.

SA Case 2:

I have suffered with paranoia for most of my life and I’m now heading for 40. The worse time i have with it at work. I had a manager a few years back who bullied me and got me thrown out of my job and made it clear that it was because I was a threat to her position. Ever since then I fear that in any job I do that people are talking about me behind my back, unfortunately in my last long term job I had this did turn out to be true.

I am now in a job that is temp to perm and there has been issues in getting me perm and I cannot stop the thought that they never will and that they will get someone else in and they will take my place because of my paranoia as I am not fit to keep down a job.

The fear of being made unemployed and thus losing my place I live is tearing me to pieces. It hasn’t been helped by my parents pointedly telling me that if I ever need somewhere to live I could not live with them as the only spare space they have is reserved for my niece and nephew whenever they stay over.

I suffer badly with self esteem and I know that a lot of this stems back to my childhood as my mother was always telling me that I was an accident and that my younger siblings were planned and wanted. My mother also is still to this day very happy to tell anyone who wants that she has never been able to love me and only tolerated me because she gave birth to me.
I am doing my best to fight my paranoias but it is hard to keep going on your own.

My doctors refuse to listen to me and just want to prescribe drugs all the time, but they just make me very ill and the only option open me they state is lithium and i refuse to take that or any other antidepressants as they don’t solve the issues or actually help me.

SA Case 3:

I always think my friends don’t like me and people are out to get me and I don’t have any confidence in my self I think I am ugly and fat even though people tell me I am not Istill think I am I also get depressed and angry very easily what can I do lol I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels like this though :)

SA Case 4:

I’ve always felt that, when I go down hallways with people in them, they’re looking at me, making fun of me, ridiculing what I’m wearing, my hair, no matter if they are or not. It’s even worse if I hear them talking about someone else, because then I just assume it’s me. No matter who I talk to, I feel like I’m annoying them, like no one wants to talk to me. Because of this, I don’t start conversations very often and only talk to a tight-knit group of friends.

I reminisce on old fights with my family and friends, thinking they still hate me over things that happened a long time ago. In essence, I guess it feels like everyone’s always out to get me, and that in reality, I’m a nuisance to everyone.

SA Case 5:

On a really bad day I hate people even looking at me – I image that they are thinking that I’m so ugly they really pity me. I hate it when people are walking behind me for the same reason. I’m sure that people hate being near or around me – and I agree with Ian that if I’m near a group of people and they start laughing I’m convinced they are laughing about me.

That ought to give you a basic flavor. The principle issue here is one of insecurity.

Now onto some real paranoia:

Paranoia Case 1:

I thought there was a camera in the lamp-post and a microphone in my button. I thought the cars behind were following me. People at work always seemed to use certain “phrases” – or I noticed them. Helicopters flew over our house and I was convinced they were spying on us and checking we were at home. I thought the phone was bugged.

I really noticed policemen – they seemed to be everywhere and police cars and vans were there because of me. I did not think there was something wrong with my thinking, I thought there was something wrong with society. Why didn’t society trust me’ I learnt in the end that maybe it was me not trusting myself and maybe I needed to do stuff that I “approved” of and felt good about.

Paranoia Case 2:

Like Alex I always think someone has come into my home and stolen the thing I can’t find. My son always says ‘who would want that’!’ it is a family joke now but I still think it immediately something is not where I thought it would be!

When very paranoid I think my phone is being tapped/I am being secretly filmed/being followed. I know it’s not real but at the same time it is real: ignoring these thoughts just help them to grow. I have nightmares about someone being in my flat when I am asleep.

I have started reading the book and am finding such reassurance from other’s personal accounts – such incredible relief to know I am fairly ‘normal’ for a paranoiac :o) I know why I feel the way I do but, before now, I didn’t have any solution to stop these thoughts.

Paranoia Case 3:

I always seem paranoid. I think when i hear people laughing, that they are laughing about me and slagging me off. The television, radio, books, mags all are disclosing personal information about me, like reading my mind. When i cant find something in my home i always think my friends or mother have stolen from me. I hate talking in groups because i think i am being judged by everyone.

Paranoia Case 4:

I hate my paranoia, i think people are going to attack me for no reason. I can’t get on public transport, i often think i hear the doorbell and there’s no one there. I hear people saying my name out in the street when I’m sitting in my room and there’s no one there. I think i hear the phone ringing as well. The doctor has put me on Seroquel (300mg) every day.

It’s taken over my life, I’m absolutely sick of it, I sometimes start to get really angry. I’m getting angry speaking about it now, it makes me feel stupid. Not right in the head. None of the doctors seem to want to help.

Paranoia Case 5:

I have had a lot of problems with anxiety in the past but recently I have been so scared all of the time. I often think people are following me, especially when I’m driving. Often I think that someone in front of me is slowing down and waiting to see which way I’m indicating then going the same way. I think people are watching me.

Tonight there was a car in the street outside and when he saw me looking out of the window he sped away. I cant stay at home on my own at night. I am just scared all the time that someone is going to harm me, try and break into my house or kill me :-(

4 Comments

Filed under Anxiety Disorders, Mental Illness, OCD, Personality Disorders, Psychology, Psychopathology, Psychotherapy, Psychotic Disorders

4 responses to “Paranoia Versus Social Anxiety

  1. Gay State Girl

    Lindsay, do you think someone with a neurological illness that has no impact on their sanity (depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, social disorders) should be allowed to purchase arms? (Not taking into account your position on gun control.)

  2. Dave Coe

    I can identify with quotes from both anxiety and paranoia. I have anxiety dissorder and OCD but I also have paranoia about things for example i have been concerned that my food is contaminated at a resteraunt or that someone is following me. It can get confusing which is which for both sufferers and even therapist and pscychiatrist.

  3. bruce

    my paranoia started when i was a paratrooper in viet nam and i thought that the commies were trying to kill me.oh,wait they were trying to kill me.when i came home i went through oakland and two urban maggots though my money was theirs’ and i shot both of them.i spent every dime i had saved on lawyers.now i always sit where i can see everything because i am still paranoid.

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