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I am worried about my mother. Over the last 10 years she has completely cut off contact with longtime close friends. She recently lost her job and now spends almost all day in the house. Her only outlets are myself and my brother.
She repeatedly changes the locks on the doors. She will post "no trespassing" notes on the front door when she leaves. Recently, she asked my brother to change the heating vent covers in the house. He forgot to put the cover back and came back the next day and she had taped a paper over the hole. On the side of paper facing inside the hole she had written "I know you're there you sick perverts".
She's suspicous and critical of everyone.
She told my brother that she thinks people are "zapping" her in the middle of the night- which is causing spider veins in her legs...She's had them for as long as I can remember.
I am so worried about her, but don't know what to do. Please help.

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Oh hon, I have a mom who is also experiencing parnoia. She also lost her job and has become suspicious of all her friends. She now has only myself and my brother, and sometimes we are part of the delusions too. She is also paranoid of people breaking in and taking stuff, so she has many locks and carries all her jewellery every where she goes in her handbag.

Of course, she doesn't believe there is anything wrong with her, and refuses help. Also her paranoia waxes and wanes, sometimes she goes through periods when she is completely fine, but I think there are underlying paranoid thoughts during this time; she just doesn't act up.

As for your mom, If there is any way to get her to go to a doctor or hospital, take her with the help of your family. This is the best thing to do, however very difficult for paranoid people to accept.

I just read some things on a website that maybe helpful in terms of your own interaction with her:

Sorry this is so long. Hope it's helpful in some respects.

I am not a professional. I am a nursing student who recently finished a psychiatric rotation at a county mental hospital. I am also an individual with a family member who for years has suffered from delusional thinking that involves paranoia and conspiracies. We are close and I see her daily. She is distrustful of most professional assistance so much of her care falls on me and the rest of our immediate family. After almost 20 years of various approaches to dealing with this family member I found many of the conversational techniques I learned in my mental health class and clinical rotation to be infinitely helpful.

I'll try to list those for you in a moment. Before that let me say that nanojath makes a good point about how much of this advice, including mine, should be taken with a grain of salt. The sad and tricky part of mental illness is how diverse the issues are and how relatively new we are as a culture in dealing successfully with them. Also bear in mind that my advice revolves around my personal experiences with my family member and the people I've worked with at my job in healthcare and my clinical rotation in a mental health facility.

Here are some of the techniques that nurses may use in similar situations:

1. Accept the person's need for the false belief, but indicate you do not share the belief. They must understand you do not view the idea as real.

2. Do not argue or deny the belief. Say things like: "I find that hard to believe," if you say anything directly about the delusion at all. Arguing the delusional ideas serves no useful purpose and impedes any trust in the relationship.

3. Reinforce and focus on reality. Discourage long ruminations about the irrational thinking. Talk about real events and real people. Discussions that focus on the false ideas are purposeless and useless and may aggravate any psychosis.

4. If the person is highly suspicious, promote trust by being honest and keeping any promises you make about anything. Don't ever promise something that may not be able to be fulfilled. Say you don't know if you don't know. Avoid any behavior that might seem threatening. Examples may be physical contact, laughing loudly, whispering to others in the room or competitive activities.

5. Keep stimulus to a minimum. Turn off noisy tv's, talk radio, have relatives that make excessive noise leave. Stress needs to be kept to a minimum when possible.


Basically when my family member goes into one of these phases, there is some triggering event that has happened that is upsetting to her. If I can get her to tell me that event and we can address that, then the delusions subside somewhat. I don't challenge the delusion. I don't ask her to tell me more about the delusion. They're fascinating and tragic, but digging around in them just solidifies them more the next time that delusion comes up. I try to remain calm regardless of what she says - sometimes the delusions is me doing something awful and for years this pained me greatly to hear her say such things. But it is absolutely not about me at all.

For instance, one day she told me after seeing tortillas in her yard that someone else in our family was issuing a death threat to her. It didn't matter that the tortillas had probably been dropped or littered by some random person who was probably walking down her street. She thought it was specific to her. At one time she had a friend that fed his dog tortillas as a snack. That dog died. Even though it had nothing to do with tortillas I think that's where she connected the two. Without denying this threat that she saw as actively real, I asked her to tell me more about what had been happening earlier before she noticed the tortillas. I'm asking her to focus on what we both know is real. Eventually I was able to get out of her that an acquaintance she liked had died a few days earlier. It had nothing to do with tortillas or death threats. It was about her sadness of the loss of someone she knew and her fears of death. We were then able to talk about that.

Distraction is also a huge tool I use when dealing with this family member. I'll ask her to go for a walk with me. The physical activity calms her. The stimulus of the walk distracts her from whatever current problem is creating her need for delusional thinking.

My nursing text book was especially helpful if you want to check it out. It was an easy read, clearly explaining current nursing approaches to mental health: Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing by Mary C. Townsend 5th ed. It's expensive - go to your local medical library or nursing school/med school text book store if you just want to thumb through it.

Perhaps most important: know what your own limits are. You are not responsible for any of this. I know that sounds so simple, but it is so easy to try and take over for someone that is ill. To try and think for them, feel pain for them. And you cannot do that. It takes some personal strength that can seem cruel at times. Nursing school is the most stressful thing I've ever done in my life and often my family member has asked me to sacrifice my time when it was not available. I simply have to tell her: "I'm sorry, but I can't deal with this now." Sometimes this demand that she depend on herself, that I need her to do that, is what she indirectly needs from me to do that.

It is a puzzle. Good luck to both of you and your family. I'm glad he is getting professional support. Don't ignore your own needs. Email is in my profile if my story is at all familiar and we can talk some more.

Take care.
posted by dog food sugar at 1:05 PM on January 4, 2007 [6 favorites]
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Oh please help me! I can't say that it has been officially diagonoised but it is very clear that my partner suffers from paranoia. There have been times in the past when he has thought that people were following him etc. and he constanstly thinks that I am being unfaithful but this time it is very extreme. He is absolutely convinced that I have been unfaithful to him...needless to say I have absolutely not done anything of the sort, not even close, nor have I ever been tempted. I love my partner more than words can say and it kills me to think that he thinks such awful things about me and that he must be suffering inside so much. He is pushing me away at the moment and says he sees no future with me after what I have done despite me trying to convince him of the true fact that I have done nothing. Despite him pushing me away I am insisiting on being here to love, support andtry to understand and to try to help but I know now that my love is not enough. I know that needs professional help, I know that this is an illness and that he needs medication and therepy but how the hell do I get him to get help? I can't physically drag him to a psychiatrist and so how do I make him see that he needs to go? Please help!
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I hate to tell you this, but there is a strong chance your partner will never get better. Many people who suffer from Paranoid Personality Disorder refuse any type of treatment because they don't think anything is wrong with them. When some people with PPD are forced to face their problems, many of them break down and become even worse. This can develop into even more chronic paranoia disorders, like paranoid schizophrenia. My mother has this. I've had to live with it my entire life and I can say that with time, it gets worse. I love her to death, but nothing I do helps. She goes through phases where she seems all right, but eventually, she always breaks down again. She has accused me of countless things, including spreading rumors that she sexually abused me to filing for a foster family when I was little (things I never did). She is always suspicious and sensitive to everything. She's jealous and always assumes my father is cheating on her. She needs constant validation, always asking if we love her and saying that if we don't admit to spreading nasty rumors about her or betraying her, then she'll never know we love her. She has tried to sue people and has tried to sue our church. She never keeps friends and she changes churches every few years, thinking the entire congregation is conspiring against her. At times, she has tried to manipulate my dad into either choosing me or her. At her worst, she tried to physically attack me. My father had to hold her back. She is also suicidal. These people can be dangerous. Although I have recovered as best I can, the truth is I'll never fully emotionally recover from all the c**p she's put me through. She put me through so much as a child and she still does to this day. You have to separate yourself from these people in order to maintain any type of relationship with them. Try to convince your partner to go to therapy. It's his only hope. I'm sorry to sound so pessimistic, but that's how these people are. I'm really sorry, I know how you feel. It hurts to watch people you love suffer.
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Dear All,

I need sample for my PhD research on paranoid personality disorder. Can you help me in this regard and let me know if I could have indepth interviews with your relative or you about the developmental changes in their social behaviour over life time. Can you also find me more subjects suffering from PPD.

Please contact me if you can help.

Waiting for your response,

Thanking you in anticipation,

Saima Eman,
***this post is edited by moderator *** *** private e-mails not allowed **
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My mother is the same , changes locks and even accused my sister of stealing her money which never happened, she in the hospital right now hope she will get better
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I google searched paranoia because I too have a mother like this. And she in turn also had a mother with paranoia (my grandmother, whom now is a victim of dementia). I myself am relatively young, I just turned 21, but I have been subjected to my mothers paranoid personality my entire life. My actual existence is a by product of my mothers paranoia, she had kids simply to trap my biological father into staying with her because he wanted to leave due to her believing he was cheating on her- and his family were out to get her. Eventually he did leave her and she took him to court to get custody of my brother and I when I was 3. She subjected us to torturous coaching, where we were forced to say we hated our father and wanted to live with her. She dedicated herself to convinicing us he was a bad man and she loved us the most out everyone in the world- and thats exactly what we believed. She was violent, and often hit us to the point of injury as children when she was frustrated by other things going on in her mind. Sometimes after being alone with her thoughts for too long she would come to us children and pick fights that would turn physical in order to release her frustration and anger. She later remarried my stepfather when I was 9, I love him as if he were my own dad as he was the only father figure I had, and he did a really good job of protecting me and parenting me. But like before she accused him of cheating on her and was paranoid of his family- including his children from his previous marriage. She forced him to cease all contact with everyone but her (he was quite gutless at the time and agreed in order to save his marriage). But her paranoia never ended. She to this day continues to accuse him of cheating. When I turned 13 she accused me of having an affair with him- and has continued to do this ever since. Shes irate, and has no self control, once she gets an idea in her head she must voice it, and she will argue for hours straight about how she is right and everyone is out to get her- she will go on and on even if no one is objecting. My grandmother was exactly the same, she even accused my mother of having an affair with her father too when she was young. It is a horrible illness, and you're right that not much can be done. I have seeked help, but paranoids never believe that they are at fault- I have tried to suggest to my mother that she may like to see a councillor or seek therapy for her "stress" but she believes I'm trying to institute her and run away with my stepdad and steal the house from her. It breaks my heart, and it's hurt and scarred me deeply. I was a very innocent child and her accusations robbed me of what was meant to be the end of my childhood and beginning of my awkward teenage years. I love her because she tried as hard as she could to raise us. i dont believe she could of done better, she is in contant pain and torment within herself, but i do wish things were different. Unless a paranoid is harmful to themselves or others no one can forcefully intervene, the best you can do, from my knowledge is leave. Be independent from them, it easier to maintain a loving relationship when they are not constantly bombarding their thoughts onto you, my relationship with my mother is still terrible, but being away from her makes me miss her love and affection, and our conversations over the phone are much less hostile. In person things are a lot harder, i find that's when she takes the opportunity to corner me the most about things on her mind. I just hope she finds some peace some how, so she can live out the rest of herself with out this disorder controlling and ruining her and those around her.
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My mom is the same way. Thank goodness for the Internet and a way to share stories because there's no way to share this with people who don't experience it too. My mom believes people break into her house and do laundry. The also stole the replacement heads to her electric toothbrush and rifle through her bedroom drawers. They've never touched the money in the house. Or even the classic car she has in the garage. Just random stuff - like her old wedding album. She refuses to speak to all past friends as well as her only sister. My brother ignores her but I feel so bad for her. I listen and sympathize. She knows not to call the police because they won't believe her. I've suggested she get an alarm for the house but she makes excuses. She has insisted a million times that I've stolen things, that I go into her house and make pancakes, or that perhaps I'm the one doing laundry there. I have my own house, laundry, pancake mix, husband and 3 kids. When I ask her why I would go through so much trouble to do laundry or cook when I could just use my own home, she can't answer. She used to insist also that a man lived in her attic (unfinished) and would come down only to use the bathroom and she "knew" this because he would sometimes leave urine drops on the seat. She was very violent always when we were kids and also always accused my dad of cheating on her. Of course, I think after so many years of being accused and having to hide from her constant delusions that eventually he really did. She too lost her job as a government employee. She always accused them of hiding her stuff, stealing her food, moving her jacket and on and on. I love her but it makes me so sad to see her so upset. And I always fear becoming her.
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Thank you all for your honesty in posting. My mother is the same but it took me 15 years after I left home to begin to understand this. She feels persecuted by her family, regularly tossing around phrases like "you always bully me" with heartfelt venom and anger at any imagined slight. She believes she's the kindest, sweetest, most demure person around, who has been forced by her ungrateful family to learn to "answer back" to maintain her sense of self in this cruel world. She is argumentative and defensive, fast to counterattack any imagined insult with deep and hurtful venom, completely out of proportion to the reality of the conversation. She bears grudges for years based on exaggerated and often completely false beliefs. She has an unshakeable belief in her own views, and any attempt to gently point out evidence or reality is met with even more distrust. She believes her family are constantly "plotting against" her, and if I spend a few minutes alone with my ill father she will find a way to corner me with interrogations about what "complaints" he had about her. She's convinced my dad has cheated on her countless times, sometimes concocting bizarre stories about him having sordid affairs with her sister or the nanny; all completely untrue. All our lives she's tried to convince us that he's bullied her and abused her mentally but she stayed around and sacrificed her life "for the kids sake". What makes this even more difficult is that this is not a consistent behaviour; at times she seems like a normal, loving mom. And then something triggers her and she turns spiteful, paranoid and manipulative. As a child you think you're the one at fault because that's what she drums into your head. But as I grew older the evidence didn't fit and more and more holes in her stories emerged, and slowly I've begun to realise this is all in my mother's head. Now I look at my siblings; outwardly successful, but I know each harbors a childhood filled with issues that I don't believe will ever be fully understood or dealt with. 

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When I read through all the posts, and read that there is no certain cure and that we'll have to live with it, I broke down to tears (really). It pains me to know that, like all of you, my mother won't ever be the same again. My dad cheated on her four years ago, but then has long since stopped. He's been asking for forgiveness, but then she never forgave him. They were abroad together that time, so then my siblings and I had no clue of what was happening. And it turned out, she's gone extreme in her delusions and suspicion. My dad was compared to a puppy tied tightly on the neck. My mom took all his licenses, his passport, she spat on his food, woke him EVERYDAY at the witching hour by means of punching him on the face, spitting on his face, covering his face with a pillow. A lot more, she threw out their computer from the second floor down to the open road, she loved burning his clothes, his cd's, everything. When they came home, at first, it was sort of normal, then it got worse. The last horrible thing she did was burn the bed where my dad was sleeping on, WHILE he was asleep. I just can't accept it. I just can't. And reading that it's mostly genetic, I have this hunch that my two sisters have got it. As 'young' as they are, they're so negative about everything. And not just negative like it's just their personality, it's not normal. Well, I'll just put my hopes to my Lord, and trust His ways. His ways are always greater than ours.

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Thank you to all for sharing your stories. The statistics suggest this affects more men than women but our forum here appears to indicate the opposite. It is comforting to know that this illness is more prevalent than any of us probably realised (certainly growing up). It may even be more prevalent than professionals think.
As a child you suspect something is wrong but because you keep getting told by the one you love and trust the most that you are conniving and flawed and you get blamed for everything you just dismiss the possibility that it is not your fault. You are literally too scared to think when there is constant shouting and arguing all the time. You never have any control. Life is chaotic. You apologise for doing nothing wrong. You grow to believe you are the worst person in the world. You learn to hide your feelings and never express your needs.
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Hi there-I have the same issues but with my brother in law.  His paranoia is getting worse every day & seems to always be targeted at my husband & I.  He is convinced we are always talking  about him to anyone that will listen.  He will take the most meaningless comment & turn into support for his accusations.  He creates scenarios such as my husband talking behind his back to his ex-employer, that my husband has stolen money from his safe, that I have instructed our children to "give him hard time".  He will make up elaborate lies & stories to try & catch us & he is an extreme narcissist.  My husband is older & always taken care of him since their dad left them when they were kids.  He has other issues such as a history of depression & substance abuse. My mother in law is also paranaoid  as well as her mother.  He refuses to believe there is anything wrong with him & gets very angry if you even suggest this.  I really want to cut off all ties with him but my husband feels such an enormous guilt & responsibility where he is concerned & is convinced he is somehow helping him by defending us every day.  It really is affecting our marriage.

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Reading all of your stories helps my situation a little bit. A year and a half ago, my mother completely changed. Like night and day. I remember the day it all started. She picked me up from my house and we went on a little drive, normal thing for us, until she said "I have to tell you something.." she went on for about two or three hours telling me this huge elaborate story about how people at her work place (a huge company) slipped her acid on her 43rd birthday, and talked about drugs, and how she knew too much about the people that did/sold the drugs and how someone is trying to "shut her up", something about biker gangs, she feels very paranoid about tattoos and people that have them, to the point she went and got her tattoos lasered off. She then went on to ask me if my father had molested me or my brother (which NEVER HAPPENED!!!), going to the lengths of asking my dad (whom she is still married to) of he molested us. she also asked him if he was gay. she remembers only bits and pieces of conversations and repeats them in conversation with me like she's trying to find a connection between them all. She thinks many many many people are out to do her harm. She feels as though she "said too much" about people and their secrets at her job and the union was trying to push her out by making her as miserable as possible. (She has since then quit her job of 15+ years making 27$/her with full benefits) she has attempted suicide twice. Once by trying to hang herself in my basement (my dad was down there at the time and cut her down) and another time I found her overdosed on painkillers and benzos. that was devastating to see my mother like that. sorry for the long post, but I have SO MUCH MORE TO SAY!!!! I'm begging for help. I've called crisis centers, she has been hospitalized, she's talked to counselors. NO ONE wants to give her a diagnosis or continue any type of therapy. (She also thinks she is above taking medication. sticking to her low low low dose prozac. which is obviously not what she needs) I see how unhappy she is. however, I think I have an idea of why this is happening to her. Her and my dad split up for a while because of his excessive drinking. He got an apartment, and during that time my mom saw another man. She confided in some of her friends at work that she knew were also having affairs. She and my dad ended up reconciling after a year apart (he has been.clean and sober 4 years :) and I think she is just ate up with guilt. A year after they were back together is when she told him about the affair. That's when all this started happening. So much to talk about. Someone in a similar situation please PLEASE feel free to email me.
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All of these situations sound much the same as my own and it is comforting to know I am not alone. Only until recently have I pondered the idea that my mother may have some sort of paranoid disorder. Everything adds up, but I can't help but feel extremely guilty for even thinking she might have a mental illness. She always says things like "oh you think I'm crazy too" and "you want to have my put away like everyone else." It is extremely difficult, as I'm sure you are all well aware of. Some days we have normal conversations, good conversations. Other days they are extremely irrational and frustrating. I've learned that I really need to watch what I tell her, because she will think about it and come up with some weird idea. This is hard because she is my mother and I want to tell her everything. (I'm 23 and her only child, she is a single parent and I have never met my father. I just moved away from home about a year ago to go to university which has been a difficult process in itself). Anyway, today I told her that my boyfriend lost his wallet. She went home and phoned me back a couple hours later (she had been drinking, I could tell, and these delusions are magnified and even worse when she drinks) and she basically told me that she thought he was lying and didn't really lose his wallet and that he was just trying to use me for my money. (Because without a wallet I would have to pay for everything). Also this week, I made the mistake of telling her I might be going out with some friends for drinks at the tavern. She then called me back after awhile and told me to be careful. She told someone she knows about something she saw on TV about a drug, and that said person is up to no good and wants to "cause trouble for us." And by cause trouble, the person would somehow send someone to put this drug in my drink. Another top complaint is that her television won't work. Where I live, the analog signal for basic channels or whatever is pretty much obsolete as of recently. She does however get one channel still, but when the channel disappears for a day or two...all hell breaks lose. She is phoning me shouting about it, how people can't get away with that. One time she had a theory that someone in her apartment building had connections with the Hell's Angels and that they went on the roof and twisted the antenna so now her tv won't work.So on top of this I worry about her because she sits at home all day, doesn't have a job or friends or family other than myself. Life for her seems to be extremely miserable. She has some health problems that have always been an excuse for this. There is so much more to say about her. And someone mentioned above about worrying if this was genetic. I too fear this. I am even paranoid right now that she will somehow see this post (even though she doesn't use the internet). Thanks for reading.

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I have only recently started reading blogs like these,  up to now I thought there was actually something I was missing about my mother’s condition and that it was all my fault that she’s lonely, unhappy and paranoid.  But these posts are helping to validate my life, I donl;t feel so alone dealing with this awful, harrowing situation.  My mother is  89 and has  vascular dementia.    - she has always been a bit paranoid, very suspicious and never trusting anyone, very unsociable, nobody is ever good enough to be a friend.   She delights in telling people “the truth” about themselves because she is always right and they   She can be vindictive and spiteful (this is getting worse as her dementia progresses) and I’m constantly walking on eggshells wondering what will trigger her off again.  I could write an epic about my childhood (like everyone on this blog no doubt).  She has recently started to talk about people living in her bedroom, tunnelling under the floor, taking her things etc, tells me to shut the door and whisper so they can;t hear, accuses me of being on "their" side if I don;t believe her and wanting to "put her into an asylum" etc etc.  She phones me all the time (sometimes in the middle of the night to ask me about these people), she also phoned the police once to tell them her husband was crawling down the road (he died 25 years ago), - It is absolute hell.  I feel like I'm living in a kind of limbo waiting for the next drama to happen.   She's had numerous appointments with doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, therapists, etc. etc.  but they all go away and leave me to deal with it.  She refuses to take any medication for her delusions because to her these people are real so how can a pill get rid of them?!  She has carers to remind her to take her medication, and to prepare her food (although she manages to get me to do most of this stuff for her )  (her short term memory is very bad now) The delusional ideas are driving me insane because she constantly demands answers and there are no answers.  I try to distract her but she won't let it go and keeps on and on at me,.  Sometimes she will have a normal conversation, she will do some housework, then out of the blue will start making accusations about people living under her bed or the neighbours stealing things etc.  Looking back, I can remember from my childhood that she was always paranoid about neighbours, family etc (so was my father, so they were even stronger together in their distorted beliefs).  I always felt that something wasn;t right, but in the end, like most people on this blog, you just believe there's something wrong with you instead and blame yourself for everything wrong in the house.   I have always felt guilty and responsible for her  happiness and wellbeing etc.  I’ve never really been free of her, she has clung to me and looking back I can recall that she would try to turn me against everyone, friends, other family members, doctors, shop assistants,  (even my own children at times), but now realise she probably has always been narcissistic and paranoid -  I can see why she does this, to ensure my full focus is on her , so that she’s not abandoned and she has a scapegoat to dump all her anger and frustration on.   I have given up work for a while to make sure she is getting the right care, because she wants to continue living in her own house (although at times she accuses me of selling her house and that she is living in some kind of care home).   I don’t know what the future holds, reading some of these blogs makes me dread what might lie ahead.  My only advice to anyone in this situation, If I could change things I would have made sure I carried on working and just trusted the carers to do their best, and that I’m  not fully responsible for what has happened to her.  I tell myself every day that I’m doing my best, and if that’s not good enough then she should have made a better job of bringing me up - Pass the blame back to where it belongs – I know it doesn;t solve anything but at least it might help to remind yourself you were just a child and had no control over the choices they made with their lives.   You need to maintain your identity, because they will try to undermine your life and strip it away from you . Try not to be available or be at their beck and call  all hours of the day and night, and harden yourself to the fact they will have to accept whatever help is available, because you can;t make their world perfect for them.  No one can.     Good luck to us all (and let’s hope we don’t all go the same way!)  

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