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Jun 15 2017

Dealing With Paranoid People

Dealing With Paranoid People – Vol. 417, June 15, 2017

The other day I was called by an acquaintance to help her out of a difficult situation. She had just had an operation to take care of her hernia, and was released to her aunt’s place. The only problem was that it was the aunt’s boyfriend’s place and he didn’t want her there really. So, after being there for two nights she was told that she needed to leave.

She called to ask me to take her to the same hospital where her operation was done the next morning, to see if they would admit her for recuperative care, meaning that she could stay there for a few days till the incision healed and to make sure she was okay, not having a place to live.

We were able to get to see a social worker, based on the advise given by a worker that we both know. Unfortunately, this woman said many negative things during her time at the hospital including telling the admissions woman at the emergency room that she could sue them for releasing her too soon.

When the social worker came, she was very rude and in her face about not wanting to repeatedly answer the same questions she was already asked by others. I tried to get the social worker to understand that this woman was a paranoid by telling the patient that she needed to trust that this social worker, so she could help her if she would give the social worker the opportunity. At that point she got very upset with me, so I just left, telling her that since she wanted to handle it on her own, she didn’t need me to be there and upset her. So, I left.

Sadly, she was not admitted for care. I really have no idea where she ended up because she didn’t text me, though she was told by a doctor that the way to get admitted was to claim that she was suicidal. That wasn’t a method she wanted to use, but maybe she did. Since I haven’t heard from her in over 24 hours when she was texting and calling me relentlessly prior, maybe she did get into a psych ward where she doesn’t have access to her cell phone.

The reason I am telling you this story is to let you know that people who are paranoid do indeed act out mainly because they are fearful. They are fearful of everything. This woman spoke often of “they are doing” whatever it was that she thought they were doing to hurt her or me or anyone that she cared about. I never got a good idea of who the “they” were that she was referring to, because there isn’t anyone specifically. It is a general feeling that no one is to be trusted. And, in the end even though I did my best to be supportive of her, taking her to breakfast before driving her to the hospital, she didn’t want anything to do with my advocacy for her. One can only do the best one can do with any given situation.

Years ago I worked in a social program for mentally ill adults and there was a woman there in her 40s who was also paranoid. She thought that people in planes were watching her, that a woman in a white car was after her and that an anchorman speaking to his co-anchor named Kathy, was speaking to her, because this client was named Kathy too. The best help I could be to her, was to remind her that she wasn’t that important for these people to know who she was, never mind watching her and speaking to her. This calmed her down and she thanked me many times for bringing her back to reality.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t do the same with this other acquaintance, because she doesn’t think of herself as a “paranoid” and I don’t work with her as a mental health counselor. However, this is indeed what a great deal of her troubles are in life.
So, if you ever have to deal with a paranoid, someone who believes others are out to get them, are spying on them, and will hurt them if given the chance, you need to stay calm. Never take their upset personally. It is about their own fears, and has little to do with you, if anything. Understand that sometimes you can calm them down and sometimes you can’t. If you aren’t being paid to work with them and if they don’t think of themselves as suffering from paranoia, you NEVER tell them that you believe they are paranoid, because that will make a hard situation much worse. They will get very defensive and angry with you. The best you can do is try to allay their fears as best you can. After that, there is not much more you can do. It is a sad reality of the condition. And, no, I would never hypnotize a paranoid. They would never trust me or the process enough to allow it to do any good.

Photo by Myk Martinez

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