We probably all know someone who’s a bit paranoid. There’s the friend who believes that everyone at work is out to get her. Or in more serious cases there’s the guy who’s sure that aliens are tapping his phone. In any case, the term paranoia basically refers to the notion that people are plotting against you.
However, according to researchers at the University of South Hampton and the University of Birmingham in Britain, defining paranoia might not be quite so simple. One study supports their hypothesis that paranoia may come in at least two distinct types: “poor me” paranoia and “bad me” paranoia.
The first type, “poor me” paranoia, is the kind we’re familiar with. A “poor me” paranoiac believes the persecution is undeserved. A “bad me” paranoiac, on the other hand, feels that he deserves to be persecuted.
The researchers tested fifty three people with paranoia to test their theory that people with “bad me” paranoia generally have lower self esteem. In fact, the tests showed that participants who believed they deserved persecution do have lower self esteem than participants who saw their persecution as unfair. The “bad me” paranoiacs were also on average more depressed than the “poor me” group.
The researchers acknowledge that their study has some flaws. For one thing, the “poor me” subjects did not show significantly higher levels of anger, which the researchers had predicted. Perhaps more significantly, they would need to test a broader and more randomly chosen group of subjects to make a stronger case.
Still, their findings are potentially useful. The notion that paranoia may come in different types could help psychologists treat those who think the world is out to get them.