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How to Help an Adult Child with Paranoid Personality Disorder

How to Help an Adult Child with Paranoid Personality Disorder

By Elisabet Kvarnstrom

Having an adult child with paranoid personality disorder can be a painful and confusing experience. By understanding the symptoms of paranoid personality disorder, you can gain deeper insight into what your child is experiencing and how it impacts your relationship. Because they are unlikely to seek treatment on their own, it is critical that you support them in seeking treatment and stay involved through the treatment process in order to foster true healing. However, while the nature of this support may change after treatment, the need for it does not; as a parent, your support will be a critical part of their ongoing recovery journey.

Paranoid personality disorder can sometimes be difficult to see. When symptoms are mild, the distrust of others, suspicion, hostility, and hypersensitivity can seem like frustrating but relatively benign personality traits that are unlikely to require medical intervention. As symptom severity increases, it can become apparent that something is very wrong, but what exactly that is can seem elusive, as symptoms may overlap with those of other mental health disorders. Some fear that their loved one has developed schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or schizotypal personality disorder, obscuring the reality of their family member’s condition.

Despite being amongst the most common of personality disorders, paranoid personality disorder is often misunderstood and unrecognized. This is partially the result of reluctance to seek treatment on the part of those struggling with the condition, leaving most undiagnosed and untreated, shutting them out of growing conversations about the reality of mental illness. For parents of an adult child with paranoid personality disorder, understanding their child’s symptoms can, therefore, be difficult, as there are few pre-existing narratives about the condition in mainstream culture. Urging them to seek treatment and supporting them through the disorder can also be challenging, both due to this lack of common understanding and the nature of the illness itself. However, learning more about your child’s condition is critical in order to get them the help they need and provide the kind of support they need both during and after treatment.

Understanding the Symptoms of Paranoid Personality Disorder

The symptoms of paranoid personality disorder encompass a spectrum of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that typically emerge in early adulthood, including:

  • Doubting others’ trustworthiness, loyalty, and intentions due to a belief that others will harm, deceive, or exploit them
  • Reluctance to disclose personal information or confide in others for fear that information will be used against them
  • Reluctance to forgive others for real or perceived wrongdoing
  • Perceiving benign behaviors of others as having hidden meanings
  • Believing that others are attacking their character or reputation, despite these attacks not being apparent to others
  • Recurrent suspicion that their partner is being unfaithful
  • Susceptible to unjustifiable hostility, argumentativeness, stubbornness, coldness, control issues, or jealousy, often interfering with the ability or willingness to form and maintain relationships
  • Inability to admit mistakes or understand their role in conflicts

In order to receive a diagnosis of paranoid personality disorder, these symptoms cannot be fleeting or temporary. Rather, they are enduring in nature and must be “rigid, inflexible, maladaptive and of sufficient severity to cause significant impairment in functioning or internal distress.” Additionally, the paranoia of the disorder is not the product of psychosis such as the hallucinations or delusions experienced by people with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and, sometimes, bipolar disorder. Paranoid personality disorder symptoms arise not from a break with reality, but from an overwhelming fear of being harmed, particularly in interpersonal relationships. But while people with this condition remain connected to reality, the distrust and the behaviors it spurs are not malicious. Rather, they are rooted in a desire for self-preservation.

Despite lack of malice, the symptoms of the condition can be extremely hurtful for others. As the parent of an adult child with paranoid personality disorder, you have likely borne the brunt of this symptomatology; your words may have been twisted to mean things they don’t, and your child may have pushed you away due to their paranoia. The disorder may also have caused your child to lash out at you or accuse you of things you haven’t done, leaving you with devastating feelings of confusion, sadness, and powerlessness. Witnessing how the disorder affects your child’s other relationships as well as their life in general can also be painful and disheartening; rather than seeing your child thrive, you watch them retreat into their paranoia, often becoming socially isolated and professionally compromised. For parents, this can be particularly distressing, as your love for your child means you want them to live a healthy, happy, and productive life.

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Supporting Your Adult Child with Paranoid Personality Disorder Through Treatment

Most people with paranoid personality disorder will not seek treatment independently, partially due to being suspicious of doctors or blaming their problems on others. As such, parents often become instrumental in urging their adult children to seek diagnosis and treatment. This treatment may include a variety of therapeutic modalities, with cognitive behavioral therapy typically acting as the central feature of treatment. While paranoid personality disorder treatment historically focused on patients ignoring paranoid thoughts, cognitive behavioral therapy helps them to examine these thoughts and understand how they affect their experiences. As awareness grows, their therapist can guide them through a variety of behavioral experiments that test their paranoid assumptions in order to gradually build trust and learn how to better differentiate between good, neutral, and harmful intent. In this way, your adult child can work through their symptoms in a rational way while fundamentally challenging their assumptions and replacing harmful patterns of thought and behavior with healthy alternatives. Psychotherapy may also be combined with certain psychotropic drugs that target specific symptoms, including antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs.

However, even when parents intervene, many people struggling with paranoid personality disorder only agree to come to treatment once their condition has deteriorated to the point where they are in great distress and their functional limitations become undeniable. At this level of severity, long-term residential care may be the best option. In this environment, your adult child will be able to engage in a full spectrum of therapies delivered by expert clinicians who understand the unique challenges presented by clients who have paranoid personality disorder. By working closely with high trained therapists in a long-term setting, deeply rooted dysfunctional thoughts, emotions, and behaviors can be explored, new learning can be fully integrated, and functionality can be enhanced.

Part of the benefit of long-term residential treatment settings is the opportunity they afford for social interaction and learning, particularly for people whose mental illness manifests in social relationships. In a safe environment, your adult child will be able to try out new modes of thinking and behaving as they begin to establish supportive relationships with other clients. However, peer relationships are not the only relationships that can benefit from residential care; a high-quality treatment program will recognize that your involvement as a parent is an instrumental part of healing. By offering dedicated family programming and family therapy, these programs allow you to work closely with your loved one to explore the impact of paranoid personality disorder on your relationship, establish appropriate boundaries, improve communication, resolve conflict, and create healthier relationship dynamics. In this way, you can learn the skills to support your adult child through the treatment process while establishing a strong foundation of trust that can redefine how you relate to each other. Simultaneously, family programming ensures that you are getting the support you need to stay healthy and that your level of involvement is appropriate for each stage of the recovery process.

The Need for Continuing Support After Treatment

Symptoms of paranoid personality disorder, like other personality disorders, typically diminish with age. However, paranoid personality disorder is considered to be a chronic condition and one that will likely require long-term maintenance in order to prevent relapse. While treatment, particularly long-term residential treatment, can create significant and durable healing, it is essential to understand that recovery must be an ongoing process and your adult child will need your support after treatment.

Ideally, your adult child should emerge from residential treatment with renewed emotional regulation, stability, and functionality. In order to maintain those gains, it’s critical that a continuing care plan is put in place to provide the resources they need in order to stay healthy. While it’s important that your adult child manages their own recovery—and their time in treatment should prepare them for that—it is helpful to be encouraging of their efforts and show that you support them. However, remember that supporting their recovery isn’t the same as controlling their recovery. can be tempting to want to take charge in order to prevent relapse, but resisting that urge and allowing them to practice their new skills is vital to their healing process. This is a time for both of you to put your new learning to the test and maintain healthy boundaries that allow each of you to grow and trust in each other’s intentions and abilities.

As part of ongoing recovery, you may want to continue family therapy when your adult child leaves residential care. With the support of a therapist who has experience working with parents who have an adult child with paranoid personality disorder, you can expand on the work you have done in residential treatment and ensure that the transition out of residential care is successful for both of you. Simultaneously, you may want to seek individual therapy or a peer support group in order to process your own feelings about your child’s condition and its impact on your life as well as your relationships with other family members. For many parents, getting support at this critical stage of recovery is particularly crucial, as recovery itself can bring up complex and difficult feelings about your changing role in your child’s life and in your family as a whole. Learning how to navigate through the challenges of healing in the company of others who share your experience will be invaluable to creating healthier relationships and building on the progress made in residential care. Don’t be afraid to reach out—there are other families who have been where you are and can offer their wisdom and camaraderie to strengthen your own family’s healing process.

As a parent, you know the pain of watching your adult child struggle with paranoid personality disorder. That pain, however, is not unavoidable. With the right care and your support, your child can receive the treatment they need and your family can begin a journey of change, growth, and discovery. Together, you can move toward a richer shared future and more fulfilling lives.

Neuroscience shows that 50-year-olds can have the brains of 25-year-olds if they sit quietly and do nothing for 15 minutes a day

Neuroscience shows that 50-year-olds can have the brains of 25-year-olds if they sit quietly and do nothing for 15 minutes a day

A meditation class at Havas advertising agency in New York City. Neuroscientist Sara Lazar found that people who practiced meditation had more gray matter in the part of the brain linked to decision-making and working memory: the frontal cortex. While most people see their cortexes shrink as they age, 50-year-old meditators in the study had the same amount of gray matter as those half their age. Participants in the study averaged about 27 minutes of the habit a day.

Neuroscientist Sara Lazar, of Mass General and Harvard Medical School, started studying meditation by accident. She sustained running injuries training for the Boston Marathon, and her physical therapist told her to stretch. So Lazar took up yoga.

“The yoga teacher made all sorts of claims, that yoga would increase your compassion and open your heart,” said Lazar. “And I’d think, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m here to stretch.’ But I started noticing that I was calmer. I was better able to handle more difficult situations. I was more compassionate and open hearted, and able to see things from others’ points of view.”

Eventually, she looked up the scientific literature on mindfulness meditation (a category into which yoga can fall). She found the ever-increasing body of evidence that shows that meditation decreases stress, depression, and anxiety, reduces pain and insomnia, and increases quality of life.

So she started doing some neuroscience research of her own.

In her first study, she looked at long-term meditators (those with seven to nine years of experience) versus a control group. The results showed that those with a strong meditation background had increased gray matter in several areas of the brain, including the auditory and sensory cortex, as well as insula and sensory regions.

This makes sense, since mindfulness meditation has you slow down and become aware of the present moment, including physical sensations such as your breathing and the sounds around you.

However, the neuroscientists also found that the meditators had more gray matter in another brain region, this time linked to decision-making and working memory: the frontal cortex. In fact, while most people see their cortexes shrink as they age, 50-year-old meditators in the study had the same amount of gray matter as those half their age.

That’s remarkable!

Lazar and her team wanted to make sure this wasn’t because the long-term meditators had more gray matter to begin with, so they conducted a second study. In it, they put people with no experience with meditation into an eight-week mindfulness program.

The results? Even just eight weeks of meditation changed people’s brains for the better. There was thickening in several regions of the brain, including the left hippocampus (involved in learning, memory, and emotional regulation); the TPJ (involved in empathy and the ability to take multiple perspectives); and a part of the brainstem called the pons (where regulatory neurotransmitters are generated).

Plus, the brains of the new meditators saw shrinkage of the amygdala, a region of the brain associated with fear, anxiety, and aggression. This reduction in size of the amygdala correlated to reduced stress levels in those participants.

How long do you have to meditate to see such results? Well, in the study, participants were told to meditate for 40 minutes a day, but the average ended up being 27 minutes a day. Several other studies suggest that you can see significant positive changes in just 15 to 20 minutes a day.

As for Lazar’s own meditation practice, she says it’s “highly variable. Some days 40 minutes. Some days five minutes. Some days, not at all. It’s a lot like exercise. Exercising three times a week is great. But if all you can do is just a little bit every day, that’s a good thing, too.”

Turns out meditating can give you the brain of a 25-year-old. Too bad it can’t also give you the body of one.

Source: Apple News


“How Can I Stop Being in Love with Someone who Abuses Me?”

“How Can I Stop Being in Love with Someone who Abuses Me?”

Understanding the root cause of abusive relationships and breaking free


Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D.
Understanding Narcissism



History repeats itself, that is one of the things wrong with history.

If you are still in love with someone who physically and emotionally abuses you, your main problem is your past not your present. It is quite likely that in your childhood, you loved a parent who abused you.

Children love their parents and seek their approval, even when the parent is abusive. Eventually, over time your brain made the connection and love became coupled with abuse. In fact for some people, Love = Abuse.

As one woman said to me: “How will I know if he cares, if he doesn’t beat me?”

Your past connection between love and abuse persisted into the present and is one of the reasons that you still love your abusive mate.

Unfinished Situations Persist in Memory

Gestalt Psychologists Kurt Lewin (1890-1941) and Bluma Zeigarnik (1900-1988) theorized that unfinshed situations from the past press for fulfillment in the present. Bluma Zeigarnik went on to research this topic and published her findings in 1927. This need for closure and its persistence in our mind has come to be called “The Zeigarnik Effect.”

The Relationship “Do Over”

One way to understand your choice of this abusive person and your continued love for him or her is that you are attempting to get closure. Your relationship with a parent (or an important early caregiver) was abusive and unsatisfactory. On an unconscious level, you chose a new person to love who reminded you of your abusive caregiver. This allowed you and your adult lover to recreate aspects of your abusive childhood relationship. Your main desire is not to be abused again, but to have the new relationship turn out better than the childhood one. Subconsciously you believe that, if this new person could love you in the way that your parent did not, you would be able to resolve lingering issues from your traumatic childhood. In essence you were seeking (and still are seeking) a “Do Over” relationship that ends satisfactorily so that you can move on.

This makes it harder to let go of your abusive lover because you had unconsciously chosen this person not just for his or her own charms, but for the similarity between the way the two of you relate to your past relationship with your abusive parent.


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How do you stop loving your abuser?

I suggest that you enter psychotherapy and work on your childhood issues with your parents. You are like someone who has caught their coat on a nail in the past and now you cannot go forward without first going back to unhook it. Without working on the underlying source of your problem, even if you get over this person, you may choose another who is just as unsuitable.

Some Steps to Take Now:

Identify the Caregiver: It may help you to reflect on how you have felt during this romantic relationship and compare it to how you felt as a child. This can help you identify the caregiver who first created this pattern of love and abuse.

Replace: When you start longing for your abusive lover, replace his or her face and name with that of the original person (parent or caregiver) who started this whole dysfunctional relationship pattern with you.

Remind: Then remind yourself that your abusive lover is just the stand-in for your parent. Children cannot let go of their parents—but this abusive person is not your parent. You can let go. What your inner child wants is something that your abusive mate can never give you.

Punchline: At first glance it may seem illogical that you still love someone who physically and emotionally abused you. But…if you understand that it was an attempt to finally get emotional closure from a childhood wound, it begins to make more sense.


An Apology To My Body

An Apology To My Body

Real Life Client Stories


One of our clients, we will refer to her as Fallen, shared her deeply raw, moving and painful story with us this week and kindly gave us permission to share it with you. This is not only a story of her painful past, but a story of a client using her passion of creative writing to share her self-awareness, express emotions, and take you on her personal journey from darkness into light.   



A sorry letter to my body


By The Fallen

19th February 2019.


Dear body
     I have always lived in fear and the consequences of it. I always judged you. The way you looked in the mirror and my idea of your distorted image. Things were never perfect for me. The way your nose looked a little too wide and the lips looked a little too big than the others. You were thin and I despised you for my shattering confidence. You had scars all over  and I hated you for how you couldn’t heal those marks for years. I took you to be the villain destroying every ounce of my self-esteem. Eye contacts were tough for me, they still are. I was called ugly and I blamed you. We grew together in this constant hate relationship until I started feeling like a walking mess. I remember how your knees trembled at the thought of going to your college canteen because people could see. How I starved you for days, until stomach started paining. How I would take every taunt like the only thing you deserved. I was a bad master and you were a loyal slave, I thought. I remember the day I took blade in my hands and cut that skin which felt like tearing open an already injured wound. It pained a lot. Yet I kept urging the blade to run deep.
      You sent million signals to stop but I denied every signal until I looked at the blood oozing and felt proud of myself. Blood was dark brown and so was the wound I had given to me. The pain was like million needles piercing. I remember I would press the wound hard enough to give myself more pain. It is suffice to say that you cried tears of blood as I rejoiced. I wanted to tell you and the world that I was suffering. And i was suffering hard. I wanted to tell everyone that I needed love, that I had forgotten how to love myself as they kept lecturing me about how nobody could save me unless i did. I was in dire need of help. I wanted someone to save me because I couldn’t do that to myself. How could I? They taught me about self love when I was lying in the chasm of self hatred. They denied help but you stood strong. Even when I would lie on bed for weeks, you stood strong to take uo my every beating. 
        I was suffering but you suffered more than me. Those scars have healed now because you didn’t want them as memoirs to bad phase of my life. You wanted us to move on. At times I felt angry at you for snatching away the only thing that mattered to me, my scars. I still look at my arms and find no trace of them. You acted like Maa who wanted to hide anything bad from me. You acted like my younger sister who would check arm every day to see if a new scar was added. She learnt how addition and subtraction sometimes had dire implications. She knew  mathematics was not just the algebra, it was sometimes the need for life. Now she loves subtraction  more than addition, for how my scars have reduced to zero, her favourite number.
        Those nails which I dug deep into your skin, I still feel the pain of, sometimes. I wanted to rip open my flesh and take the misery out of you that run deep in our veins. I was angry, at you, me, maa, papa, family and the world. Friends left us with the facade of promises that couldn’t even stay true for a day. With them left our trust and faith, and now I stilk struggle to believe on love. I feared I was becoming the ocean where I wanted to drown you because I knew you couldn’t swim. I talked to toxic people until I was so hurt that I wanted to kill you and me. I searched for hurt like a muskdeer, like a symbiosis was there between me and the sadness. There still is. I still want to make my body a canvas colored with red. I still want to eat pain and hurt like three meals a day. I have fallen for pain like a stockholm syndrome. 
         But I want you to forgive me. I want to thank you for staying true to me even on the days we both cried, you with blood and I, with tears. To the hands, who held me when nobody did. To the feet, who dragged me to live one more day. To the heart which kept beating even on the days I tried to stop breathing. To the lungs which were filled with my muffled cries and sighs. To the eyes which were filled with pain but still decided to see hope in the next morning sun. To the ears whom I forced to hear bad about me to hurt myself, but the inner subtle voice never stopped from saying,”one more try”. To the stomach I starved yet kept me surviving. To the fences I broke and knew there was a heaven inside me and out. To the shame and guilt I am learning to let go for being a woman. 
        To you, for being. In the worst, in the best. Even though my face has scars still, I am lean, my teeth protruded and my smile somewhat imperfect, I choose to love you.  And I may not try though but I want to love me too.


Yours and proudly yours.


An abuser who learnt her mistakes too late.
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