Persecution Complex: Definition & Treatment

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  • 0:01 Definition of…
  • 1:39 Associated…
  • 3:03 Possible Causes
  • 3:22 Treatment
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kristin Lundsten

Kristin has taught pediatric and psychiatric nursing and has a master's degree in nuring education

This lesson will provide a definition for persecution complex and describe some of the common behaviors associated with this diagnosis. The lesson will also provide an overview of common treatments used to manage this condition. Read on to learn about this very interesting mental health issue.

Definition of Persecution Complex

Imagine having the feeling that someone is following you, watching you, and plotting against you all the time. Every time something does not go your way, like your wallet is missing or you missed an exit on the highway, you attribute it to someone, you may not be sure who, trying to make your life difficult. At times, you may even think you know who that perpetual plotter of bad outcomes is as you recognize him or her walking down the street. Perhaps you approach this individual and confront them with this knowledge, only to be rebuffed, ignored, and called 'crazy.' You may find yourself spending more and more time alone and even avoiding going out in public. Constant worry and fear are your only friends. At times, anger surfaces like a volcano about to erupt. This sounds like a miserable way to live. Unfortunately, those who suffer from a persecution complex live this reality on a daily basis.

A persecution complex is a type of delusion. A delusion is a fixed, irrational belief that one is convinced is true despite evidence to the contrary. In the case of people suffering with delusions of persecution, the fixed irrational belief is that others are plotting against and/or following them. Signs that someone may be struggling with a persecution delusion include:

  • Increased isolation.
  • Paranoid behaviors such as wearing sunglasses in the house or keeping all of the curtains closed.
  • Verbal statements that make little sense or are not rational.
  • An increase in angry outbursts.

Associated Psychological Issues

A persecution complex is often associated with other psychological disorders. Often, people who suffer from a persecution complex may also have other thought disorders. A thought disorder is one in which a person's thinking is not organized and rational. A person with a delusion will exhibit signs of a disorganized thought process. The most common disorder that is associated with delusions, and particularly persecution delusions, is schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a thought disorder characterized by irrational fears and thoughts, delusions, and hallucinations. A person who has schizophrenia may have a persecution complex.

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