Experts: Paranoia may be more common than thought

By | November 13, 2008

paranoiaIf you think they’re out to get you, you’re not alone. Paranoia, once assumed to afflict only schizophrenics, may be a lot more common than previously thought.

According to British psychologist Daniel Freeman, nearly one in four Londoners regularly have paranoid thoughts. Freeman is a paranoia expert at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College and the author of a book on the subject. Experts say there is a wide spectrum of paranoia, from the dangerous delusions that drive schizophrenics to violence, to the irrational fears many people have daily.

“We are now starting to discover that madness is human and that we need to look at normal people to understand it,” said Dr. Jim van Os, a professor of psychiatry at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. … – ap

Our minds evolved to play out “danger scenarios” in order to prepare us to act in times of need. The humans who lacked this ability were eaten by saber tooth tigers long ago.

The problem is, evolution does not much penalize us for having false fears. Those with false fears become preemptively aggressive, and thus, they get the jump on the best food, water, mates, and so on.

A penalty for paranoia kicks in when groups of us realize that the individual crazy people are dangerous, however.

There is less overall penalty for false hopes.  Pronoia is the false belief that people are out to help you. Either false beliefs can become a self fulfilling prophesy, so most people are too optimistic. Pronoia is why confidence scams work and why you keeping getting all that spam, by the way.

Don’t jump to conclusions. Check the evidence carefully, even when you are sure you are correct.

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