Recently I Was in Some Strange Circumstances

Reader’s Question

Recently I was in some pretty strange circumstances. Two people at work were taunting me with statements related to pedophilia, not just once, but one week and then the next. I know that there was someone with my name in Australia and who is dead now, who had a lawsuit with regard to the same subject.

Am I “mad” to have become frantic when I realized that there was a bag with clothes and a gun in it found in the park right behind the business where we worked? I cringed with disgust at their words and then slugged one when I had heard enough, because it built too much pressure in me. I have had no luck with local support in this, and was told by the businesses owner that he thinks I am mentally unstable. I am now looking for other work because of it all. About a week after the incident someone was chased by Police behind the building, but they weren’t caught. To me it seems all too coincidental.

Psychologist’s Reply

These events you describe are not coincidental — a seemingly planned sequence of accidentally occurring events (Webster’s Dictionary): they are totally unrelated. What you are describing is paranoia that may have been building over several months. The paranoia may be caused by job-related stress or other factors. Here’s how it works:

  • Stress, medications, or a gradually emerging psychiatric concern change our brain neurochemistry, especially levels of a neurotransmitter known as Dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with your sense of personal relevancy, allowing us to determine what in the environment is directly related to us and what is unrelated. When our Dopamine levels are low, as found in ADHD children, few things in our environment seem related to us such as teachers, school work, the presence of others, etc. As our Dopamine levels increase, we suddenly begin feeling more and more objects, comments, experiences, etc. are directly related to us — and probably threatening to us.
  • When we become paranoid, we begin adding unrelated experiences in our environment to our sense of threat or suspicion. We sense people laughing near us are laughing at us. Routine events in our daily life suddenly are assigned special significance (called an “idea of reference”), just as your reports of police finding objects in the nearby park and chasing someone near your building. In truth, if you work near a park you are working “downtown” where both incidents are probably fairly common.
  • As paranoid thoughts and feelings increase, your level of agitation and aggressiveness increases. You experience a feeling of internal pressure, like an emotional volcano, and eventually erupt from the pressure. You experience a behavioral outburst as you report in assaulting a co-worker. To prevent these outbursts, you begin to seclude yourself, which only increases the paranoid thoughts.

I would recommend consulting a psychiatrist. A high level of stress can produce paranoid thoughts and behavior. Paranoia can also surface when we use or change medications for medical conditions. It can also be a sign of depression or anxiety. A psychiatrist is best trained to separate the medical, medication, and brain chemistry issues known to be associated with paranoia.

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