In Syndromes & Disorders

Got a Bit of a Persecution Complex?

persecution complex

Persecution complex is a term that many people love to use when describing the actions of another person. The problem is that this concept is not very well understood by others. This is why it is important to understand what it is as well as how you can recognize it when you or someone else is using this and how it can be corrected.

Define Persecution Complex

The persecution complex definition is simple, yet far reaching. It is the idea a person has where they believe that they are being persecuted against. It could be for something as simple as the color of their hair or an attribute they have. A common aspect of this is Christian persecution complex, which is the belief that a person is being persecuted due to their religious convictions. Now it is important to realize that the actions they perceive as persecution may be real or they could be imagined in the person’s mind. They may even blow a situation out of proportion and believe it to be persecution when in fact, it was something very innocuous. For instance, something as simple as not having a prayer said before a meal may be construed in someone’s mind as religious persecution.

Persecution complex is a deep reaching psychological condition. It has many different psychological factors, from learned helplessness to victim mentality and further. Due to the fact that there are so many different psychological factors at play, it can be hard for a person to recognize this within themselves.

What is Persecution

Before we go any further, it is important to understand what constitutes persecution. The definition of persecution is the repeated annoyance, ill treatment or harassment of a person for some reason. Typically there are religious, political or racial motivations behind the persecution but in some cases it can be as simple as someone who does not like people with blonde hair. This is important because you need to understand what actual persecution is so that you can understand the difference when trying to define what is a persecution complex and what are persecutory delusions.

The Difference between Persecution Complex and Persecutory Delusions

The truth is that these can be the same thing in some ways, yet very different in others. With persecution complex, the person may or may not be experiencing persecution. On the other hand, persecutory delusions are an imagined sense of persecution from a person where they are in fear that they are being persecuted for whatever the reason. This is a common symptom with people who have schizophrenia, though it is important to understand that not every person who experiences persecutory delusions is schizophrenic.

Persecution Complex Symptoms

While the symptoms a person may deal with when it comes to a persecution complex will vary depending on the person or the situation, there are a few symptoms almost all of these people share. These include:

  • A constant feeling that the person is being spied on or watched by someone else, even when they are alone
  • They feel that people are continually harsh with them and often blame it on whatever reason they feel they are being persecuted over, such as religion
  • Having a mistrust for others in the world
  • They have a fear of being caught by the person or group they feel is persecuting them.

The thing to keep in mind with this is that the symptoms can vary in intensity from one person to the next. One person may deal with these symptoms in a mild way while another person can become like a conspiracy theorist who is afraid to leave their home for fear that they will be found.

The Cause of Persecution Complex

This is a complex psychological condition that is still not completely understood. As science gains more understanding of the brain and the emotional mind of people there may be more information on what causes this in people. However, there are some things that are shown to contribute to this condition. Some of these factors include:

A High External Locus of Control

A person with a high external locus of control will be more susceptible to experiencing a persecution complex than someone with a high internal locus of control. The locus of control refers to how a person views their control over their life. Those who think that everything is out of their control have a high external locus of control while those who believe that their actions control their life have a higher internal locus of control.

Victim Complex

This is a complex where a person sees themselves as a victim. This is a learned behavior that people develop over time where they feel that they are being wronged and this feeling of wrong doing is the cause of the bad things that happen in their life. It can often be a way for people to not have to confront their own short comings or wrong doings in life. By blaming external forces they shift the blame from themselves.

Learned Helplessness

This goes right along with the victim complex, though it is a little different. People who deal with learned helplessness always feel that they are powerless in their own lives. They have victim mentality but rather than just viewing external causes as the source of their problems, they also feel that they have no power to change this or stop it from happening.

Defensive Personality

This is a person who is always quick to react in self defense when something is said. They may take the smallest comment, even one that was not intended as an insult as a personal affront and retaliate against another. It is easy to see the connection with the personality complex because these people often feel that they are being persecuted which allows them to be defensive in their life.

Is There a Treatment for Persecution Complex?

As far as science and modern psychology can tell, this is a learned behavior that people go through. Therefore, it stands to reason that it can be treated. With that being said, it is important to note that this is not as simple as you may think. This is because in order for a person to get help for this condition, they must first admit that it is something they are suffering from. It is hard for most people to see their own shortfalls, especially when it comes to this. The other reason why it is so difficult to understand the full extent of the treatment needed is that it will vary from person to person.

Once a person recognizes that they are dealing with this or any other psychological issue, the first step is to see a mental health professional. When an appointment is made, the person will be evaluated. This will allow the psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health care providers to assess the issues the person is dealing with so they can create an appropriate course of action.

There are several treatments that may be used to help people overcome their persecution complex. For those with schizophrenia, anxiety or other issues that are contributing to this, there are medications that can help. Therapy is another way that this is treated. Cognitive and behavioral therapy are excellent ways of helping people with these conditions. These are therapies that help people to recognize when they are applying persecution complex in their life and find ways to change the thought process on their life. If the persecution is real, then therapists can help a person understand the best way to handle the situation.

The thing to keep in mind with this condition is that it is not something that can be changed overnight. Rather it can take months or years for a person to overcome this. It is really dependent on the person and how deep seeded their persecution complex goes. If it is something they have experienced from the time they are a child, then it may be harder to overcome than someone who has only been going through it for a few years. Also, each person is different in the way that they handle their emotions and behaviors which is why there is no way to predict how long psychological treatment will take.

Persecution complex may seem like a harmless condition that people suffer from, but the truth of the matter is that it can keep them from living their lives to the fullest. They may live in fear of certain people and avoid situations just so that they do not have to confront the person or group they feel persecuted by. This is why it is important for people with this condition to get the help they need.

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2 Comments

  • Jacqueline Leitch-Murphy
    Jan 22, 2016 at 04:31 pm

    It’s a broad stroke and poorly edited, but a good idea to talk about.

  • Kak Badoo
    Apr 07, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Thank you for this article. Me, my father and two brothers have this mentality. We also have strong irritability and adhd. I have long blamed my education for this way of thinking, but I wonder if my genetics have gotten the better of me, meaning that I have struggled with school, I am very self conscious and shy since I m a kid which in a way fed the victim mentality. Now if somebody tease me on something I feel like he wants me to feel shame, I feel like defending people when they dont need defending, I take opinions way too seriously, I cant take criticism. When I do something I consider unsual (taking 10min to choose a pen in a supermarket, sit on a bench doing nothing, looking at people in the street etc) I imagine people making fun of me, people laughing at me or saying things about how I dont do what s right. I dont speak german perfectly so its even worse now that I live in germany, If i dont hear it perfectly, i m going to interpret every word as a mocquery.
    But one thing, I find it too strange that my father and two brothers have exactly the same problem, so i wonder if there is a genetical source to this problem.
    All that said, I know that psychosis meds, antidepressants (zoloft/venlafaxin) are not gonna help you fix this issue, so therapy is the solution in my opinion.
    I can see how succeeding has a great effect on my mood, it’s improving the belief that I can control things, therefor I would also recommend generally working on yourself, to improve the internal locus of control.
    Hope i brought you some relevant information and thanks again for your article it’s reassuring to see it put into words.

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