What exactly is paranoia? Before we answer that question, it’s worth noting that psychoanalysts and psychiatrists have slightly different answers. The concept first appeared in psychiatry. At first, people believed it was just a form of insanity.
Over time, the field of psychiatry rejected paranoia as a separate diagnosis. This was partly due to the fact that experts began to view it as just a component of other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.
So paranoia was no longer an ailment in itself. It became more of a symptom of other disorders. According to the DSM, delusion is the most similar condition to paranoia.
Psychoanalysis is a completely different story. Sigmund Freud considered it a form of neurosis that came from an obsession. Later, he began to view it as a form of psychosis, mainly thanks to the Schreber case. Then came Lacan who wrote his doctoral thesis based on the case of Aimée, a woman who had been cured of paranoia.
The History of Paranoia
For a long time, people used the word paranoia as a synonym for madness. The German Kahlbaum was the first person to refer to paranoia as a problem in its own right in 1863. Kraft-Ebing took this concept a little further in 1897. He described it as “a mental alienation that primarily affects judgment and reason.”
There were also other attempts to describe this mental problem. Kraepelin’s theory from 1889 stood out. From then on, people considered paranoia to be a type of disorder where you have delusions without any other meaningful symptom.
It was not until the DSM of 1987 that it was replaced by syndromes such as ‘delusional disorder’ and ‘paranoid personality disorder’.
Paranoia in Psychoanalysis
In his book The Neuro-Psychoses of the Defense (1894), Sigmund Freud began to talk about paranoia. However, he did not come to a complete understanding. Freudian psychoanalysis focused mainly on neurosis. Initially, Freud connected paranoia with projection. In the end, he drew no further conclusions about this disorder.
Neisser shaped the fundamental way psychoanalysis views paranoia as a mental illness. He said that it is essentially “a unique way of interpreting” was. A paranoid person feels that everything he sees and hears is about him in some way.
Jacques Lacan took this concept one step further. In a text from 1958 he talks about the Schreber case of Freud. Lacan describes paranoia as “seeing that someone else is having a good time”.
Lacan was a cryptic writer. It is not easy to understand him. In simpler terms, his statement is like the slogan for paranoia: “the Other enjoys me”.
Clarification of this concept
In psychoanalysis, a paranoid person is not just a suspicious person, as we often think. Someone with this condition works on the basis of two assumptions.
The first assumption is that some sort of ‘evil’ or ‘evil’ thing has been released and that they will be a victim of it. The second assumption is that everything that happens in the world has to do with them.
The paranoid person interprets the world through these two lenses based on their delusion. A delusion is actually a nonsensical story. As for paranoia, that story is about a form of evil that the person is a victim of. For example: “Evil spirits are taking over my brain.”
In this state, they interpret all the things they see through the lens of the story that brought their minds to life. Something as simple as losing something can be proof to them that these ghosts, aliens, demons or whatever are playing with and tormenting them.
Lacan has pointed to this motto: “the Other enjoys me”. When confronted with this, they feel that they have been ‘made passive’. They put everything that happens to them to the Other: “It wasn’t me, it was them”. That belief and delusion can lead to simple things like jealousy or to more serious problems as in the case of Aimée.