Persecution Complex

Persecution Complex – The Persecutory Delusions

~Isha Kelaskar

The Persecution Complex is the origin of persecutory delusions. Below is a list of situations that almost all of us have faced a few times in our lives.

  • Having a constant feeling that someone is plotting/conspiring against you.
  • Being followed.
  • Angry outburst.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Constant fear.
  • Spending time in isolation.
  • Avoiding going out in public.
  • Blaming a hypothetical being or a person for all your negative outcomes.

As mentioned, some of us might have faced such situations once in a while. Normally, we blame it on ‘not thinking straight’ or just wanting some time-off as we might have a lot on our plate.

While some face such instances in their life merely twice or thrice; there are some people who live through all of these symptoms on a daily basis. The world isn’t the same for everyone.

When someone actually confesses that they have been living in a constant state of fear, the most common suggestion or a piece of advice they receive is, “You’re thinking too much”, “You’re just stressed”, “It’s all in your head”. 

It’s not a normal state of life you live in, if you frequently find yourself in such a situation of helplessness. There’s a great chance that you may be suffering from the Persecution Complex.

Social Anxiety

What is the Persecution Complex?

The Persecution Complex is a type of delusion. It is a mental health disorder that causes a fixed irrational belief within the patient. As a result, he/she is convinced that someone is trying to harm them on purpose.

It might be the government, someone hypothetical, someone the patient knows, a random stranger. It could be anyone.

In the mind of the patient, the patient thinks that harm is occurring, or is going to occur. Call it their gut feeling. At some point, they might not even be able to differentiate between the reality and the hallucinations.

These threats will sound bizarre and unrealistic to a common person. However, to the one having such fears is constantly living in a warzone (mentally), where they can’t trust anyone.

Persecution Complex is closely related to Schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a similar disorder wherein the brain is responsible for hallucinations and delusions and affects a person’s ability to communicate and pay attention.

What causes the Persecution Complex?

The causes remain unclear though medical researchers claim that the Persecution Complex is usually caused due to the surrounding environment the patient has been living in. It might be related to the work, academics, or the patient’s lifestyle.

Secondly, it might be hereditary. Someone in the patient’s family might be suffering from the same and it has been passed down to the patient through genes.

Thinking from a biological perspective, abnormalities of certain areas of the brain might be responsible for the development of delusional disorders.

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Additionally, imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters (substances that help the nerve cell in the brain, that is responsible for sending messages to each other) are linked to the formation of delusional symptoms.

An imbalance in these chemicals can interfere with the transmission of messages which can lead to causing delusions.

What is the difference between Paranoia and Persecutory Delusions?

Paranoia and Persecutory Delusions are branches of the same tree i.e. they are related. However, the thought process in these two conditions is different.

Paranoia is a condition wherein the patient lives in constant fear, distress, doubtfulness. The patient finds it hard to trust someone and starts questioning every move.

Persecution Delusion is a condition wherein the case of paranoia is extreme. The patient’s beliefs tend to become as strong as fixed statements.

What Triggers Delusions?

Commonly the evidence the medical experts suggest that these delusions are usually caused due to stress, drug abuse, or alcohol.


Initially, the symptoms of the persecution complex might as well sound normal or similar to the exertion of a stressful lifestyle. However, if the patient continues to have these delusions on a daily basis, it might just disrupt their entire lifestyle.

They might start suspecting every stranger on the road or even while travelling by public transports. They might feel that someone is conspiring against them or might as well be following them since they left their residence.

There might also come times when they start believing that there are evil spirits, demons or something invisible is trying to harm them and their life.

Usually, the delusions are the stem for misinterpretation and exaggeration of real-life experiences and feelings. The state of your mind could solely be responsible for triggering delusions of persecution.

Patients dealing with persecution might also suffer from depression as well as anxiety.

Persecution Complex


The delusions seem so realistic for the patients that they don’t realize the difference between reality and the delusions.

The patient is equally confused in differentiating his reality versus the actual reality, which makes it harder to seek treatment at the initial stage.

  • Psychotherapy (Talk Therapy)

Talking about what you feel, sharing your fears in a safe space will make changes in the patient’s thought process. The therapist, on the other hand will understand the patient’s insight into their illness.

They’ll analyze, make reports, and update their reports on every therapy session to observe improvements or changes in the patient’s thought process and his/her response to medicines. 

Talk therapies are of two kinds:

  1. Individual Therapy.
  2. Group Therapy.
  • Antipsychotic Drugs

These drugs, prescribed by the doctor are often used to help reduce a patient’s symptoms of persecution.

  • Treatment at the Hospital

When the delusions are considered to harm the patient or others, he/she is advised to stay at the hospital to receive treatment without putting anyone’s life at harm.

How to help someone who’s suffering from the Persecution Complex.

  • Listen

Their words and statements might start not making sense.

Even though you understand that they’re living in a delusional world, you need to understand their constant state of fear and calmly listen to them.

  • Comfort them

When the world stops making sense to them, you’ll need to calm them down and talk them out of it. Communication is the key here.

  • Be respectful

Understand their state of mind and try to be supportive. Provide them a helping hand.

  • Offer an Alternative Viewpoint

Instead of letting them get even more delusional over something, provide them with an alternative viewpoint. Show them evidence if possible.

It doesn’t necessarily mean proving them wrong. Make them consider it as an alternative situation.

  • Don’t Support their Delusions

Avoid encouraging their delusions or even playing along with the delusions. It might just as well encourage their thought process in believing that their delusions are the reality.


A person suffering from the Persecution Complex might not even realize that they’ve been living in another alternate, imaginary universe. To them, it feels that they’re being constantly followed, the government is trying to harm them on purpose, someone’s watching them. 

The patient lives in a state of fear and strongly refuses when someone tries to talk them back to reality. The patient tends to grow fragile, lives in isolation, questions everything and bursts into feats of anger without any given reason.

Proving the patient with proper treatment as soon as possible and taking proper precautions, medicines, therapy, listening to them, is the only way to support them and make them feel better.

It’s definitely a slow process. However, as they say, “Knowing the disorder is the first step towards a healthy recovery”.

Anupam Kundu
A professional blogger and an IT freak. The atypical combo of a Civil Service aspirant and a Tech enthusiast.