What Happens When Paranoid Feelings that You’re Being Watched are Correct?


McGill News reviews the new book Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness, and discusses its themes with co-author McGill Canada Research Chair in Philosophy and Psychiatry Ian Gold. The book, reports McGill News, explores how expanding public surveillance may be reinforcing or even creating new forms of paranoic disorders about being watched and tracked. “We live in a culture with cameras in public places, where governments sometimes spy on their citizens, and someone could reveal your secrets on Facebook,” Gold tells McGill News. “People who are predisposed to certain kinds of mental illness are very sensitive to fears of being watched and manipulated by others. So our culture could be pushing these people over the edge.”

The co-authors “hope that their book will help to restore some balance to psychiatry,” reports McGill News, “which they feel strongly emphasizes biological causes for mental illness, while neglecting the role played by social influences.”

“We would never say that cancer is a biological illness, so it doesn’t matter whether or not you smoke. But, in psychiatry, certainly in the case of severe mental illness, the causal role of the environment is considered very secondary,” Gold says. “Schizophrenia is often characterized as a break with reality. But these people are, in fact, very sensitive to the ideas in the environment. Unsurprisingly, when the possibility of real threats emerge in the culture, it will be latched onto by people with schizophrenia or other psychotic illnesses.”

“Where are the hidden cameras?” How culture affects mental illness (McGill News, August 11, 2014)


  1. I’m a sensitive person and what I experience is that people do know how to subtly, covertly, insidiously push your buttons and push you to the edge or over or into the realm of ambiguity so that you do not know where you stand so that if you talk about how you feel others are cloak and daggering you then -people say that you are paranoid, but if you do not say anything it feels like you are trapped or at the mercy of the manipulators secret antagonism. I have witnessed a lot of confusion and what seems to me to be dishonesty and opportunism in my relationships to others and it is frustrating,infuriating and really something that can drive a person into extreme states. I have experienced this a lot, but it is hard to talk about because it is relationships with others that are private or personal and you can’t really talk much about it because how to do you deal with the repercussions and others calling you paranoid, or how do you prove it? It is a type of clenched psychological bind that causes a lot of psychic pain and is difficult to articulate or put your finger on.

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  2. What Happens When Paranoid Feelings that You’re Being Watched are Correct?

    Authorised Mental Health Practitioner to Me. Are you being watched by your neighbours?

    Me to AMHP. Well their my mother and father in law and they’ve been watching to house for us since it was built.

    Detained under the Mental Health Act. “Guarded but concerned about being observed by neighbours.”

    Misleading? Not according to our Chief Psychiatrist, this is what he describes as professionalism. I call it fraud.

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    • Who isn’t concerned about what people think about them?
      In the UK theres a complete court system built around this: A person can get more compensation for injury to reputation, than for losing their arm in an industrial accident.

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  3. A friend of mine who works in psychiatry (and is very compassionate) to me – “..if you knew what your neighbours were saying about you, you would never leave the house, not just you, every person. There are people that are so frightened of their neighbours that they only go out at dark”. He was referring to neighbour petty intimidation.
    He went on:
    “But what you don’t think about doesn’t affect you. When I don’t think about my neighbours they disappear. And then I start to think about the recession, my old age, eating a fry up.”

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