Experiences of Bullying May Explain “Paranoia” in Sexual Minorities

Bullying leads to a feeling that people plan to harm you, which can be misconstrued as “paranoia” and considered a “psychotic symptom.”


A study investigating sexual minorities (lesbian, gay, or bisexual) found that they were more likely to exhibit “paranoia” than heterosexuals. LGB people who had experienced bullying, drug use, and social isolation were even more likely to exhibit “paranoia.” They were not, however, more likely to experience hallucinations.

“Paranoia,” in this study was defined by the question “Have there been times that you felt that a group of people was plotting to cause you serious harm or injury?” If participants answered “yes,” they were considered to have “severe” paranoia. No allowance was made for whether participants might have been threatened with harm due to their sexual identity.

The researchers found that sexual identity was associated with “paranoia,” but not hallucinations. Bullying, drug use, and social isolation all increased the likelihood of “paranoia.”

Photo Credit: Ed Sweeney, CC BY 2.0

LGB people who had been bullied and isolated were the most likely to fear that such events might happen again obsessively. However, they were no more likely to experience hallucinations or otherwise be diagnosed with “psychosis.”

This suggests that rather than having a biological origin, “paranoia” or the fear of being persecuted, “may be partially explained by experiences of social adversity,” according to the researchers.

The researchers also write that this is consistent with previous research on other minority groups. In other studies, discrimination against ethnic minorities has been shown to result in higher levels of “paranoia,” but not other “psychotic symptoms.”

Indeed, in the current study, being a person of color significantly raised an LGB person’s risk of “paranoia,” perhaps because there were even more areas of discrimination.

The study was led by Robert Qi at the University of Liverpool, UK, and published in Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice. The study used data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey from 2007, which consisted of researchers administering interviews and questionnaires to 7,403 people in England. Seven percent of the participants had an LGB identity.



Qi, R., Palmier-Claus, J., Simpson, J., Varese, F., & Bentall, R. (2019). Sexual minority status and symptoms of psychosis: The role of bullying, discrimination, social support, and drug use – Findings from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice. Published online July 25, 2019. DOI: 10.1111/papt.12242 (Link)


  1. It’s not “paranoia” when society actually does persecute groups of people, and it is not discouraged by the law. The fear is justified, and purposeful, and is based on reality, not simply a product of negative imagination. Persecution can be real and it’s a common tool of oppression. It’s also oppressive to call it “paranoid” when, in fact, it is based on reality. That’s actually called “gaslighting,” the essence of it, precisely. Very abusive, and oh-so-common, most unfortunately.

    Paranoia is the product of fear-mongering, which psychiatry projects readily, as does the media. Paranoia is more common than not, people are in fear these days. Everyone is oppressed and it is easy to feel hacked and watched in this day and age of spyware and cameras. Our society is created from fear (classism) and, in turn, this creates paranoia. That’s the truth.

    People who are currently in power and who have committed crimes or who have been lying to make a buck or to control others are the ones whom I imagine are truly having paranoid thoughts right now. Lots of ugly truth coming to light about the elites, so they must be living in fear, because they are being found out and exposed for who they truly are. It’s about time!

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  2. “It’s not paranoia if they really are after you.” – Harold Finch

    In the current sociopolitical climate, there are many people who have very legitimate reasons to be afraid and to know (not believe, but know) they are part of a targeted group. Forget claims of surveillance, metadata collection, or targeting by any of the alphabet soup agencies; one merely need to be visually identifiable as different from the dominant group to rapidly become a target. This is not paranoia, it’s common sense based on a massive and rapidly growing evidence base.

    Why are researchers wasting time and money on continued “studies” when we all sort of know in our hearts that it’s long past time for a cultural paradigm shift? You really don’t have to be very “woke” at all to see the exploitation, oppression, and widespread misery right in front of us all the time.

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  3. It still wouldn’t hurt sexual minority individuals to become regular users of megascorbate, which antagonizes the paranoia inducing amphetamines and is likely also to reduce the level of adrenaline induced paranoia. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with suspicion, but carried to extremes, it can be incapacitating, making it harder to deal with real threats.

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  4. My problem is I wasn’t “paranoid” enough, but instead me and my family were brainwashed to “trust your doctor.” But my doctor wasn’t trustworthy, because she was “paranoid” of a non-existent, but legitimate, malpractice suit. Because her husband, unbeknownst to me initially, had been the “attending physician” at a “bad fix” on a broken bone of mine.

    But I’m quite certain everyone here knows that the “system” does, in fact, systemically persecute all labeled with the “mental illnesses.” Absolutely, the psychiatric system is a gas light, poison, and attempt to defame people forever, system. Thankfully, I escaped it. But my artwork describes the horrors of this system, and even showing the horrors of today’s psychiatric system visually, resulted in a satanic artist/psychologist attempting to steal all my work, and family’s money, via a BS legalese “art manager” contract. That’s a thievery contract, Marshall. No, I won’t sign that.

    My point being, the psychologists and psychiatrists know no bounds, in attempting to illegally cover up the satanic nature of their Pharmakia worshipping, primarily child abuse covering up, system. And, yes, my family’s medical records did have evidence of the abuse of my child in them, too.


    “Experiences of Bullying” by the “system” ” May Explain ‘Paranoia’ in” all those labeled with the DSM disorders, too.

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