Great article in Scientific American today, How Secret Spy Programs affect the Clinically Paranoid.
Recent news about the expansive reach of the NSA is enough to make anyone a little paranoid. For those with paranoia in the clinical sense, however, the overwhelming suspicion that “someone is watching” is old news.There are many different flavors of delusion,” says Dr. David Kimhy, Director of the Experimental Psychopathology Lab in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University. He explains that, though revelations about the NSA could increase general anxiety in the individual with schizophrenia, the scandal should only significantly affect those whose delusions mirror the news.So if all the shit turns out to be real, do we owe the wackos an apology? Like, there are little voices in my head. "Of course there are, they come from that little implantable worm we placed in your stomach after that thorazine injection. If we hadn't induced a little psychotic episode, how the hell would we take possession and turn you into a perfect little manchurian candidate?"
“If you think the American government is spying on you, that’s one thing,” says Kimhy. “If you think it’s Russian intelligence, that wouldn’t have the same impact.” Still, he clarifies that in cases of individuals whose delusional narratives involve something resembling the NSA’s PRISM program, certainly, real-life manifestations of imagined threats could interact with symptoms of psychosis.
“Another piece of information added to other information, real or imagined, naturally would add some stress,” says Kimhy. However, he speculates that current events could alternatively offer a therapeutic benefit in such cases.
“The thought that the government is following everyone, in a paradoxical way, may take away from the delusion,” says Kimhy. Individuals with persecutory delusions usually feel that they are unique targets; thus, the broad net of surveillance that is so troubling to the NSA’s critics might reduce feeling of persecution in an individual who previously believed the government was only after him. Indeed, the therapist might use this broadness as a context in which to discuss the patient’s delusions. “You could ask, ‘What’s so unique to you? What special powers do you have? And by the way, why don’t we talk about those special powers,’” says Kimhy.
"But you can take a little solace in knowing that it's just not you, we are following everybody around, you're actually nothing special at all."