What is Paranorm and cultural paranoia?

How can we understand this phenomenon?

by Times Newsroom 1

When I read about the cultural paranoia, I felt actually surprised, because I didn’t know that there is a term which describes this phenomenon. While reading all those information, I realized how important it is to know all the details in order to be aware and avoid labeling or criticize people of color as abnormal. So, I strongly believe that it is important for the mental health professional to be aware, however, that certain socioeconomic groups and people of color may not particularly value insight.

It was so useful to know that the statistical criteria equate normality with those behaviors that occur most frequently in the population. Also, that abnormality is defined in terms of those behaviors that occur least frequently.

Despite the word statistical, however, these criteria need not be quantitative in nature: Individuals who talk to themselves, disrobe in public, or laugh uncontrollably for no apparent reason are considered abnormal according to these criteria simply because most people do not behave in that way.

Statistical criteria undergird our notion of a normal probability curve, so often used in IQ tests, achievement tests, and personality inventories. Statistical criteria may seem adequate in specific instances, but they are fraught with hazards and problems. For one thing, they fail to take into account differences in time, community standards, and cultural values. If deviations from the majority are considered abnormal, then many ethnic and racial minorities that exhibit strong cultural differences from the majority have to be so classified.

When we resort to a statistical definition, it is generally the group in power that determines what constitutes normality and abnormality.

Some psychologists and educators have used such findings to label African Americans as paranoid. Statements by Blacks that “The Man” is out to get them may be perceived as supporting a paranoid delusion. This interpretation, however, has been challenged by many Black psychologists as being inaccurate.

Personality tests that reveal Blacks as being suspicious, mistrustful, and paranoid need to be understood from a larger sociopolitical perspective. Marginalized groups who have consistently been victims of discrimination and oppression in a culture that is full of racism have good reason to be suspicious and mistrustful of White society.

The absence of a paranorm may indicate either poor reality testing (denial of oppression/racism in our society) or naiveté in understanding the operation of racism. Normality as Ideal Mental Health Second, humanistic psychologists have proposed the concept of ideal mental health as the criteria of normality. Such criteria stress the importance of attaining some positive goal like consciousness-insight, self-actualization/creativity, competence, autonomy, resistance to stress, and psychological mindedness. The biased nature of such approaches is grounded in the belief in a universal application (all populations in all situations) and reveals a failure to recognize the value base from which the criteria are derived. The particular goal or ideal used is intimately linked with the theoretical frame of reference and values held by the practitioner (psychodynamic, humanistic/existential, or cognitive/behavioral).

Furthermore, the use of self- disclosure as a measure of mental health tends to neglect the earlier discussion presented on the paranorm. One characteristic often linked to the healthy personality is the ability to talk about the deepest and most intimate aspects of one’s life: to self-disclose. This orientation is very characteristic of our counseling and therapy process, in which clients are expected to talk about themselves in a very personal manner. The fact that many people of color are initially reluctant to self-disclose can place them in a situation where they are judged to be mentally unhealthy and, in this case, paranoid.


Derald Wing Sue, ‎David Sue (2003). Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory and Practice, New York.


Nickolas Kouravanas & Papadopoulou Eleni, Psychologist, MSc.

Αναρτήθηκε από Παπαδοπούλου Ελένη, Ψυχολόγος- Ψυχοθεραπεύτρια, MSc

Σχετικά Άρθρα

Αυτή η ιστοσελίδα χρησιμοποιεί cookies για να βελτιώσει την εμπειρία σας. Συνεχίζοντας την περιήγησή σας, δίνετε την συγκατάθεσή σας για την χρήση των cookies. Aποδοχή