My Dads Paranoia?
November 25, 2009 1:19 PM   Subscribe

What can I do about my Dad's paranoia?

Some background info first...I live (24) with my parents (mid to late 50’s) in the suburbs of London (UK). We have lived here for nearly fifteen years and almost since day one there has been some kind of anti-social behaviour in our estate. My parents are foster carers and throughout this fifteen years have had one or more (usually two or three) kids living with them (6-16) with varying different issues. There are a catalogue of things that have occurred; smashed windows, things been thrown at our house, verbal abuse, our door has been kicked down etc…These kids I think see our house as a target as my parents will always call the police (they have to as the children are/may be at risk), but cannot actually ‘do’ anything (physical - not that they would) but these kids know no one will come out chasing them down the street, threaten them or whatever (“You cant lay a finger on me Guv!” kinda thing,).
In the last year or so this has really calmed down and we hardly have any problems. There is a community policeman who visits about once a week and is a great support. My Dad has always been super neurotic and anxious in general but especially about these situations. Eg. If something gets thrown at our window and just makes a bang, me and my Mum will ignore it and they will usually go away. My dad will look through the curtains, see who it is, go outside and look through the cracks in the fence, come in and shout at us about it. Repeat this pattern, come in and start swearing and saying were under attack and we have to do something. Go and look again. Shout at us and wonder aloud what they are going to do next. Pace, sit down and shake, pace, shout…this will go on for hours, he will image the worst; “they’re gonna do it again and smash it…what if they push something through the letterbox….I want to go to the shops but cant…etc”.
Last night there was a big bang in the house (sounded to me like something falling over upstairs) my Dad jumped up and ran upstairs, couldn’t find anything, came downstairs and said “someone threw something” I said they didn’t and that it was defiantly from inside the house. He went on about it a bit in his usual way and I said clearly and firmly (I’m ashamed I have to take this tone with him, but he acts like a child, sorry.) “Look the noise came from inside, everyone heard it, and we think its probably next door (usually noisy) you need to drop this now, nothing happened, calm down.” I went upstairs.
I came down stairs late in the night to get a drink and my mum was up. She told me that after I had left dad had been going on and on, he had studied the window and decided there were cracks in it, shouted at my mum etc…. And now she didn’t want to go to bed as he would just continue harping on.
The next day he admitted that what he thought were cracks were smudges. This is a general pattern, he will work himself to near hysteria, go on for 12 hours then figure he was wrong or something and go quiet.
My question is…what can I do? It affects everyone and it always has but now I will be moving out soon and I’m worried about my Mum and my foster siblings handling him (I seem to be the only one he half way listens to,.He is very angry towards my mum sometimes when he is shouting), and my Mum cannot deal with it well (more likely to ignore him, shout back or clam up. I’m scared he will become so paranoid he will develop mental problems or worry himself into a heart-attack. Last year I bought him a self-help book about relaxing and letting things go for Christmas but my Dad is a stuffy old man from the North so…anything like that isn’t really an option. What can I do? How can I let him let go of things and be less paranoid? I’m at my wits end and it is very upsetting.

Thanks for reading guys.
posted by Neonshock to Human Relations (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If people were throwing things at my window, it would be hard for me to be calm. Recognize and address his fears and feelings. "Dad, I agree, they're a bunch of yobbos, and their manners are crappy, too. " "It is upsetting when those hooligans act out, Dad." Try small amounts of humor "Dad, I think they just like to see you out there in your robe, cause it's a lovely color on you." and once he's had a chance to express his annoyance, and his feelings have been heard, try redirection "Darn right, Dad, they're just future criminals practicing here on our house. Have you seen this hilarious video on youtube?"
posted by theora55 at 2:11 PM on November 25, 2009

Talk to him when he's not upset and say "Look, you're getting really worked up about the kids on the estate and you're taking it out on mum. I know you feel like you have to do something each time it happens - what kind of plan can we make to help you be less upset by this?"

And come to the table with some ideas - flood lights and motion detectors and CCTV come to mind.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:35 PM on November 25, 2009

I'm somewhat with Theora55, but I'd use something akin to a CBT approach (Cognitive behavioral therapy). Basically, I'd ask him what is the worst that can happen and why it matters so much. Perhaps that by voicing them, he'll realize these scenarios he's building in in head a bit far-fetched and that'll help him put things in perspective. I wish I could be more precise or helpful, but that's as far as I can take this little inspiration I had. You should find plenty of info on the web about CBT.
posted by bluefrog at 4:16 PM on November 25, 2009

Maybe you could support your mom in developing some coping / assertiveness skills so that she neither ignores, nor hides, nor lashes back. Sounds like she's the one here that will be more motivated to change. You could also share your concerns with him like DarlingBri suggests.
posted by salvia at 4:51 PM on November 25, 2009

At the risk of suggesting a somewhat radical solution, your parents should move - soon. I am all too aware of the difficulties of getting into Local Authority housing but given the impact that living on a problem estate is having on your dad, I suggest that an investment in a private sector rental elsewhere would yield remarkable quality of life dividend.

Your family has been there for 15 years so you’re known to all – and make no mistake, known as a target. Those kids aren’t going anywhere and they’re really not going to stop. If anything, their behaviour will escalate, particularly if your dad keeps reacting – and he will.

Because reaction leads to escalation, water balloons are a bad idea and a paintball gun madness. On the latter, if you hit them it’s unquestionably battery or worse. The Met also has a habit of shooting people holding things that look a bit like guns, such as table legs. Running around an estate with a paintball marker is a recipe for tragedy.

Seriously: a fresh start elsewhere. It will have financial consequences but is money really more important than peace of mind?

Since Shirley Porter gerrymandered off most of London’s housing stock 20+ years ago there’s no shortage of ex-local authority housing in the private sector. Private lettings are in the shitter at the moment so you’re in a strong negotiating position but it might come down to something like you having to contribute to their rental costs.

Best of luck; this is a shit situation and one which is basically insoluble. A parting thought: this is the worst-case scenario if without your moderating influence, your dad prompts an escalation. This need a rather more radical solution than buying another book.
posted by dmt at 3:59 AM on November 26, 2009

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