Sam Wilson: Anyone ever tell you you're a little paranoid?
Natasha: Not to my face. Why, did you hear something?
The Paranoiac is the person who is paranoid all the time, as a major aspect of their personality. They may or may not suffer from specific paranoid delusions or believe crackpot conspiracy theories (and such theorists may or may not be paranoiacs themselves; most, it should be said, do not qualify, though many of course do), but they have a natural inclination to mistrust the people around them and the situations they find themselves in.
This trope is the Paranoid Personality Disorder as demonstrated in the media. In both fiction and Real Life, it is often of major importance to areas of study such as crime, cults, terrorism, dictatorships, and mass murder.
To qualify, the character or characters must meet at least three of the following criteria:
- Never My Fault: Paranoiacs are hypersensitive to setbacks and rebuffs. They tend to either blame others for their mistakes and bad behaviour or take pride in them as achievements. This is usually a defensive act since they are constantly on guard against attacks, deceit, and criticism, they typically experience being caught out as a personal assault on themselves and thus, denial and blaming others is their way of deflecting attention away from their weaknesses if they feel their defences are being breached. At extremes, they may go full-on Tautological Templar.
- Revenge: Paranoiacs are the most likely of all the personality types to hold grudges and hold them long. Once again, this is primarily a defensive act, taking the view that if people know they will take vengeance for any wrongdoing done to them, real or imagined (often imagined), they will be less likely to mess with the paranoiac. This also compensates for their typically low self-esteem since they constantly feel embattled, revenge is a way of asserting control over their lives, and taking out their stress on those who they feel deserve it (often, anyone and everyone). Disproportionate Retribution is to be expected as well. note
- Suspiciousness / Cynicism: Perhaps the core feature of paranoiac personality is the tendency to be mistrustful and cynical about people and the world at large, which they tend to view as a harsh, chaotic, or oppressive place where only the mean and the tough survive. They tend to assume that people they meet or know are out to bully or trick them, which ties back into Never My Fault as they can blame their shortcomings in life on the malicious sabotage of other people; ironically, those shortcomings are often actually the result of stress or distractions from assuming everyone is out to get them, or their paranoid obsessions with self-reliance and self-sufficiency.
- Jerkass: The tendency to assume that the world is filled with malicious jerkasses ends up causing the paranoiac to act like a colossal jerkass themselves, the logic being "do unto others before they do unto you"note . They tend to be combative, hostile, and quarrelsome and detest laziness (esp. with regards to vigilance) and weakness in themselves and their families, friends, and anyone who is supposed to be on "their" side. Kindness is a deceptive ploy at best and weakness at worst, so outside of manipulative behaviour or to buy/reward loyalty (if even that), they have no time for it. They may try and hide it behind a pleasant facade, but inside they are mean, angry, petty, and spiteful and believe that those who aren't are either weak, arrogant, or stupid. Many are outright proud of their cruel actions, as they conflate it with boldness, strength, and bravery. Paranoiacs who are also sociopaths or sadists are amongst the most unpleasant and aggressive (if not outright criminal or even, yes, flat-out evil) people you are ever likely to meet.
- Control Freak: Paranoiacs are often plagued by fears that their significant others are cheating on them; more generally, they tend to be hypersensitive regarding issues of loyalty from their family, friends, colleagues, followers, and those either in their power or who they themselves owe allegiance to. Often leads to clingy jealous behaviour which, once again, leads to the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of inspiring disloyalty rather than discouraging it. Expect them to police and spy on their own side (as they see it) as much as or more than their real or imagined enemies. They might also try to dominate, belittle, or otherwise demean others in order to keep them in their power.
- Self-Importance: Though distinct from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (although narcissistic paranoids and paranoid narcissists both certainly exist too), paranoiacs are themselves prone to grandiosity and egomania; after all, if everyone is out to get you, or if you are the only one who sees how hard and crappy the world is, then clearly there is something special about you. They also have the narcissistic tendency to assume that their own problems or issues are bigger, harder, or more important than what anyone else is going through, and thus suffer from an egotistical Lack of Empathy. Since many are emotionally unstable and suffer from low self-esteem, this tends to be an Inferiority Superiority Complex rather than genuine overconfidence; as such, excessive self-reference, in some cases up to and including Third-Person Person, is common in this type of personality, since they are constantly trying to reassure themselves (and others) of their own specialness and invincibility. A Self-Serving Memory and tendency to distort reality and read the worst into motives and situations is another feature.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Paranoiacs tend to see or imagine elaborate conspiracies against themselves, their families, causes, allies, organizations, etc., or even against others they have no association or even sympathy with. As stated, although this is what most people think of when they hear the word "paranoia", it's not in-and-of-itself enough to be considered a paranoid personality disorder, nor is the lack of this enough to exclude a diagnosis of PPD. Many paranoid conspiracy theories might also be relatively grounded, "merely" thinking that people who actually dislike them are now out to get them (and not just, say, outlandish ideas about the government or aliens or such). One again, this can be a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, as others might be inspired to work against the paranoiac precisely because the paranoiac acts like a jerkass who thinks everyone is conspiring against them.
Other symptoms include a Hair-Trigger Temper; Dirty Cowardice as well as bravado and boastful behavior; Green-Eyed Monster behavior and the assumption that others are envious or jealous of them (rather than the other way around); Black-and-White Insanity and a tendency to (a)moral absolutes; attempts at (or claims of) achieving self-reliance, independence, and self-sufficiency; and a poor sense of humor, one that is either utterly lacking or outright cruel, reflecting the fact that paranoiacs are typically guarded and serious. They also have a tendency to believe Might Makes Right, at least in regard to themselves and their own actions, and are likely to believe Violence Is the Only Option more than most. Many seek power, to secure their boundaries and feed their fragile egos, almost inevitably abusing it if and when they ever find it. Paranoia is also a root cause of all forms of prejudice and bigotry.
Paranoid Personality Disorder is highly co-morbid with several other disorders, including Narcissism, Sociopathy, and Sadism; many sociopaths are basically aggressive paranoiacs, sharing a bleak view of the world and basic mistrust of others, but deciding that attack is the best form of defense. Sadists are very often paranoiacs who have learned to take perverse satisfaction in controlling or avenging themselves on others (as opposed to viewing it as Necessarily Evil, Why Did You Make Me Hit You?, or other such Jerk Justifications); indeed, since sadism is not currently an official psychological diagnosis (for reasons more of politics and research rather than the idea that it doesn't actually exist), many sadists are diagnosed as paranoiacs instead of an alternative (when they aren't diagnosed as The Sociopath).
Paranoiacs are attracted to extremism the way flies are to lights, and many end up becoming The Fundamentalist (either religious or otherwise), if only because it often provides them with an enemy or scapegoat to blame for their problems and focus their stress and rage upon. Many acts of terrorism are basically glorified attempts to show that the paranoiacs committing them aren't people to be pushed around, as they tend to think that fear and violence are the pathway to respect and safety. Consequently, some paranoiacs become cult leaders, and many cult leaders become paranoiacs as they become guarded against disloyalty or anything that might expose them as a fraud or otherwise pry people from under their control.
Compare/contrast Properly Paranoid (when the plot's conflict turns out to provide him with proof that it was a good thing to be paranoid), Improperly Paranoid (when the plot's conflict is a result of the paranoiac jumping the gun and performing a hostile action because he believes it was a good thing to be paranoid, often leading to the very disaster he was trying to avoid), Misanthrope Supreme (when the result of being paranoid is hating everybody, probably escalating to planning on murdering everybody), and Paranoia Fuel (a specific flavor of Nightmare Fuel that makes otherwise-reasonable people into paranoid nutcases).
- Diavolo from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind is likely the most powerful man in Italy and is obsessed with ruling the world as a mafia boss to maintain a sense of control, assumes the worst of people (he doesn't understand why Bruno is genuinely concerned for Trish), and is vengeful enough against traitors to mail their body parts to their friends. Above all, he's obsessed with remaining anonymous, to the point of wanting to kill his own long-lost daughter in case she can be used to trace his identity. It probably doesn't help that his Stand, King Crimson, allows him to see several seconds into the future, a future that can only be changed by his own power. Meaning that while Diavolo can see his own pitfalls coming before it hits him, he must use this ability to avoid them. He has likely seen firsthand the possibility of his own demise many times, which explains the lengths he goes to seclude himself.
- Gaara from Naruto had well-justified paranoia, stemming from having a demon stuck inside him as a baby (that threatened to possess him if he ever fell asleep), causing everyone in his village to hate and fear him and eventually leading his father (who put that demon there, to make a weapon out of him) to try and assassinate him after deciding that Gaara was too unstable (and the person chosen was the uncle he loved, who then denied ever loving Gaara). As a young teen, he's an Ax-Crazy Serial Killer who keeps his siblings in line with threats of murder, mistrusts and despises everybody, and refers to his inner world as chaos that can only be fed by murdering people. After Naruto defeats him and makes it clear that he knows what some of that is like, Gaara is convinced to move on and eventually becomes the next beloved leader of his village.
- Mewtwo from Pokémon: The First Movie exhibits several paranoiac traits. His primary motivation is an utter distrust of all humanity for enslaving Pokémon (stemming from being himself a scientific experiment Gone Horribly Right and later used as a weapon by Giovanni), to which end he seeks to Kill All Humans and save Pokémon by enslaving all of them, the idea being that since he cares more about them than their trainers do (in his mind at least), it's for their own good.
- In Rebuild World, Akira has severe trust issues due to fighting tooth and nail against everyone he knows in the slums of Kugamayama City and being abandoned by multiple people offering him a better life. He's quick to pull a gun on others, won't hesitate to shoot unless it's a waste of ammo, and refuses to make lasting relationships with others unless they also benefit him. He also sleeps with one eye open and never has a gun far away from him. This gradually softens as he becomes accustomed to having more luxuries like a safe bed to sleep in, but he's still largely cynical unless he speaking to someone who has truly earned his trust.
- Batman himself is frequently accused of being a paranoiac; how much this is true is a case of Depending on the Writer, but he has certainly demonstrated many paranoid traits, including a grim attitude, Control Freak tendencies, Jerkass tendencies, and a habit of resorting to violence to solve his problems, with some stories going so far as to imply that being the Batman is simply an excuse for Bruce to take revenge for the murder of his parents by beating the crap out of criminals every night. He also has a grim and bleak view of the society he lives in — mostly because that society is Gotham City, and his explicit reason for choosing a bat as his gimmick is to scare the hell out of his enemies. However, most stories portray him as someone who, despite being a major cynic and pessimist, actually does somewhat trust his allies (just acutely aware that he lives in a world where Mind Control, Demonic Possession, and exposed secret identities are all very real dangers) and who is actually a humble man who has decided to sacrifice his life to the cause of saving others from the evil that took his family away from him. But then again, considering some of the morally questionable lengths that he's gone to to spy on his allies without their consent and come up with plans to take them down behind their backs, one has to wonder.
- The Riddler, for much the same reasons as Doctor Doom — he assumes that Batman and everyone else is jealous of his "obvious" intellectual superiority and dismisses every defeat he's had as Batman somehow cheating.
- The Scarecrow was violently bullied in his youth and was left with a crippling inferiority complex that developed into an obsession with fear and a career in supervillainy, his "gimmick" being scaring people to death with hallucinogenic drugs. Like most Batman villains, he is prone to Bad Boss behaviour and violent overreactions. He also believes that the entire world runs on fear; hard to get a bleaker worldview than that.
- Two-Face, though "officially" diagnosed as having a Split Personality, probably fits this better than anything. He has Black-and-White Insanity and a bleak worldview down to a tee, as he literally makes nearly every decision based on a coin flip (and has a Freak Out if he ever loses said coin) because he thinks all laws and rules are based on random chance; he has an explosive temper, and once killed a lackey over spilling a drink; he murdered his mistress, Janice Porter, because "Harvey Dent is a married man" and later was livid to learn that Renee Montoya, whom he had been stalking, was a lesbian and accused her of tricking him. Works such as The Long Halloween suggest that much of this attitude was present even before he became Two-Face, as that story showed a grim and humourless Harvey Dent willing to break the law to defeat the mob, having zero time for human relationships (including his wife) and maybe-or-not being the Serial Killer who was murdering mobsters and served as the Big Bad of the plot. A drunken and abusive father is also a consistent feature of his backstory, as is the implication that Harvey is mistrusting and pitiless as a result.
- Ra's al Ghul has all the hallmarks of a paranoiac Narcissistic cult leader. Most notably, he is a Control Freak whose League of Assassins has a policy of punishing failure with death, something that rarely seems to produce results but would serve the purpose of making the world's deadliest assassins more eager to succeed than turn against him. In addition, he never once accepts responsibility for messing up his family nor any blame for any of the murders and atrocities he has committed over the centuries or plans to commit in the future. He is also prone to Revenge on everyone who isn't Batman, whom he admires and perhaps secretly envies, although his gigantic ego is rebuffed by the Detective's refusal to marry his daughter and become his heir. He is utterly cynical about the rest of humanity and is a firm believer in Might Makes Right and Violence Is the Only Option, punishing any follower (or Dark Knight) who disagrees with him with object lessons. Essentially, he comes across as a man who secretly fears that he isn't as special as he always thought he was and falls back on increasingly violent and extreme methods to both prove that wrong and stop anyone from questioning his superior image.
- An issue of The Batman Adventures shows Joe Chill living in paranoia-induced fear that the now grown-up Bruce Wayne could identify him as his parents' murderer, to the point that he begins to hallucinate random people as Bruce. When he learns that a detective who investigated the case kept a button he found at the murder scene, even though it's clear that the detective took it as a memento and not as evidence, Chill is utterly convinced that it could tie him to the crime, and he resolves to kill the detective. When he accidentally unmasks Batman during a struggle, he's so shocked at seeing Bruce Wayne under the mask that he mentally breaks and ends up falling off a balcony to his death. His last words to Bruce: "Why won't you go away?!" Bruce — who has no idea who Chill is — is left completely confused.
- Grant McKay from Black Science is a genius physicist whose brilliance is hampered by his extreme narcissistic paranoia. He sees oppression and greed everywhere, often without evidence, and rejects all authority figures, regardless of their merit. He also has a huge victim complex, seeing himself as a put-upon everyman whos being held back by The Man. Theres a rather telling scene where he goes on a bitter, rambling diatribe about how history is Written by the Winners and how great people like him who do the real work are always forgotten.
- Fantastic Four:
- Paranoia is what caused Annihilus to become an Omnicidal Maniac. He's always been terrified of dying, and while his Cosmic Control Rod prevents him from dying of natural causes, he can still be killed by others. Thus, his ultimate goal in life is to kill every living being in the universe, just in case any of them might kill him. This has rather predictably proven self-fulfilling; becoming a mass murderer out of paranoia that others would kill him has greatly increased the number of people who want Annihilus dead.
- Doctor Doom is the archetypal paranoid narcissist, and his creator Jack Kirby has even occasionally referred to him as paranoid. The absolute monarch of the tiny nation of Latveria where he has fostered a cult of personality around himself, Doom frequently refers to himself in the third person, accepts zero responsibility for any of his mistakes and failures, and is completely convinced that the reason that the Fantastic Four are fighting him is because their leader Reed (and everyone else, but especially Reed) is and always had been insanely envious of Doom's own "superior" brilliance, when in reality, it's Doom who is envious of Reed.
- New Gods: Darkseid, the Evil Overlord of Apokolips, shows many signs of a paranoiac Sadist. Though always a total bastard, Darkseid became insanely mistrustful and paranoid after his mother Heggra, who had manipulated and controlled him his entire life, murdered the only woman he ever loved via Darkseid's own underling Desaad, with Darkseid responding by ordering Desaad to murder Heggra back, and then treating him and every other underling with even more cruelty and mistrust than before. Questioning Darkseid is an instant death sentence, and his ultimate ambition is to control all life everywhere and eradicate The Evils of Free Will, including love, happiness, and hope, turning the universe into a bleak, miserable dystopia where everyone suffers and worships him as God.
- Red Alert in The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, perhaps as a result of being Brainwashed a couple of times, perhaps not. At first, it looks like he's making progress, but then Rung gets shot (non-fatally) by accident and he goes quickly downhill until he attempts suicide, believing that whoever shot his therapist will come after him next. There is a conspiracy going on involving Rodimus, and Red Alert had even stumbled on it. In The Transformers: Titans Return, it's revealed that the reason why Red Alert is so paranoid was that millions of years ago, Sentinel Prime used shadowplay to turn him into a sleeper agent. Whirl also has a few traits of this, typically answering the door with a loaded gun even though he's on an Autobot ship and the war is over, but it's not as emphasized as Red Alert's.
- Wonder Woman Volume 1: Hypnota was always a secretive person due to being a stage magician who publicly identified as male most of the time and having been assigned female at birth. Then their twin sister, the one person they truly trusted, shot them in the head in a training accident. Nothing could convince them that this was an accident and they became a control freak of a terrifying magnitude using their hypnotic meta-abilities to turn people into essentially slaves and then selling many of them to Saturnian Empire slavers as they no longer trusted or cared for anyone but themselves. Their lack of empathy is implied to be mostly due to brain damage changing them, but they always held their secrets close.
- Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger: After falling to the Dark Side, Jaune shows many of the symptoms of being a paranoid sociopath. He becomes extremely cynical to the point where he only sees the worst in everyone else and has little-to-no faith in his friends. He becomes extremely possessive and controlling towards his teammates and uses the Jedi Mind Trick on them anytime they try disagreeing with him. He also becomes aggressive and confrontational to everyone outside his team. Finally, he becomes convinced that the staff at Beacon are conspiring against him. When Pyrrha tries to talk some sense into him, he accuses her of being in on it as well. During his mental breakdown in "Destiny", his paranoia had evolved into a full-blown delusion that every single person around him is out to steal his Force powers.
- The nation of Zaldia from RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse. For centuries, Zaldia has defined itself almost entirely by its fear of and opposition to Equestria, to the point where basically anything Equestria does is automatically at least suspicious and probably nefarious, and constant action and vigilance must be taken to ensure that Equestria never gains the upper hoof over them because the Equestrians are surely waiting just to pounce on them or, at the very least, weaken them in some way. Among other things, they blame Cavallia (an Equestrian ally and quasi-vassal) for "stealing" the pegasi that they drove away with their own Fantastic Racism, are convinced that only their accumulation of items of power has kept Equestria from annexing them, and assume that when Trixie gives Kristal Zati a nice present, she's trying to bribe him.
- 10 Cloverfield Lane: Howard Stambler, and not just because he's a Crazy Survivalist; his behaviour also fits many of the above-mentioned points. He views people who aren't Crazy-Prepared with disdain and doesn't seem all that upset about their suffering, he's overtly cynical about most of the world, he's incredibly controlling both about the bunker and the behavior of people in there, he's self-important and sees himself as one of the last heroic men left, he's a huge conspiracy nut and a massive jerk. That's in addition to his explosive temper and his staunch belief in self-reliance and sufficiency as well as getting pissed when he feels that people aren't sufficiently grateful or respectful to him for his 'kindness'.
- Captain America: Civil War: Poked fun at.
Natasha: Looking over your shoulder should be second nature.
Sam: Anyone ever tell you you're paranoid?
Natasha: Not to my face. Why, what have you heard?
- Jack from A Fantastic Fear of Everything is this, but comes to his senses as the film progresses. He has an intense fear of being murdered and believes everybody is out to get him. This leads to him carrying around a carving knife wherever he goes and mistrusting anyone who knocks at his door. It takes him being forced to leave his house and facing people who actually do want to kill him to make him see that he is being extremely narrow-minded and a little bit insane.
- Michael Corleone from The Godfather movies is a paranoid Control Freak by the time Part 2 rolls around. As Michael sees it, the family was attacked and betrayed in the first movie because the other mobsters no longer feared them, so if he wants to keep them safe, he has to act like the biggest bastard on the planet; naturally, he himself ends up becoming his family's greatest enemy, alienating his wife and ordering the death of his own brother.
- The Magnificent Seven: Lee is a jumpy paranoid wreck due to the repeated and near-constant attempts on his life from individuals trying to kill the famous gunslinger to take his fame.
- McDougal in The Paper (although it's not a major aspect of his character). To wit:
Henry: "When did you get so paranoid?"McDougal: "When they started plotting against me."
- Franz Oberhauser from Spectre. Franz Oberhauser was the son of Hannes Oberhauser, the man responsible for raising an orphaned 007 following the death of his parents in a climbing accident. But he grew jealous of his father's increasingly close relationship with Bond, even showing physical disgust when his father insist he call James his brother. Driven by Envy, Franz murdered his father and staged his own death in an avalanche, while developing an Irrational Hatred of 007 for being favored more, and still blames Bond for causing a wedge to develop between him and his father, when it was the other way around. As a result, this eventually becomes a Cain and Abel situation, where Franz (now calling himself Ernst Stavro Blofeld) created SPECTRE to not only condemn the whole world to chaos for his selfish gain but to orchestrate many of Bond's personal tragedies in later years over this petty grudge. And daring to question or failing to please him is an automatic death sentence, as Mr. White learned the hard way when he chose to defect.
- Star Wars
- Years of war, the death of his mother, and mountains of shame and guilt over the atrocities he kept committing turned Darth Vader into a ruthless Control Freak with delusions of "bring(ing) order to the Galaxy" via crushing any and all opposition to Imperial rule. He is filled with self-loathing and takes it out on others, including his subordinates for the heinous crime of failing him. It's strongly implied that he wants revenge on the Emperor for manipulating him into being this way, but he is simply too afraid of him to do anything about it, at least until his son comes into play.
- Even before he became Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker was increasingly becoming this over the course of Attack of the Clones and The Clone Wars, culminating in his FaceHeel Turn in Revenge of the Sith. He comes to believe that the Jedi are plotting to take over the Republic and that Padmé is planning to betray him (and may be cheating on him with Obi-Wan); neither of these is true. note The inciting incident of his turn is also his fear that his wife will die based on a hazy Force vision (it turns out, he is the one that kills her). By the end of Episode III, he meets all seven criteria for this trope (he tends to blame everyone but himself for things going wrong, exacts Disproportionate Retribution on those he feels has wronged him, is suspicious over his wife and the Jedi, takes several levels in Jerkass, turns into a Control Freak who thinks totalitarianism is the only way to achieve peace, has a huge ego, becomes increasingly self-absorbed, and thinks everyone is out to get him or is a traitor).
- Galaxy Quest: Guy Fleegman, as a running gag. Having played a minor role on the original show, he sneaks along with the other protagonists thinking they're doing a revival. When he realizes he's on an actual ship and everything is for real (and thus dangerous), he becomes convinced he's the requisite Red Shirt and is doomed to die. Fred convinces him that he's actually the plucky Comedy Relief, who has much higher chances of survival. In the end, he not only survives but becomes a regular crew member and cast member when they do an actual revival.
- The Trope Namer for General Ripper from Dr. Strangelove, who is convinced that the Communists are poisoning the water supply with fluoride to contaminate our PRECIOUS BODILY FLUIDS.
- The Caine Mutiny gives a good example of this trope in the form of Captain Queeg. An inadequate man for his position, his toxic leadership forces his executive officer to relieve him during a typhoon. The resulting trial revolves around whether or not Queeg suffered this disorder, or was merely an unpleasant person.
- A Cry in the Night: Erich fits a lot of the criteria. He's manipulative with an increasingly noticeable cruel streak, becomes jealous easily, is extremely self-absorbed and controlling, and is convinced his wife Jenny is trying to cheat on him with every man who shows her affection and/or intends to leave him. He tends to read ill intent into everyone's actions (while accusing others of unjustly doing the same to him). Once the truth about him comes out, it's speculated by doctors that he intentionally sabotaged his relationship with Jenny from the start because he was convinced he was unlovable and she would 'abandon' him just like his mother.
- Voldemort from Harry Potter is a pure paranoid sociopath. He is incapable of love (and pretty much every other positive emotion) because he never experienced it himself and is unable to understand it, leading to an extreme Might Makes Right way of thinking as he thinks power is the only thing that matters in the world. He hates Muggles as inferiors despite secretly being half-blood himself, is utterly terrified of death to the point that he can't imagine anything worse than it, believes himself to be the greatest wizarding genius who ever lived despite being repeatedly bested by a teenage boy (on whom he swore eternal murderous revenge), and has an explosive Hair-Trigger Temper that he often takes out on his own followers. Oh, and he's built a personality cult around himself based on his aforementioned supposed genius along with vague ideas of class and racial superiority, yet he is incapable of tolerating even the slightest criticism of his plans or behaviour.
- And then there's Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge. When Harry and Dumbledore try to warn the wizarding world that Voldemort has returned, Fudge somehow convinces himself that they are not only lying but plotting to depose him and take control of the Ministry. (This is despite the fact that Dumbledore has no political ambition indeed, he's been offered the position of Minister for Magic several times and refused it every time. This is also despite the fact that Dumbledore told Fudge exactly what to do against Voldemort, promising him that he'd be remembered as the greatest minister ever if he took the necessary measures.) This leads Fudge to launch a year-long smear campaign against both Harry and Dumbledore and install his lackey Dolores Umbridge as Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts which leads to her becoming High Inquisitor and enacting increasingly draconian decrees to prevent students from learning self-defense or creating any unauthorized organizations. Ultimately, Fudge's actions backfire spectacularly when Voldemort finally reveals himself at the Battle of the Department of Mysteries in front of several Ministry officials, including Fudge himself. With the reveal that Fudge had suppressed the knowledge of Voldemort's return for a full year, the ensuing outrage from the entire wizarding community of the British Isles leads to him (and Umbridge) getting sacked. Instead of going down as one of the greatest Ministers for Magic, he is derided as an idiot and a failure.
- In Horatio Hornblower, the character of Captain Sawyer from Lieutenant Hornblower is deeply suspicious of his officers, spies on them with his toadies, and interprets nearly every action as a demonstration of their "plotting". For example, when a sail gets caught and Midshipman Wellard orders the hands to stop hauling, Sawyer concludes that he deliberately ensured that it would get caught to make Sawyer look bad and has him beaten. He takes a great deal of satisfaction in doing so and shortly after has Wellard beaten again to supposedly get the truth out of him. He purposely weakens the authority that the lieutenants have over the hands so that the hands will be loyal to him instead. Of course, all of this induces the lieutenants to seriously consider mutiny, and (maybe) for either Hornblower or Wellard to push Sawyer down the hold.
- Sauron and Morgoth from the The Lord of the Rings verse both fit this disorder, particularly as they get progressively weaker over the Ages and increasingly spiteful, envious, controlling, petty, and grandiose as a direct result of that. Sauron especially, as by the end, he simply wants to control absolutely everything and is completely enraged by any challenge to his authority.
- The novelization of Revenge of the Sith makes it clear that Anakin Skywalker is slipping into chronic paranoia even before he falls to The Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader. Anakin is utterly convinced that someone on the Jedi Council is the reason he's not getting the titles and accolades he deserves, and this is before Palpatine starts his mind games. He's also thoroughly convinced of Yoda's hated him from the moment they met.
- Grand Inquisitor Zhaspahr Clyntahn of Safehold manages to tick every single box on the list in the course of the books. He will thoroughly convince himself that he's in the right even when his decisions end in disaster. He is well known for his ability to hold a petty grudge. He believes man has no better nature unless forced to have it by the Inquisition, which in turn leads him to believe the loyalty gained by Rhobair Duchairn's kinder and gentler approach is a disposable commodity. He is unable to distinguish the difference between God's will and his own. Finally, he sees conspiracies behind every corner, prompting him to try and destroy entire nations, whether they actually were doing anything or not, or purge the Church of several vicars, their families, their assistants, and their families, when their only crime was meeting to discuss ways to reform the Corrupt Church.
- Several characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, but the stand-out example is Cersei Lannister, who believes that her younger brother Tyrion is behind every bad thing that ever happens to her and is prophesied to murder her and murdered her "best friend" to conceal this "fact", and thought it was bold of herself. She is proud of her son Joffrey because he acts like a psychopath, and ashamed of her son Tommen because he isn't and therefore views him as weak. In later books, she starts seeing conspiracies everywhere and stupidly recruits the local fundamentalists to her cause in order to better control the kingdom and enforce her will, only to predictably be turned on by them as they recognise her for the lunatic she is. The only person she trusts is her twin brother Jaime, and she ends up repelling even him with her arrogant, callous, and paranoid behaviour.
- Despite his reputation for being unkillable in any conceivable way, the titular Steelheart is a very paranoid man. His personal palace was intentionally built to be confusing with dozens of dead ends and false rooms. He sleeps in a different room every night and eats in a different room every night. He keeps constant surveillance, has all of Newcago under the heel of his Enforcement, and only ever comes into the public eye to put down any rival Epics who challenge his throne. For all his power, sociopathy, and delusions of godhood, Steelheart is always looking over his shoulder for fear that someone might discover his weakness.
- The Stormlight Archive:
- King Elhokar is constantly convinced that people are trying to kill him, which is honestly understandable considering the assassination of his father. When his leather saddle girth snaps during a hunt (nearly resulting in him being killed by the chasmfiend), he is absolutely convinced that it was intentionally cut by someone and refuses to hear anything to the contrary. Sadeas realizes that Elhokar knows who cut the strap, which is why Sadeas doesn't use it to implicate Dalinar. Dalinar takes it a step further, realizing that Elhokar cut the strap himself because no one was taking his fears seriously.
- Then there's Kalak, Herald of the Almighty. Like all the Heralds, he abandoned his oaths millennia ago, and now is suffering from Sanity Slippage. His flavor is paranoia.
Kalak: I'm worried about Ash.
Nale: You're worried about everything.
Kalak: She's getting worse. We weren't supposed to get worse. Am I getting worse? I think I feel worse.
- Many, many people in 24, both terrorists or otherwise. Live Another Day has two stand-out examples, both Big Bads:
- The first is terrorist mastermind Margot Al-Harazi, a maniac out to avenge the death of her terrorist husband. She is such a Control Freak that she even has cameras in her daughter's bedroom, is willing to mutilate her to punish her son-in-law, and is willing to murder her daughter when she is captured in case she talks; she then has the gall to be mortified when she actually does talk.
- The second is Cheng Zhi, Jack's Chinese nemesis. Rendered Ax-Crazy after being tortured by his government and presumed executed. He is now a Dirty Coward out to incite global nuclear war and is utterly terrified of Bauer; all traces of Affably Evil are gone to be replaced by a sniveling, vindictive bastard out for revenge on all the world for crimes he absolutely deserved to be punished for.
- Alan Partridge is a downplayed version of this trope. He's convinced that there's a conspiracy within The BBC to sabotage his career and destroy his chances of ever being on television, without considering the possibility he's more than capable of sabotaging his own career and what actually destroyed his chances of being on television was the fact that the television program he made was utterly terrible. He also refuses to accept fault for anything, holds disproportionate grudges against people he doesn't like, is a snide and mean-spirited jerk, has a massively over-inflated sense of his own importance and talent, is a huge coward, and doesn't really trust anyone. What downplays him is that he's such a hopelessly pathetic loser who ultimately only ever hurts himself at the end that he's pretty much harmless.
- Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, from Breaking Bad, is a white-collar criminal who worked with Gus through Madrigal Electromotive in his drug empire. She is constantly paranoid that someone is out to get her, fearful that she would be raped in prison and her daughter would be abused if placed into foster care. She is exceptionally nervous about meeting with other criminal associates in person, and she attempts to have several of Mike's associates killed to prevent them from ratting on her, even after he assures her that they would not talk. In the series finale, she arranges to have Walt killed to prevent him from putting a spanner in the works after returning from being on the run. In the end, she turns out to be Properly Paranoid, as Walt has her poisoned with ricin in their last face-to-face meeting.
- The Daleks from Doctor Who are an entire species of paranoid xenocidal maniacs. Genetically programmed to feel hatred for all forms of non-Dalek life, they live in pressured pepperpot tanks both for mobility and because they are utterly terrified of being somehow infected by interacting with other lifeforms. They have a highly rigid command structure and are perfectly willing to die for the cause of racial purity, with their ultimate aim being the eradication of all life everywhere so that they will be protected from contamination from their supposed biological inferiors.
- In Game of Thrones, Cersei Lannister fits just about all seven criteria. She never accepts the blame for anything, is extremely vengeful even when it comes to petty slights, outright states that she thinks "Everyone but us [her immediate family] is the enemy", is an utter Jerkass to just about everyone, looks down upon and tries to control people (in particular her children) and is so self-absorbed that she's almost a textbook narcissist. For much of the series, she's very suspicious of the Tyrells, believing they're trying to usurp her position and seize power, although in this case, she's actually Properly Paranoid. By Season 7, though, she's a borderline Conspiracy Theorist, accusing her brother/lover Jaime of plotting against her, even though nothing further could be from his mind and he's only trying to help and is more fixated on holding onto her own power than helping the other factions stop the Zombie Apocalypse. After he's left to aid the Targaryen-Stark forces out of disgust at her callousness, she orders the deaths of both Jaime and her other brother Tyrion.
- Aerys Targaryen II was also paranoid and suffering auditory hallucinations. Not helping matters was that he trusted the sadistic voices in his head and distrusted every real person, leading to the inhumane purges culminating with an attempt to destroy King's Landing by napalm. Daenerys succumbs to the same madness when she learns that she was Always Second Best to the true Targaryen heir Jon Snow, and half her court tried to betray her so they could switch flags to Jon's side while the other half died horribly. She finishes what Aerys started out of inadequacy and paranoia, and ironically dies because she still trusted Jon to not react by stabbing her in the back.
- The second series of Horatio Hornblower is based on Lieutenant Hornblower, and the things that apply to the literary Captain Sawyer also apply to the onscreen version, with a couple of additions. Sawyer's approach to "discipline" results in many of the hands being completely drunk and unable to work the guns when two French ships approach, and when Hornblower pulls an unorthodox Batman Gambit to scare them off (successfully), Sawyer insists that he's covering up for incompetence. He also puts Hornblower on continuous watch and gleefully reminds him that falling asleep is a hanging offense. Then he goes prowling around the ship, catches Hornblower dozing, and gleefully cackles "your life is in my hands!" Also, he's being enabled by the ship's surgeon, who is trying to manage Sawyer's insanity rather than declaring him unfit.
- The Magicians (2016): The Beast put a curse on the four Fillorian thrones so that whenever someone became a royal (which is surprisingly easy to do) and sat on them, they would become convinced that the other three were trying to kill them, and try to kill them first. The victor would then kill themselves. When the main characters become royal and fall under the curse, it's left to Penny (the only non-royal) to break the curse. Eliot's Fillorian wife, Fen, suggests that the only way to defeat the curse is to let it run its course. Penny gets four drug syringes that will stop his friends' hearts, and then four shots of adrenaline that will bring them back. After he explains this, he gets distracted, and the royals grab the syringes and start stabbing each other.
Fen: I suppose this is one way to get the killing bit over with.
Penny: Yeah. This is what I was planning.
- Spartacus: Blood and Sand: By War of the Damned, Naevia is convinced all Romans are callous, two-faced monsters just waiting for an opportunity to strike once they've lowered their guard, and meets five of the seven criteria for this trope: she's consumed with getting revenge, tends to assume the worst of people (with the exception of Crixus), is prone to aggression and takes mercy for weakness, initially refuses to accept the blame for her mistakes, and is convinced there's a conspiracy to take down the rebels from within (she's actually right about that, but she directs her suspicions at the wrong person completely).
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In a first-season episode, Quark makes a note of Odo's suspicious nature by saying the paranoia must be a trait inherent to Odo's species. Much later in the series, it is revealed that Odo's species are indeed paranoid, and regard all non-changelings with distrust. The entire species takes this paranoia to such extremes as subjugation of entire civilizations, and hiding their own homeworld from any outsiders.
- One episode of Stargate SG-1 has Pyrus, who's convinced that every outsider that set foot on his planet is trying to steal his naquadah due to repeated sarcophagus use. Daniel later becomes this while suffering through withdrawal, insisting that the others are trying to kill him by not allowing him to return to the planet.
- 7 Yüz: From the start of "Karşılaşmalar", Onur is deeply perturbed by the app's potential, citing privacy concerns; Gözde wonders what harm a fun little application could do, and sees her husband as excessively suspicious. It turns out he does have reason to be paranoid just not for the one he claims.
Onur: I don't like the fact that they know our every step. Some things should remain a mystery.
- Josephine Engel from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues is a heroic and sympathetic portrayal of a teenage girl suffering from severe paranoia. Her past of being bullied and abused has led her to become distrustful of everyone. When she panics, she falls into a conspiratorial mindset where everyone is secretly working for a higher power and out to get her. It's so bad that she even entertains the idea that a squirrel is somehow working maliciously against her (though she does call herself out for that one).
- The society of Paranoia is run by The Computer, a well-meaning civil service AI... but in the wake of an ancient disaster, the first files it could find that weren't moved off-site or corrupted were civil defense documents from 1957, and things rapidly went downhill from there. While nowadays many threats against Alpha Complex are real, It's just as likely to misinterpret some random bit of evidence and send a Troubleshooter team off on a wild goose chase.
- Bug Fables: Riz is a high-strung Damselfly living in the Far Grasslands who is incredibly hostile and violent towards anyone looking to enter the Fishing Village, and even when Team Snakemouth defeats him and assures him that they mean no harm, he still doesn't entirely trust them despite allowing them passage into the village.
- Corruption of Laetitia: The developer states that Alfredus Marian is a self-centered person who doesn't trust anyone but himself. He refuses to accept that his policies are doing more harm than good, is convinced that foreign nations and demonkind are going to threaten his countries, and doesn't want anyone having more power than him. Even his allies are treated with condescension at best since he constantly doubts their ability to serve his agenda. Despite Celeste starting with no doubts about the Elysian Order, he still steals her power because he's that afraid of the off-chance that she betrays him, which becomes a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy when she survives his attempt to kill her. As the developer puts it, he's more afraid of harm caused by imaginary enemies than the real harm he causes to others.
- Hero King Quest: Peacemaker Prologue: Dark Lord Spidergland is a paranoid tyrant who only cares about maintaining her hold over the Dark Realm. Due to a previous rebellion from the goblinoids, Spidergland believes they and other non-dark elf races will attempt to overthrow her again, so she treats them all as second class citizens who are expected to slave away for her pet projects without being rewarded. Since she wasn't approved by Dark Mother's Azoth sword, Spidergland extends her suspicions to her own daughter Spidervenom, who she imprisoned and eventually sold out to the Cerulean Land, all because the latter could potentially earn the approval of the sword and steal her authority. Strangely, she doesn't extend her suspicion to the Cerulean Kingdom, but she still allows them to take her land and slaughter non-dark elves out of the belief that they will spare her, showing how selfish she really is behind her talk of maintaining peace. Even when her sister Spiderweb corners her and calls her out on failing her responsibilities, Spidergland refuses to admit that her terrible treatment of her people led to them rebelling against her for the second time.
- Injustice: Gods Among Us: In an alternate version of the DC Universe, Superman establishes a dictatorship on Earth after being tricked into killing Lois Lane and nuking Metropolis by The Joker. Big Blue becomes hypersensitive to any criticism levied on him, responding with outright violence at times. As time progressed, he becomes a rage-fueled madman ranting about how "ungrateful" people are towards his rule and ignoring his own faults by passing on the blame to others, even killing two of his own allies when they realize how far he's fallen. He even develops an obsession on Multiverse Lois when told about it, planning to forcefully take her as his bride even if she won't like it and kill Multiverse Superman.
- Lonely Wolf Treat: Juju definitely qualifies. Throughout the series, she seems perpetually unhappy, and has a consistently grim and cynical view of the world. She sees it as her duty to vigilantly protect her village from threats, especially predators, is thoroughly convinced of her own righteousness, and refuses to accept blame after her own Jerkass behavior leads to her being kidnapped by the foxes. She acts controlling and emotionally manipulative towards Mochi, tries to send her off to her parents "for your own good". All of this may stem from her father disappearing when she was young, apparently eaten by wolves.
- In Planescape: Torment, a major reason your character has so much trouble discovering his true nature and identity is that one of your previous incarnations was a mentally ill paranoiac. When he learned about the reincarnation cycle he was stuck in, he became convinced that his other incarnations were "body thieves" out to steal his life. He frequently destroyed journals they wrote, set up traps to impede the progress of future incarnations, and generally did everything he could to spite them because he thought they wanted to do the same.
- Psychonauts: Boyd Cooper, an inmate-turned-guard at Thorny Towers Home for the Disturbed, suffers from extreme paranoid delusions, believing himself at the center of a conspiracy where the world is out to get him. While this is the reason he was kept at Thorny Towers, the reason he was committed in the first place was for burning down the department store he worked at after being fired for, according to supplementary materials, randomly accusing and detaining mall patrons for supposedly being in on the plot against him.
- Star Stealing Prince has Edgar and Lina, the parents of Prince Snowe. They refuse to admit their plans for Sabine's peace were flawed, are suspicious of anyone who steps foot in their Sepulcher (including the people they recruited to help their plans) to the point of "cast first ask questions later," are Jerkasses to everyone but themselves, are controlling of their kingdom to the point of brainwashing them, are lacking in empathy towards everyone but themselves, and believe that the Snowe they see before them is an impostor giving them a Hope Spot (despite how only he and Astra could use the memory release spell). If they had just listened to the party and trusted they had good intentions rather than treating them as invaders, they could have avoided a needless and fatal boss battle. The reason for their paranoia is because their original kingdom was unjustly destroyed by the lords, causing them to become desperate to Never Be Hurt Again.
- Tales of Vesperia: The Empty Mask shows that Alexei slowly became more paranoid over time, causing him to become a selfish and self-righteous villain. After the Great War, Alexei became very distrustful of the Entelexeia and feared they could attack again at any time, which is why he wants to throw large amounts of money into building the Heracles to counter them, not caring about the consequences on diplomacy with the guilds. He also becomes distrustful of his fellow imperials after Cactoph kills his troops, causing Alexei to assassinate political rivals in order to maintain his influence and get revenge on his corrupt enemies. Later, Alexei somehow comes to the conclusion that Don Whitehorse might end up interfering with his plans in the future, despite Don not being privy to his plans, so he preemptively sends Schwann to spy on him. At Baction, he starts questioning Schwann's loyalty and grabs the latter's face while stating that the latter should be his puppet, showing that Alexei is a Control Freak in both his politics and treatment of his soldiers. During his boss battle, he makes it clear that he believes he's the only one capable of leading the world. If Estelle and Flynn are chosen for that battle, Alexei tells them that their fettered methods are milquetoast and weak in comparison to his own methods.
- In RWBY, this can well be considered General Ironwood's fatal flaw. He brought an army to the Vytal festival because he was worried about security, ignoring both the unfortunate implications of Atlas sending an entire army to basically occupy a sovereign nation, and the mounting anxiety and fear people would naturally feel from having an army float over their heads, especially since Grimm are attracted by negativity. After Cinder hijacks his army and use them against Vale, it gets worse. When the audience next sees him, he is working on a plan to combat Salem, but is so paranoid about her figuring it out that he doesn't even let the governing council of Atlas in on it, which further enflames the tension between Atlas and its poorer sibling Mantle, since all they can see is that the general of Atlas is redirecting vital resources from civilian sectors to military for no good reason, something that ultimately lets Watts get an entry into Atlas' security system. He finally manages to overcome his paranoia near the end of volume 7, agreeing to work with a political rival he had previously distrusted for the sake of Mantle and Atlas' safety. Only for Cinder to press his Trauma Button, convincing him that he's played straight into Salem's hand, and going full dictator out of fear.
- The main character of I Love Yoo Shin-Ae, because of all the bad things that happened in her childhood, tends to expect the worst from strangers, and acts like a jerk to drive people away from her, though she's not very good at it.
- Clair from Monster Pulse is the only kid still scared of her own monster after the initial encounter. She thinks her spine wants to murder her and reacts strongly when her friends suggest otherwise, and when she meets Bina, she immediately accuses her of planning to kill her (right after reminding her spine not to "get any big ideas").
- John from UnOrdinary becomes this at late Season 1 and the Season 2. With Claire and Arlo's ambushes and horrible treatment of the high-tiers fresh on his mind, combined with rampage as Joker and new authority as King, his deteriorating mind starts imagining the worst out of everybody combined with feeling like he is entirely flawed, incapable of growth and might fail at his duties. This leads him to assault any student at Wellston High for not meeting his expectations, out of fear that they'll decieve and betray him just like his former friend Claire did back in New Bostin. He also rationalizes that Seraphina's confrontation about his past and him being Joker and Arlo intervening when he began to assault her were planned to decieve and betray him and declares both of them are dead to him, swearing to never see them ever again. Ultimately brings about his downfall, as not only does he get overpowered, his mind realizes that nobody is going to come for his now at this point, and he goes insane, losing control of his ability. This however is then proven wrong when Sera refuses to give up on him and finally manages to some sense on him.
- The last king of Auru from Plume, after his ascension to the throne via fratricide, becomes obsessed with the idea that someone will dispose of him the same way. Almost becomes a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy when his actions cause Corrick to dream of and consider murdering him.
- Doris's new boss in Val and Isaac is another robot of Doris's model, but her detective programming...could perhaps stand to be debugged, to the point where she's convinced Doris is bugging her office to steal her secrets.
- Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender becomes this at the second to last episode. With Mai and Ty Lee's betrayal at Boiling Rock fresh on her mind, combined with new authority as Fire Lord, her deteriorating mind starts imagining the worst out of everybody combined with feeling like she might fail at her duties. This leads her to banish her servants, the imperial fire army, the Dai Li and even her servants, out of fear that they'll betray her like Mai and Ty Lee did. Ultimately brings about her downfall, as not only does she get defeated, her mind realizes that nobody is going to come for her now at this point, and she goes insane.
- Dan from Dan Vs. often justifies his plans of Disproportionate Retribution to Chris by saying the minor thing that angered him is a sign or could be the result of something much worse. He also got preemptive revenge on some new neighbors. Because he thought they were almost too nice, so he came to the conclusion that they must be cannibals. Although he was wrong that time, a lot of his paranoid suspicions are proven to be right.
- Demona from Gargoyles is a particularly tragic case of this trope, as her paranoia, hatred, and wrath have dealt just as much, if not more damage to herself as it did to those within reach of her.
- Duncan as well, who had Finlay killed because he was afraid Finlay would put his son MacBeth in power, despite the fact Finlay had no intention of doing so. He later tried to do the same to MacBeth over his fear MacBeth would replace him, which ultimately caused MacBeth to do so after he killed Duncan when Duncan attacked his castle.
- Dale Gribble from King of the Hill is the Conspiracy Theory version of this, but most of the time it's Played For Laughs. From attaching a security system to his bathroom to thinking that Chuck Mangione is hiding in the local Mega-Lo Mart (He's right about that one, though).
- Tangled: The Series: Cassandra fits this trope to a T after her FaceHeel Turn, believing everyone in Corona were always mistreating her, not appreciating her, trying to steal her thunder, etc. against all evidence to the contrary. Ironically some of the things she believes (particularly the kingdom hating her and not appreciating her) become true as a result of her actions, yet she never accepts this is the case until her Villainous Breakdown in the finale. Even before that, she was a resentful cynic who thought Love Is a Weakness because it makes you vulnerable. Part of this is Psychological Projection, her projecting her own jealousy and lack of regard for others onto her friends.
- Stunticon Breakdown of The Transformers practically suffers from constant fear from all things (living or nonliving) that are out to get him.