People who have been mugged or randomly attacked can remain
highly distrustful of others long after the incident, a new study
The findings reveal a previously under-recognised effect of
physical assault and could help improve therapy for victims, the British
Their study included more than 100 people treated at a hospital
for minor injuries suffered during a mugging or physical assault. The
participants were monitored for the next six months.
Four out of five victims said that since the assault, they were
more fearful of other people than they wanted to be, according to the
Factors that resulted in strong feelings of mistrust lasting
for six months included: being attacked close to home, feeling defeated at the
time, excessive worry afterward, feeling unsupported by others and sleeping
It is well known that suffering a physical assault can cause
symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, but this is the first study to show
that excessive mistrust of other people, or paranoia, can last for months after
an assault, the researchers said.
"It is very understandable that being attacked makes us wary of
the people around us. Our mindset may become more like that of a bodyguard,
vigilant for danger," study leader Daniel Freeman, a professor at the University
of Oxford, said in a Wellcome Trust news release.
"When we are overly mistrustful, that is a form of paranoia,"
Freeman said. "It may well be a normal temporary change in our thinking after
being a victim of attack."
The danger of such thoughts, however, is that people may end up
isolating themselves from others and dwell only on the worst, said Freeman, who
led the study while at the Institute of Psychiatry of King's College
"It is an under-recognised problem in the aftermath of an
attack," he said.
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