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Unusually persistent complainants

  • Grant Lester (a1), Franzcp Beth Wilson (a1), Lynn Griffin (a1) and Paul E. Mullen (a1)
Abstract
Background

Querulous paranoia may have disappeared from the psychiatric literature, but is it flourishing in modern complaints organisations and the courts? Aims To investigate the unusually persistent complainants who lay waste to their own lives and place inordinate demands and stress on complaints organisations.

Method

Complaints officers completed questionnaires on both unusually persistent complainants and matched controls.

Results

Persistent complainants (distinguished by their pursuit of vindication and retribution) consumed time and resources and resorted to both direct and veiled threats. Attempts to distinguish these people from a control group on the basis of the manner in which their claims were initially managed failed.

Conclusions

Persistent complainants' pursuit of vindication and retribution fits badly with complaints systems established to deliver reparation and compensation. These complainants damaged the financial and social fabric of their own lives and frightened those dealing with their claims. The study suggests methods of early detection and alternative management strategies.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Professor Paul E. Mullen, Thomas Embling Hospital, Locked Bag 10, Fairfield, Victoria 3078, Australia. E-mail: paul.mullen@dhs.vic.gov.au
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
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Unusually persistent complainants

  • Grant Lester (a1), Franzcp Beth Wilson (a1), Lynn Griffin (a1) and Paul E. Mullen (a1)
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eLetters

Bullying breeds paranoia

Jose L. Gonzalez de Rivera, Professor of Psychiatry
29 September 2005

This is an excellent article, and much to the point. But it misses very important question: whence does the unusual behaviour of the “persistent complainant” come from? It is easy to conclude, as indeed the authors seem to imply, that it is idiosyncratic, a process, in Jasperian terms. However, we suspect that, in many cases, it may be a reaction to abnormal external circumstances. We have some data to back this contention. We have applied the Spanish version of Derogatis´ SCL90R questionnaire to 194 consecutive complainants registered by the Spanish Association against Psychological Harassment at the Workplace. Our subjects had been previously tested with the LIPT-60 (Leymann Inventory ofPsychological Terrorization – 60 items) and interviewed by psychological trained officers of the Association, who excluded those who had no objective basis for their complaints. Our results show that the general scores and all the dimensions of psychopathology were far higher in the complainants than in the general population. In addition, the scores for the dimensions of Paranoid Ideation, Hostility and Obsession-compulsion were significantly higher than in 331 ambulatory psychiatric patients of mixed diagnosis, mainly in the neurotic range. Further testing of a subsample of subjects (n=30) with psychiatric interview and the Rorschach Psychodiagnostic Test showed evidence of a “secondary paranoia”, which differs in several aspects of the characteristics of patients with paranoid personality and paranoid disorders. unlike paranoid patients, most of the complainants have responses with “texture”, psychological damage and situational stress determinants).We concluded that permanence in a hostile or persecutory environment in the workplace produces severe reactive psychopathology, and facilitates the development of a retaliatory attitude that fits with the construct of paranoid ideation.We will be very grateful to the authors if they were to further study their sample, in an attempt to confirm our findings.JL Gonzalez de Rivera and MJ Rodriguez-Abuin, Institute of Psychotherapy, Madrid, Spain ... More

Conflict of interest: None Declared

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