I have heard of people who create conflicts (non-violent) in their minds (and nowhere else) with other people that don't exist (the conflicts don't exist, not the people involved) and for no particular reason. I remember seeing a word with that definition and I cannot remember it.

  • Haha.. Are you saying people who have the fear a duck is always watching them? Like those kind of problems?
    – anonymous
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 4:12
  • The wording of this question is a bit ambiguous. Are you asking about a person who stirs up a conflict where no such conflict previously existed, or a person who imagines a conflict where no such conflict actually exists?
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 18:07

6 Answers 6


A person who experiences unreal conflicts in their mind is "paranoid" or "delusional"

  • paranoid (adj) - having or showing an unreasonable feeling that people are trying to harm you, do not like you, etc. MW
  • a paranoid personality

  • paranoid delusions

  • delusional (adj) - suffering from a false belief or opinion. TFD
  • labored under the delusion that success was at hand.
  • having delusions of persecution

EDIT - If the person is perfectly aware that the conflict isn't real, a "fantasizer" may fit.

  • fantasizer (noun) - one who experiences dreams or daydreams.

One who fantasizes about nonexistent conflicts deserves the title "masochistic fantasizer"

  • Paranoid or delusional would work if the person thought the conflict was real. Let me clarify that the person in question is well aware that the conflict isn't real. It's like the person is rehearsing for a conflict that may not ever come to be. I hope that clarifies my question a little bit more. Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 9:05
  • @DarthSarcastic I've edited.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 16:14

How about

Eristic: from the ancient Greek word Eris meaning wrangle or strife, often refers to a type of argument where the participants fight and quarrel without any reasonable goal.

The aim usually is to win the argument and/or to engage in a conflict for the sole purpose of wasting time through arguments, not to potentially discover a true or probable answer to any specific question or topic. Eristic is arguing for the sake of conflict as opposed to the seeking of conflict resolution.


Are you looking for hallucinations (or hallucinatory delirium) ?

A hallucination is a sensation or sensory perception that a person experiences in the absence of a relevant external stimulus. That is, a person experiences something that doesn’t really exist (except in their mind). A hallucination can occur in any sensory modality — visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, etc.

[Jantoo cartoons - 1]



individuals, both in terrorism matters and elsewhere who, because of personality traits: collect social slights, historical grievances, or wrongs for reasons that personally benefit them or their belief system. The collection of these grievances goes beyond what one normally experiences in life; after all, we have all had slights and we have all been unfairly treated at some point. These individuals use these wrongs, slights, or wounds, to then justify their beliefs or behaviors, or to help them deal with their own psychological or social distress. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/spycatcher/201304/wound-collectors)

Navarro, Joe (2005) "Hunting Terrorists: A Look at The Psychopathology of Terror." In keeping with their paranoia, terrorists are perennial wound collectors. A useful term because it is so prevalent with these individuals.


Mental Rehearsal or Defensive Pessimism. I am familiar with the behavior from personal experience and from leading support groups.

Mental rehearsal can be explained as follows: "Adapting ones behaviour, by mental rehearsal allows individuals who are normally easily irritable to cope with those situations better." https://psychologydictionary.org/mental-rehearsal/

A specific use of mental preparedness or rehearsal for is Defensive Pessimism.

A good explanation of Defensive Pessimism is found at https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/dont-think-positively/379993/ It quotes a pioneer of the theory, Julie Norem, a psychology professor at Wellesley College, explaining how it is used and benefits people, especially when dealing with situational anxiety.

People use mental rehearsal and defensive pessimism to prepare for possible future situations or conflicts, similar to the way elite athlete visualize performance.

A surprising number of people use this type of rehearsal (or are taught to do this) as a way of practicing social skills and coping with anxiety.

There are a variety of "real" reasons why someone would do this. Please do not assume that people using these strategies are "crazy".

Paranoid and even delusions are possible causes of people imagining nonexistent conflicts, but are extreme and often unkind labels that should not be used except as medical diagnoses.


The words "Drama queen" comes to mind.

  • But the melodrama/histrionics that a drama queens exhibit are for a reason (attention seeking). The OP stated 'and for no particular reason'. Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 2:05
  • ...and your suggestion is?
    – dwoz
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 4:06
  • 2
    I upvoted 'paranoid' and 'delusional'. Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 4:10

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