How To Stop Paranoia And Overcome Unfounded Distrust In Five Steps

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated May 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It can be normal to feel scared or have a mild sense of worry sometimes. However, paranoia may be a symptom of a more significant mental health concern. Paranoia is an unfounded distrust or fear of being persecuted or harmed. It may involve fears of being followed, betrayed, or exploited. For many people, these fears feel real and may accompany delusions like believing a stranger in the grocery store poses a threat to you. If you're experiencing paranoia, you're not alone, and there are a few steps you can take to overcome it. Learning how to get rid of paranoia starts with understanding what exactly this condition is and how it can affect your well-being.

Is paranoia interfering with your quality of life?

What is paranoia?

Paranoia is a state of intense sensitivity or worry of persecution or harm in a situation that may not fit the fear. When you are experiencing paranoia, you might feel suspicious of others and fear that they are out to get you. Paranoia is often associated with mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and paranoid personality disorder. However, it can be experienced by people from various backgrounds, including those without a mental health diagnosis. Paranoia can interfere with cognitive functioning, relationships, and work without support, leading to issues with a person’s mental well-being.

If you're experiencing paranoia, you might be experiencing the emergence of repressed fears or worries. For example, you might fear that you're ill with a terminal disease, even without the facts to back it up. When you hold these beliefs, you might become fearful each time you feel a minor symptom, thinking that it is proof of your fear being true. For many, seeing a therapist can help them process paranoid and suspicious thoughts and the uncomfortable feelings that can accompany them.


Paranoia example: Jolie 

Some fears may not have much of a realistic basis in the real world. However, you may have a strong feeling that they'll occur. The feelings associated with this type of suspicion or paranoia may overtake you, causing you to make rash decisions or speak irrationally to someone you're suspicious of. 

Without addressing your suspicions or seeking credible evidence to support or disprove your fears, you might move into complete paranoia. Take the example of the fictional individual, Jolie, below: 

Jolie thinks their partner is cheating on them. She bases this suspicion on her partner getting home late from work more than three times in the past few weeks. Because her partner must wake up early for work, she has not addressed her concern. Instead, Jolie begins to create scenarios about where her partner is and with whom they spend time. She begins to look for evidence of cheating in their past conversations. 

At first, Julie might try to reason with herself. For example, maybe her partner told her about plans to work on a nature project requiring some late nights. She might also ask her partner about their work projects or if they've met anyone interesting. After a week, Jolie's partner stops spending late nights at work, and their schedule returns to normal. However, Jolie still ruminates about their past.  

Jolie begins to feel paranoid if her partner looks at their phone, gets a call, or texts their best friend. She starts to experience frequent bad moods, loses sleep, and starts to avoid all intimacy with her partner because she's convinced of their partner's infidelity. Jolie may be afraid to ask them outright because she's afraid one of two things will happen: admittance of infidelity (which could significantly disrupt her world) or denial of infidelity (which Jolie may not trust). If Jolie does not resolve her suspicions, she could negatively change the nature of her relationship with her partner. 

Five steps Jolie can take to ease her fears

People often avoid choosing confrontation for fear that their suspicions may be confirmed. It can be embarrassing to admit you hold certain suspicions or paranoid thoughts. However, avoiding the issue may only cause suspicions to grow, allowing paranoia to overtake your thoughts and actions. Below are a few steps any person experiencing similar feelings to Jolie could take: 

  1. Identify concrete evidence to support or negate fears.

  2. Ask if the suspicion is merely a symptom of an underlying mental health concern.

  3. Ask someone else close to the events what they think.

  4. If fears linger, reflect on the evidence. If there is none, the suspicions may be false.

  5. Ask a person directly involved with their suspicions to confirm or deny them.

If, after confronting a situation, you find that your fears were justified, it may be a positive development. Although it might come with painful emotions, understanding reality can reduce stress and ensure you have the space to decide what to do next. Whether you suspect a significant other is cheating or fear you're about to be fired, it may be unhealthy to ruminate on your fears without resolution. 

If you're experiencing persistent paranoia after taking the five steps above, seeking guidance from a qualified therapist may be valuable. Paranoia can be normal, but when reason and logic fail to alleviate your fears, there may be an underlying cause. A mental health professional may offer insight and guidance as well as develop a treatment plan.
Is paranoia interfering with your quality of life?

Counseling options 

If you're experiencing paranoia and want to learn to cope with this mental health condition, you may benefit from talking to a therapist. As leaving home may increase feelings of paranoia, many clients appreciate the benefits and convenience of online therapy options. 

Research shows that internet-based therapy effectively treats paranoia and similar mental health concerns. In a double-blind study published by the NIHR Journals Library, research pointed to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as a successful way of treating paranoia and psychosis. The report discusses online tools for administering CBT, which can lead more people experiencing symptoms to seek care. CBT works by giving clients the tools to manage their paranoid symptoms and reframe unhelpful thoughts. According to the study, online therapy provides flexibility in treating mental health conditions that can cause paranoia, narrowing the psychological treatment gap.

Internet-based therapy can be a flexible, practical choice for managing paranoia symptoms. If you are having trouble coping with paranoid thoughts, the stigma associated with therapy may prevent you from seeking help. Online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp can allow you to reach out to your therapist outside of scheduled sessions. If you are experiencing unwanted thoughts, message your therapist anytime using the asynchronous unlimited message feature. You can also choose between live video, phone, or chat sessions each week.  

Counselor reviews

"Loretta has undoubtedly changed my life. In my late attempt to deal with trauma, she has shown me the light at the end of the tunnel. Through the various strategies and methods she provided me, I have become less paranoid, guilt-ridden, and anxious. I am so glad I decided to start using BetterHelp and was paired with Loretta."

"I used to be nervous before any counseling session, afraid of what the counselor would think but now I look forward to our sessions. Ebonii really helps me clear out my head and steer me back to the right path for better mental health. Any time I feel like I'm heading back down the negative path I think of what Ebonii has explained to me and it helps a lot."


Paranoia can be scary, but there are ways to treat it. Professional guidance can make a difference in your experience by teaching you ways to challenge unwanted thoughts and understand your relationship needs. Contact a therapist for further guidance and support if you're ready to start.

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