Finding Balance In A World of Paranoia: A Guide To Overcoming Anxiety And Fear

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated May 16, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Have you been experiencing fear and anxiety as a result of widespread paranoia? If so, you’re not alone. It can be challenging not to feel some sense of paranoia when conspiracy theories are quickly spread on social media and news outlets make us feel distrustful of our leaders. You may wonder how to stop feeling anxious in a world full of paranoia. Below, we’ll look at paranoia and ways to overcome fear and anxiety that can result from living in a world where paranoia is so prevalent.

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What's stopping you from getting help for your paranoia?

Nearly everybody has experienced paranoia at some time during their lives, with research showing that paranoid thoughts occur in the general population. This may be a reaction to strangeness or changes in our surroundings. The rational part of our brains may want to eliminate all possible dangers before crossing the bridge into new territory. Most people are able to rationalize their fears and maintain highly functioning lifestyles, but for some, paranoia is a real condition that can lead to persecutory delusions, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.* In these cases, there are treatments that can help, including medication and/or talk therapy.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. Support is available 24/7.

When you think they're all out to get you

For some people, it can be easy to believe the world is out to get them, what with the satellite images, cell phone tracking, GPS finders, and computer spyware in the world today. While there are government agencies that use such technology, you may not have significant reasons to be worried. Unless you are breaking the law, you may not be under anyone's radar except perhaps an occasional scam artist online. Putting this into perspective may provide a more balanced view and reduce feelings of fear and anxiety. 

How to stop being paranoid in a world of constant news

It can be difficult to avoid sources that feed fear and paranoia. Heightened anxieties over terrorism and immigration have reignited fears and created tension between opposing views. Political parties and ideologies are deeply divided, with accusations on all sides.

The media has often had a role in stoking fear and anxiety among the public. Further, instant global communication has given the media extensive reach and great influence. The conspiracy theories, the organized movements, and the real and imagined activities of government agencies can seem more present than ever.

It may help to take an occasional hiatus from the media so that you can give yourself an emotional break from sources of paranoia. One study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking shows that even a one-week break from social media can reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve well-being. The news and social media may be trying to sway you, but that doesn’t necessarily have to lead to fear or anxiety.

Conditions that cause paranoia

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Some people experience something more than fear and anxiety, such as delusions and paranoid thoughts. In these cases, they may be experiencing a mental health condition, such as paranoid personality disorder or schizophrenia. These conditions can affect their ability to associate with others and carry out daily activities without disruption.

Paranoid personality disorder

Paranoid personality disorder is one of several personality disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). A relatively rare disorder, research shows it affects only 0.5% to 4.5% of the population in the United States. It tends to cause a person to be suspicious and to assume malicious intentions in others. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, this personality disorder is classified under Cluster A conditions, which tend to be characterized by eccentric thinking. A person with paranoid personality disorder may not see their way of behaviors or thoughts as a problem, but their condition can affect their relationships and everyday functioning. For example, they may be hypersensitive, read into comments of others, and suspect infidelity in their partner.

Schizophrenia

According to the American Psychological Association, schizophrenia affects less than 1% of the population. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including hallucinations, disorganized speech, and delusions, such as beliefs that one is being targeted by others. Despite these beliefs, individuals experiencing schizophrenia normally don’t pose a threat to others, and their symptoms may improve significantly with treatment. 

How to get help for paranoid thoughts

If you’re experiencing symptoms of such mental health conditions, it may be challenging to get help due to mistrust of mental health professionals. However, there are therapists who specialize in helping people assess their thoughts in a safe setting without judgment. 

If paranoid thoughts make it challenging to visit a therapist’s office, you might consider trying online therapy, which numerous studies have shown to be effective. One meta-analysis from 2017 showed that online therapy is effective for a variety of mental health concerns, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, and social anxiety.

Online therapy allows you to speak to a therapist from home via phone, live chat, or videoconferencing—or a combination of these modalities. With BetterHelp, you can also write to your therapist at any time via in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can. This may prove helpful if you experience paranoid thoughts, fear, or anxiety in between sessions. 

Reality-checking

One of the techniques you might learn in therapy is how to check the reality of your suspicions. While there may be some things you can't check, this technique may be helpful in some circumstances. This approach to your fears may help you feel more in control of your life. However, it can be hard to know what's reasonable when you're experiencing fear and anxiety. A licensed counselor may be able to help you assess your suspicions to determine whether you have anything to be concerned about. Your therapist can listen to you and assess your thoughts from an objective point of view. This may lead to reduced anxiety and greater overall well-being.

Reducing anxiety

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What's stopping you from getting help for your paranoia?

Taking steps to reduce your anxiety may lead to better mental and physical health. It may also cut down on the time you spend worrying about your suspicions. Some techniques a counselor might teach you include meditation, guided imagery, and mindfulness, the latter of which has been shown to reduce symptoms of paranoia. You may discover more peace when you practice observing uncomfortable thoughts and watching them pass out of your mind as quickly as they come in.

Takeaway

If you’re experiencing paranoid thoughts or suspicions, you don’t have to face them alone. With online therapy, you can speak with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your home at a time that works for you. You may find that a therapist can help you assess your thoughts and help you work through them in a safe space. Take the first step toward relief from anxiety, fear, and paranoia, and reach out to BetterHelp today.
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