How To Stop Paranoia And Anxiety
By Nadia Khan
Updated January 23, 2019
Reviewer Christy B.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is something everyone experiences at one time or another. It's a very natural response to sometimes normal, everyday situations. The source of the anxiety differs for each of us, but the result is typically the same- excessive and intense worry. It's a form of fear or apprehension about what may happen to us. Physical symptoms can accompany this worry in the form of an increased heart rate, sweating, and shortness of breath, among others.
What is Paranoia?
Paranoia is an extreme form of anxiety and one that focuses on others. It's a belief that others are out to get us or mean us harm. It leads to distrust of everyone around us and what their intentions might be for us.
Fear and worry are natural emotions for all of us. They are a part of our survival traits. After all, if we don't fear something dangerous, we're much less likely to avoid it. Unfortunately, because human lives are more complex than the lives of other animals, we develop many more ideas of what to worry about. Ideas about the other people we encounter in our lives. Living amongst other people is uncertain. We never know whether they mean us well or mean us harm. For anyone, this can cause feelings of anxiety. And for some, when these uncertainties develop from anxiety into paranoia. With the right tools, however, you can learn how to stop paranoia and anxiety.
How to Stop Anxiety
- Breathe. The first line of defense against any of the thoughts that lead us down a dark path is to breathe. Learning deep-breathing exercises and meditating can help slow your racing thoughts down enough to get your bearings. Once there, you are more capable of thinking clearly and more rationally about what is causing your fear and anxiety.
- Ask questions. Once you've calmed your breath and your mind to the point where you can think clearly, ask yourself if you are reacting rationally or in a way that is helpful. Is what you are facing insurmountable? Is this something you can deal with, small step by small step? Is there someone you can ask for help? Try to determine if you are thinking reasonably or if your emotions are getting the better of you.
- Plan. Figure out what will be most helpful for you when you start to feel the symptoms of anxiety creeping up. Or maybe there is no "creep" and it just suddenly presents itself. Either way, having a plan of action can be immensely helpful. It should involve anything that you find helpful or anxiety-reducing. For example, calling a friend, you trust or taking a walk around the block. Make sure to have several steps in your plan in case one isn't enough, or the first couple aren't helping at that moment. But, rest assured that even knowing that you have a plan of action that you can utilize when anxiety comes on can help you to remain or get to a place of calm.
- Medication. Talk to your doctor about what your experiencing. Some anxiety is to be expected, but if you're feeling unable to shake it and it's interrupting your life, it may help you most to talk to your doctor about what options are available to you. Many of the medications people take help just to quell the underlying tremor of anxiety that persists within them.
How to Stop Paranoia
The idea that someone is out to hurt you can take many forms. You may be paranoid that a partner or lover is going to leave you for someone else. Or you may constantly be worried that a stranger will attack you or break into your home if you let your guard down. You may be worried about someone else's safety altogether, for instance, that your child's health is at risk. It is normal to have general concerns or worries, but when they get in the way of your daily functioning, it can become problematic. When you start to worry excessively about these things, you can take these steps to keep paranoia from taking over your life.
- Recognize the "What-if" game. Many people play a game with their minds. It can be called the "What if?" game. It's when you worry about a situation in the future, something that hasn't happened yet. And instead of visualizing yourself succeeding or having a positive outcome, you start to think about all the negative scenarios that could happen. Another word for this is catastrophizing, which means that you are playing out a worst case scenario in your head with no evidence that this will happen. You ask yourself, for instance, "What if this person thinks I'm stupid?" Or "What if someone laughs at my opinion?" But if you can at least recognize that you tend to see the worst-case scenario, then you can be aware of when you are playing this game with yourself.
- Practice Positive Visualizations. Choose a time when you are not experiencing anxiety or paranoia, and practice consciously putting positive images in your head. Start small, with a situation that does not typically cause you to worry. Play through the situation in your mind, imagining how well you accomplish each step.
- Banish Self-conscious Thinking. If your paranoia is rooted in social anxiety and the worry that others will not accept you, then the best thing to do is just stop caring what others think. It sounds easier said than done, but you can never please everyone, and constantly guessing what someone else wants from you will leave you drained. Most of the assumptions that we have about what others think about us are due to our insecurities rather than facts or evidence that someone doesn't like you. If you work on being happy with yourself, instead, you will likely stop projecting negative thoughts about yourself onto others. Worst case scenario, someone may not like you, and you won't care!
- Work on your anxiety. Extreme anxiety results in paranoia so it can be helpful to tackle it first. You've already about how to get a better handle on your anxiety, so this step should be easy! First breathe, then ask questions, make a plan, and talk to your doctor about your options.
Dealing with Both Paranoia and Anxiety
When your anxiety skyrockets and seems insurmountable, or your paranoia is persistent, it would be most beneficial to enlist the help of the experts. Although having some fears protects you from risks, letting those fears control you will also stop you from living your life. At BetterHelp.com, you will find thousands of therapists at the ready to help you reach your goals. If you want to make changes in your life, BetterHelp enables you to easily reach out to a licensed therapist to get help for more serious paranoia and anxiety.