How To Stop Paranoia And Anxiety
Updated July 24, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Christy B.
Anxiety is something everyone experiences at one time or another. It's a very natural response to sometimes normal, everyday situations. 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.
Everyone experiences fear and worry. 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. With the right tools, however, you can learn how to stop paranoia and anxiety.
Here, we’ll talk about what causes paranoia, the relationship between substance abuse and mental health, and how to address paranoia on your own or with the help of mental health services if necessary.
How to Stop Anxiety
Anxiety isn’t always a bad thing and, even when it is, it isn’t always a sign of mental illness. If you experience occasional anxiety, you may not need the help of mental health experts. Try these tips on your own and if they don’t help … We’ll cover that later in the article.
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.
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.
If you can, don’t just ask these questions to yourself, ask them to someone else. It will probably be easier for a friend or family member to tell when your thoughts are irrational. If that’s something that happens a lot, it could be a sign that your anxiety is a potential sign of mental illness rather than just a quirk.
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, making a detailed to-do list, 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.
For most people, managing feelings of anxiety is primarily a matter of recognizing the onset and knowing how to make yourself feel better. However, for some people, these steps aren’t enough. If feelings of anxiety are preventing you from living a normal and healthy life, it may be the result of a more serious mental health issue.
Talk to your doctor about what you're 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
Paranoia is similar to anxiety. However, people experiencing anxiety are often irrationally worried about things that are likely to happen. People experiencing paranoia are often worried about things that are never going to happen – for example, that people are going to hurt you or frame you for a crime.
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.
It is normal to have general concerns or worries, but when they get in the way of your daily functioning, it can become problematic or be symptomatic of even more serious mental illness. 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. When you catch yourself playing this game, take a deep breath, and pause. Remind yourself that there is no logical reason that the worst case would happen over other, more positive outcomes.
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 read 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 if you feel that you need more support.
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How do I stop being paranoid?
If you're paranoid, it's difficult to control those feelings, especially if your paranoia is more severe than in most cases – if it is, or is caused by, a mental health problem. However, there are steps you can take to help with your paranoia:
- Talk to a therapist about your paranoia and why you believe you feel this way. A therapist may help to identify the causes of your paranoia and give medical advice on some ways that you can treat your paranoia as well.
- Stay in good health. Eat right, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. Substance abuse and mental health are also closely related so if you do recreational drugs or abuse alcohol, getting that under control can help. Lacking any of these may cause your symptoms of paranoia to intensify.
- Practice mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy, two techniques that can help with your symptoms of paranoia. They help by allowing you to look at your thoughts and discard any that are toxic, and keep you focused on the present.
- What causes the paranoid thoughts to manifest? Write down some possible triggers, and figure out how you can avoid them. This is another issue that you can discuss with your therapist. You two can work together to prevent any episodes.
- While this won't help with extreme cases, look at your paranoia through a rational lens. Look at statistics and content that disproves your paranoia. Be rational about it as best as you can. Again, if you need help with this, consider confiding in someone close to you like a friend or family member.
- Finally, if you're trying to get help for your paranoia, you're already making progress. Many paranoid people aren't self-aware about their paranoia, and may be aggressive if someone accuses them of being paranoid. By trying to make changes, you're proving that you want to get help, which isn't the case for a lot of paranoid cases.
Is paranoia a mental illness?
It can be a mental illness on its own or it can be a symptom of another mental illness. Having slight paranoia about something may not be a sign of a mental illness, especially if you have a rational reason behind it. Sometimes, paranoia may be a product of another mental illness, like anxiety or a related condition.
Clinical paranoia, or paranoid personality disorder, is the mental illness behind paranoia for most people that experience it. Clinical paranoia is when you're 100 percent convinced that someone is out to get you, even if the evidence says otherwise. Clinical paranoia can ruin one's life and make it harder to function.
Of course, you do need to visit a health professional to make sure you have clinical paranoia. Sometimes, the clinical paranoia could be a sign of something else.
What are the signs and symptoms of paranoia?
The symptoms of paranoia are more than just thinking that someone or something is out to get you. Here are some symptoms you need to look out for:
- You have a mistrust of everyone or many people. This mistrust tends to be irrational and can trigger some intense emotions.
- You have a hard time forgiving someone, even if they've proven that they're in the wrong.
- You get extremely defensive with any criticism. Sometimes, you may even imagine the criticism.
- You always believe that someone has a hidden motive. No one can be nice to you for the sake of niceness. They must want to take advantage of you in some way.
- You are very argumentative, even when there is no reason to be.
- You have a hard time relaxing. This may be due to anxiety. Because of this, you could have a hard time falling asleep, making your paranoia worse as a result.
These are just a few symptoms, and they can show themselves in quite a few different ways. It's important to seek help if you suspect that you're paranoid.
What can cause paranoia?
Paranoia can have many causes including drug abuse and a few types of mental health issues. Here are a few of the most common causes of paranoia:
- Sometimes, your paranoia may stem from something that happened to you in the past, and this can make it feel all the more logical. For example, if you had a car crash, you may be extremely paranoid that you'll get in another one. However, being cautious can turn into extreme paranoia. If people have betrayed your trust before, this can lead to paranoia as well. These experiences can come from adulthood and especially childhood.
- You live in a place where you feel isolated from everyone else - a large city, for example, with no sense of community. Being in a community that has high rates of crime can make you paranoid, too.
- Certain mental disorders can lead to paranoia. Depression, anxiety, having low self-esteem, even eating disorders - the list goes on. Having poor sleep can lead to paranoia, especially if you can't sleep due to paranoid thoughts. It can sometimes be a tough cycle for you to break.
- Brain disorders can lead to paranoid. Someone with a form of dementia could develop paranoia.
- Some people may be more genetically prone to paranoia, but the causes for this is not known yet.
- Certain drugs and alcohol can lead to paranoid thoughts. Smoking too much cannabis in an uncomfortable environment can lead to paranoia, and so can drinking too much alcohol. Any drug, illegal or legal, could have paranoia as a side effect. Even some paints could lead to it.
How do I stop being so insecure?
Insecurity can make you feel ugly when you look fine, make you feel incompetent when you have experience, and make you feel worried when you have this. Just like paranoia, there are many reasons that one may be insecure, and there is overlap between the two. Here are some ways to reduce your insecurity.
- We can't stress this enough. Seek help from a therapist to help with your insecurity. They can help you with identifying the reasons for your insecurity and help find ways for you to improve.
- Try a positivity journal. Write down everything that makes you feel happy about yourself, and some of your securities. This can help you realize that your insecurities aren't as important as you believe they are.
- Mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy can help with this. Take a deep breath and try discarding self-defeating thoughts and thoughts that are unproductive.
Finding Help with BetterHelp
Not everyone who experiences occasional anxiety needs help from a mental health expert. However, if your feelings of anxiety and paranoia are preventing you from leading a happy and healthy life it may be the result of a potentially serious mental illness.
For more information on how BetterHelp’s licensed and professional therapists and counselors can help you, read the following counselor reviews and check out BetterHelp’s site.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is paranoia the same as anxiety?
Paranoia and anxiety are not the same, but there is much overlap and they sometimes go together.
Anxiety is a blanket term that covers quite a few disorders, and paranoia can be a part of it. Someone who is anxious may worry about things too much or have panic attacks for no reason at all. Paranoia is more about feeling like someone or something is out to get you. However, someone with anxiety may not necessarily be paranoid.
At what age does paranoia develop?
Paranoia doesn't have a magic age, but with paranoid personality disorder, many cases often start in childhood or adolescence, then worsen with time. It's quite common when you're a teen and drama starts to happen.
Some disorders that are due to age can cause paranoia. Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, which are found in older people, can lead to paranoia.
What does paranoia feel like?
Paranoia can feel different for everyone involved. You may feel intense emotions or anxiety whenever someone or something makes you paranoid. They may give you extreme anger or fear. Your mind may obsess over these people or things and you cannot change the channel in your brain no matter what you do.
How do you overcome paranoia in a relationship?
Paranoia in a relationship, especially a new one, is quite common – particularly if one of the people in the relationship has had a nasty relationship experience in the past. For some, there is a bit of paranoia about whether the relationship will last, and you may worry that your partner is cheating on you, even if there is no evidence.
If the paranoia is due to a mental disorder, then you should seek therapy. If it's because of you getting burned in the past, or because you're afraid of losing your partner, you should still go to the therapist or relationship counselor, but there are a few ways of reducing your paranoia in the relationship on your own. These include:
- Be communicative with your partner. Express your worries and your concerns. Don't outright accuse them of something they aren't doing, but express healthy worry about your relationship, especially if it's new.
- Make sure you have self-worth. Some people who may be overly paranoid about their relationship have self-worth issues. It's important that you speak to a therapist about this, or look for other ways to improve your self-esteem.
- Try not to jump to the worst conclusion if something happens. Your partner isn't responding right away? There are many rational explanations for this that don't involve cheating. It can be hard to do, but with a bit of mindfulness, you can learn how to stop being so paranoid in a relationship.
- Seek help from a relationship therapist. This is the ultimate way to eliminate any doubts or paranoia you have in a relationship. A therapist is also a great way for you to communicate your feelings without sounding like the bad guy. Quite often, it's difficult to express feelings of paranoia without making your partner upset. A therapist can be the one who explains your feelings in a way that's easy to swallow, but gets the point across.
What is a paranoid thought?
Paranoid thoughts are frightening, often reoccurring thoughts, that are unlikely to actually occur in real life.
Everyone has paranoid thoughts from time to time, however it can also be a symptom of mental health illness including borderline personality disorders, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety disorders. For some people, paranoid thoughts can also be caused or worsened by alcohol and drug abuse.
Is paranoia a symptom of anxiety?
Paranoid thoughts can be a symptom of anxiety and other mental health conditions including anxiety. However, anxiety can also be a symptom of other potentially more serious mental health conditions.
What are the signs and symptoms of paranoia?
The most common symptom of paranoia, paranoia in thoughts and actions, is usually difficult for the individual experiencing them to identify. It’s often easy for other people to recognize paranoid thoughts in others, but those paranoid thoughts often make a lot of sense to the individual having them.
Usually, an individual’s paranoid thoughts and actions are identified by someone else, whether a family member, close friend, or mental health services professional.
What triggers paranoia?
What triggers paranoia depends on the individual and on the mental health illness causing the paranoia – if there is one.
For otherwise healthy individuals, paranoid thoughts can be triggered by run-of-the-mill anxiety caused by everyday stress gone awry. Most people are able to work through these feelings and manage them in healthy and responsible ways.
However, people that experience anxiety more often because of anxiety disorders and related mental health conditions like bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Alcohol and drug abuse can also cause or trigger paranoia.
Why do I think everyone is out to get me?
Thinking that everyone is out to get you is a perfectly normal experience particularly if you have recently experienced a traumatic event.
We used to think of post-traumatic stress disorder as something that only affected combat veterans. While we know that combat veterans often do experience post-traumatic stress disorder, we also know that it can be caused by witnessing a violent crime, a bad traffic collision, or a natural disaster. Paranoid thoughts are a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.
How do you stop paranoia thoughts?
To a significant degree, how you stop your paranoid thoughts is contingent on their cause. However, there is a catch-all.
As mentioned above, it can be difficult to tell when your own thoughts are paranoid – though it may be obvious to others. Sharing your thoughts with others probably won’t be enough to make them go away. However, it might be enough to make you feel better about them.
Can paranoia be cured?
Unfortunately, many mental health issues can’t be “cured” - though you can learn to manage them. Even in cases in which mental illness is behind paranoia, working with a mental health care team can help you to put your paranoid thoughts and actions in your rear-view mirror.
Further, if your paranoia is caused or aggravated by alcohol and drug abuse, quitting these habits or addictions and leading a more healthy life style can be enough to “cure” or minimize your paranoia.
How can I improve paranoia?
If your paranoia is impacting your way of life, your first step should be to seek help from a mental health care expert by bringing your problems to your primary care provider.
If you are waiting on a diagnosis or aren’t sure that your mental health requires health care intervention, there are other steps that you can take on your own. Community-based support groups are prevalent and easy to locate in your favorite search engine or your local newspaper.
If your concerns are more urgent, the suicide prevention national helpline can be reached online or by phone at 1-800-273-8255.
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 a fulfilling 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.