Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
Paranoia is when a person is thinking or feeling that there’s an active threat against them when in reality, there isn’t. When you’re paranoid, you might have something called “delusions.” You might have a false belief that someone is out to get you, that someone is watching you, and so on. For example, if someone is paranoid, they may be convinced that people are talking about them when in reality, it’s unlikely that they are. Some people report very elaborate delusions such as people being able to hear them through the television or computer. Paranoid thoughts can be alarming to the person experiencing them. They may genuinely believe that somebody is following them or that people are out to get them. When it’s difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is not, it can be terrifying. But, remember that paranoia is treatable and it’s a common sign of many mental illnesses.
Certain mental illnesses include paranoia as a potential symptom. People who live with paranoid schizophrenia have signs of paranoia frequently. When you're having hallucinations or seeing things that aren’t there, it can worsen paranoia. Many different things cause paranoia besides mental illness. Researchers note that symptoms of paranoia happen when a person is easily confused, and they have experiences that they can’t fully articulate or explain to others. Another risk factor is taking illegal drugs. If you take illicit drugs, you’ll often find that you’re paranoid. One significant and common risk factor is sleep. If you don’t get enough adequate sleep, you’re more likely to become paranoid.
Paranoid schizophrenia is a mental illness that’s hereditary. Research shows that some are more predisposed to develop paranoia than others. Having a family member with schizophrenia does not necessarily mean that you’ll get it, but it does mean that you are more likely to display to symptoms. It also increases the likelihood that other members of your family will get it. People that have anxiety or depression tend to experience paranoia more often than someone without these conditions, and paranoid is associated with mental health diagnoses. However, it is important to note that experiencing paranoia does not mean that you have a mental illness. It is possible to be paranoid due to other determinants such as the factors listed above. We see paranoia in mental illnesses that have psychotic features, such as Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, or Bipolar disorder.
It can be challenging to figure out what to do when you’re experiencing paranoia. If you’re paranoid, one thing that you can do is ask yourself “what is the likelihood of this happening?” It’s helpful to ask yourself this question because it allows you to perform a reality check. Is what you’re paranoid about real? Is it likely to happen?
Another thing that you can do is call a friend. Tell them that you’re feeling scared or paranoid, and they can help talk you through it. They can assure you that what you’re experiencing may be the result of paranoia. It’s good to get an outside perspective rather than being stuck in your head. Paranoia can be a vicious cycle that’s hard to get a handle on. If you find that you’re paranoid often or it’s impacting your daily life, it’s important to seek counseling. Counseling is one of the best places to work through feelings of paranoia. Your counselor is there to help you work through these intrusive thoughts, and support you ground you during moments of paranoid thinking.
Online counseling is an excellent place to talk about and troubleshoot your feelings of paranoia. Your counselor will understand that you’re in distress, and support you while you express your paranoid ideas. Don’t be afraid of your thoughts don’t make sense. An online counselor is there to listen to you without judgment, and addressing your experiences will help you work through them in therapy. Paranoia is treatable when you talk to a therapist, and online counseling is a perfect place to do that. Search the extensive network of online counselors from BetterHelp, and find one who seems like an excellent fit for you.