When we experience trauma or dysfunctional relationships, it can hurt how we view the world. In some cases, this history can make us believe that the world is out to get us. This point of view is one characteristic of paranoia. According to the Mental Health America website, paranoia involves intense anxious or fearful feelings and thoughts often related to persecution, threat, or conspiracy.
Paranoia may persist beneath the surface for people who otherwise go about their day normally. Paranoia may also occur with mental disorders, like PTSD paranoia. Paranoia can damage mental health when persistent thoughts and feelings become delusions, which are firmly maintained ideas that remain even in the face of contrary evidence. Paranoia is also a symptom of paranoid personality disorder (PPD), one of a group of conditions called "Cluster A" personality disorders. These disorders often appear in early adulthood and are more common in men, though any individual may experience them. However, people who have personality disorders can enjoy full and happy lives with a variety of treatment options, including counseling.
Do You Feel Paranoid?
If you notice that you have irrationally suspicious thoughts or experience unrelenting mistrust, you may wish to better understand the nature of paranoid personality disorder. However, it's imperative to remember that only a mental health professional can assess and diagnose a personality disorder. In this article, we'll discuss some of the causes and signs of paranoia, as well as what paranoia tests are available and how they can assist you in determining if you need further help.
Possible Causes of Paranoia
It can be hard to recognize paranoia in yourself, as paranoia alters your outlook and judgment. Habitual paranoid thought patterns can amplify fears and create an increased perception of threats. Paranoid thoughts are often focused on what you imagine people might be thinking or planning to do against you. It should be noted that paranoia can be justified in some instances. For example, if you've been abused in the past, you may experience more suspicion and, in turn, become more cautious. This kind of thinking is reasonable. Paranoid thinking is different in that it is rarely rooted in historical experience and can lead individuals to make irrational and even drastic decisions.
There are several different causes of paranoia, which are often related to other mental health disorders. These causes include:
There can also be other issues underlying paranoia, such as low self-esteem or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Soldiers and others who have dealt with intense trauma can often experience random attacks of paranoia. While not all potential causes of paranoia are definitively known, there seems to be a combination of biological and psychological factors. There is also evidence that early childhood experiences, including trauma and abuse, can play a role in developing PPD.
Symptoms of Paranoia
Paranoid personality disorder often displays itself in the following ways:
Individuals who display these qualities may suffer from recurring suspicions about specific relationships. Paranoia can fuel controlling behavior and jealousy, which erodes trust. Those who experience paranoia may or may not realize that they're damaging their close relationships. Even if they do realize it, they may feel powerless to stop.
Types of Paranoia
The severity of paranoid symptoms can range from mild to severe. Severe forms of paranoia can leave an individual feeling isolated, terrified, and exhausted by constant worrying over what they believe is happening or likely to happen. Paranoia rarely occurs alone but is often associated with other mental disorders. These include anxiety disorders, depression, phobias, and delusional disorder. Paranoid personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenia are two of the more severe disorders associated with paranoia.
If left unchecked, paranoia can negatively impact a person's ability to function in the world, as they see threats around every corner and in people that mean them no harm. Learning more about this condition and reaching out for trustworthy help through counseling are important steps to overcoming paranoia.
Can You Be Tested for Paranoia?
If you've noticed areas of your life where paranoia seems to be prevalent, it's important to bring up your concerns with your physician. Doing so can help you determine if the paranoia has a physical cause that can be addressed medically.
Addressing Paranoia Through Therapy
If you determine that there's no physical cause for your paranoia, then it may be time to consider working with a licensed therapist to address psychological causes of your paranoid thinking and behavior. This process will involve recognizing that you are exhibiting this behavior and that you need help to deal with it effectively.
During this time, you likely will need to examine your history for specific points of trauma or emotional abuse that could be contributing to your paranoia. While working with a licensed mental health professional, you can also assess whether your symptoms are part of another mental health condition. Treatment will primarily focus on relieving the stress and anxiety associated with paranoia and thus improving your overall wellbeing. Doing so can help you feel more grounded as you work to deal with any other issues related to the paranoia.
There are also lifestyle changes you can make that can help ease your paranoia. These changes include regular exercise, healthy sleep, and stress reduction. Working with a therapist, you can learn methods to effectively manage the stress in your life, positively impacting your paranoia. Mental health professionals can work with you to determine the cause of your paranoia and then create a treatment plan to address your specific needs. This treatment plan might include treatment for other, co-occurring mental health disorders, including depression or anxiety.
A form of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be used. This type of therapy helps people address thinking patterns that could be contributing to their paranoia. Psychotherapy can also include focusing on general coping skills, as well as improving your social interactions, communication, and self-esteem issues.
BetterHelp Online Counseling
A great first step to receiving the right treatment for paranoia, paranoid personality disorder, or another personality disorder is connecting with a licensed mental health care provider on BetterHelp. BetterHelp is an online counseling platform through which you can schedule sessions with a licensed therapist at your convenience. You'll be matched with a therapist who can meet your needs, and you can continue care for as long as you need it.
Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Paranoia and Anxiety
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people challenge faulty thoughts and find new interpretations of situations, resulting in more positive emotions and healthier behaviors. CBT is the most commonly used form of therapy for paranoia. When individuals experiencing paranoia find evidence to challenge their paranoid thoughts, this can help enormously with changing inaccurate beliefs and unhealthy behaviors.
In addition, CBT can help reduce the anxiety that is associated with paranoia. In fact, research shows that online CBT (iCBT) can treat anxiety just as effectively as in-person therapy. Individuals who participated in online CBT have reported significant levels of acceptability, satisfaction, and adherence. These levels are much higher compared to people who could only attend traditional therapy with little to no follow-up. The study’s authors found that there was an 80% strength correlation between iCBT and improved therapeutic outlooks. And not only is online CBT as effective as face-to-face therapy for anxiety, but online treatment has been found to be cost-effective, with treatment effects maintained at one-year follow-up.
The Benefits of Online Therapy
As discussed above, CBT with a licensed therapist can help challenge faulty thoughts and change unhealthy behaviors. But if you are feeling suspicious or mistrustful, it can be difficult to attend an in-person therapy session with a new therapist. This is where online therapy comes in. You can access BetterHelp’s platform from the comfort and privacy of your own home. In addition, online therapy offers lower pricing than in-person therapy because online therapists don’t have to pay for costs like renting an office. BetterHelp’s licensed therapists have helped people with paranoia. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people experiencing similar issues.
"It's been a difficult road of recovery for me. I've had doubts and fears but Nicole has been reassuring that I'll be myself again. She's taken the chance to get to know me and is optimistic. Having someone listen and give me strategies has been helpful on my road to getting my life back."
"I've barely started my counseling through this website. Even though it has been 3 weeks, it has helped out. I'm able to tell her things that my paranoid delusions aren't able to use against me. I guess it is because she is at a distance. Either which way, her tools of coping are massive and highly appreciated. Adding more tools to the chest."
Recovery from Paranoia
Recovering from mental health challenges takes time and persistence. Moving beyond paranoia can lead to a new life of freedom and peace of mind. Finding a trusted therapist can be the key to establishing new habits that lead to better health. A truly fulfilling life in which paranoia doesn't hold you back is possible—all you need are the right tools. Take the first step today.