Paranoia & Phobias Answers

I have been dealing with a bit of increased paranoia due to moving to a new location, any tips?

In order to lessen the paranoia, I would introduce myself to the upstairs neighbors, maybe bring a small gift?  Also, I would recommend some cognitive behavior therapy techniques such as putting thoughts on trial.  When you have a negative or paranoid thought, try to find evidence that contradicts the thought.  For instance, if you think people do not like you, what is the evidence for that thought?  Have they said as much?  Do they make mad faces at you?  Then look for evidence against the thought.  Do they give you a friendly greeting when you pass them in the hall?  Do they smile back when you say hello?  Then pretend you are the judge of the thought and come to a verdict about its accuracy. An easy way to make friends with someone is to give them a compliment.  Say something like, "I really like those shoes!"  Chances are that when they see you again they will have a positive memory of your last interaction. This would also decrease the chances that they would be saying anything negative about you.  You might also approach the neighbor and ask if there is anything you are doing that really bothers them.  This would give you an opportunity to commiserate about the perils of living in an over/under apartment situation.  Then you would be acting as a team to make sure each of you is happy. It would be best if you were able to be on friendly terms with them.   It would also be good for you to get out and learn more about your surroundings.  Find places to walk or go for coffee.  Join a community activity, like a local gym or find a group with similar interests to your own.  All of these things can be found online.  In my community they have Knitting groups, rowing groups, tennis, pickleball, and all sorts of things to offer.  It is hard living in a new place and trying to get settled and making friends.   Try to remember other people may be feeling the same as you.  They may be worried about what you are thinking about them.  I hope this is helpful! I hope this is helpful!
Answered on 01/10/2023

Why I'm constantly feeling worried and fear even when things are going well. Like all my plans are working.

Something is Off Everything works until it doesn't anymore. Our minds work in a way that we are adaptive. We are this mass of genetics, constantly learning, developing, and forming a personality. Your mind is telling you something that your body internalizes as a threat. What do you think that is? What do you fear will happen? I want you to ask yourself these types of questions and demand a concrete answer; what is the worst that happens when you experience anxiety and cannot manage yourself because you believe whatever your mind tells you to be true?  Your mind is associated with something from the past that you are being reminded of now. Once you connect with what is going on in your life now and how it relates in some way to something from the past, early childhood, perhaps, you can start to work on that childhood formation of a belief. You can begin addressing the core of fear by advocating for the child being brought up inside you in those moments of fear. Advocate Anxiety today is an opportunity to advocate for an earlier, more vulnerable, and alone version of you that made you feel scared. You learned that the world is unsafe and that shielding yourself is the only way to live. Your mind and body are just trying to keep you safe. It is our job to challenge the overreactive response because it interferes with what you want. You can give that kid what they needed and didn't receive-an affirmation that things would be OK and they would be loved consistently.  Live With It You want to learn to live with stress and anxiety. Stress is inevitable and is something we often believe we would be better off living without. Then we feel upset because we have stress and beat ourselves up because we think we are failing if we experience anxiety or stress. Stress, anxiety, and even depressed states from time to time are inevitable, and it is best to learn to live with them than think all of you would be better without these traits. Further, your ego, your identity, the part of your brain that tells you who you are and sees the world through your lens, is overactive. The ego has to kick in to try and keep you safe from some perceived threat your subconscious mind (amygdala) is picking up and activating the limbic system to respond. Your thoughts come from the anxious experience because your thoughts get you to react. Your ego is preserving a part of you that deep down you don't believe can handle the stress of socializing. Ask Questions Now, what are you experiencing when your mind tells you not to go out? Being reflective and asking why I am feeling this way, what is my mind telling me? What is the biggest threat to me going out and about? It is the answer to these questions that will lead you to what about you you fear the most. Why is being laughed at so bad if your mind tells you not to go out because people will laugh at you? Why can't we tolerate being laughed at? Do we believe that people are not allowed to laugh at people or that we are too high and mighty to be laughed at? How seriously do you take yourself etc. (These types of questions).   Again, what does fear tell you that interferes with doing what you want? Ask yourself "why," and you will discover that something is happening that you perceived differently than it really is, that you are internalizing as negative and potentially harmful. Living life thinking we would be better without anxiety and bending our life because it shows up is like having a party, and an uninvited guest shows up. Right now, you believe that when that guest shows up, you must withdraw from the party until that guest is gone. Instead, let anxiety in, talk with your anxious thoughts, ask what is going on here, why is this uninvited guest here, and accept that they are an inevitable part of who you are.  Life is so much about perspective that you can see this situation through an entirely different lens. Though the problem doesn't change, your beliefs about yourself and your capability to handle it will. 
Answered on 12/30/2022

Why do I experience so much anxiety?

Dear Urjora, I'm so sorry to hear that you are experiencing this and I will try my best to direct you in the best possible direction to help you with the limited information provided.First, it is most likely that your fear did stem from somewhere but you are not cognizant of it.  It could even stem from an early childhood experience that you may have unconsciously put in your repressed memories.  But also, we are still experiencing Covid related issues around the world, and there have been so many people affected by this.There is a small percentage of people who have phobias from genetics, but mostly, they are created and conditioned from a stressful or even traumatic experience or being exposed to a continual stressor.   It also sounds like you may be experiencing depression too, since you stopped seeing your friends, even though you could invite them over to your home for company.Since the phobia is starting to reach higher proportions of limiting your life, it would be beneficial for you to see a phobia specialist or a licensed therapist that treats this. Dealing and trying to manage your phobia on your own is extremely difficult, as you are probably experiencing very intense emotions and reactions that will only continue to grow until it is self limiting and to be honest, it seems like your condition is getting to that state.  I would strongly recommend that you seek professional help.  A licensed and trained professional who specializes in phobias will need to help recondition your thinking and behavioral patterns. It will be uncomfortable for you as you will have to learn to face your fear to overcome it, meaning- you will need to face the stimuli that is eliciting the phobia.  It is not easy to do on your own as most likely, you will be triggered with an intense reaction since your phobia has been affecting you for a long time now.  It is a fear based condition and it will be important that you someone who is experienced to help you through these stages of reconditioning your thinking regarding your phobia issues.
Answered on 10/23/2022

Ways to reduce paranoia in social environments?

Hi J! Thank you very much for asking this important question related to paranoid personality disorder on the BetterHelp platform! I appreciate you taking the time to explore your thoughts on this online forum. Thank you for providing me with more information about your personal experience coping with paranoia. I can tell that you are willing to put in the effort to make some positive changes and grow from your experience! First off, I admire your ability to set the initial goal of trying to reduce your experience of paranoia in social settings. This goal is absolutely attainable and will require you to come up with a strategy that essentially measures your experience of paranoia. A traditional psychological tool for measurement is the Likert scale. This would require you to self report and measure your experience of paranoia on a scale of 1 to 10 or even on a scale of 1 to 5. A value of one would indicate only trace amounts of paranoia, whereas a value of five or ten would indicate severely feeling paranoid. Realistically, you could be able to drive down your rating of paranoia through behavioral health interventions, including systematically changing your thoughts through behavioral modification. I recommend cognitive behavioral therapy for that. Perhaps you can start by bringing down your score a few points at first and eventually be able to notice a larger difference over the course of time. A variation on this idea that I can offer to you is to construct a timeline. You can incorporate a Likert scale in this exercise, as well. My thought is that it may be helpful for you to create a timeline as a means to address the paranoid thoughts that you have been having. This timeline can be utilized on a daily or weekly basis as a means to keep track of your experiences, thoughts, and feelings in relation to your social interactions. In addition, you may want to utilize colors as a means to categorize paranoid thoughts into sub categories. This qualitative research method is known as coding. Seeing your thoughts on paper and how they change or stay consistent over time will likely grant you greater insight into your experience. It sounds like your symptoms of paranoid personality disorder include feelings of paranoia and thinking that people at work are talking about you. What do you imagine that other individuals are saying about you? Based on your question, it seems like you suspect that your co workers may be critical of your performance at work. Given the nature of your experience, it makes sense that these symptoms would be more persistent and prevalent in a social environment. Developing your interpersonal skills through therapeutic interventions may be useful for you as you learn to understand and navigate your experiences. I would be interested in hearing more about the origin of your experience with paranoia. When exactly did the paranoia start for you? Recalling the "touchstone" experience, or the first time you remember feeling paranoid in a social setting, may be an avenue for you to explore in order to gain more insight into your experience. This is an EMDR technique. At what point were you diagnosed with paranoid personality disorder? If you haven't already, I definitely recommend participacting in psycho education on the topic of paranoid personality disorder during the course of your therapy services. Learning more about symptom presentation, causal relationships, geneic factors, prevalence and treatment is the first step in understanding your own personal situation and diagnosis. For example, did you know that paranoid personality disorder is considered to be part of the cluster A personality disorders? It sounds like lately you have been struggling in the moment with managing social situations. Have you ever tried mindfulness techniques in the past? I recommend exploring mindfulness techniques, such as grounding exercises, guided meditation, deep breathing, positive self affirming statements and relaxation techniques. I definitely want to recognize the challenges that you have been facing. It would be great if you could begin to explore a variety of mindfulness exercises in order to decide which strategies work best for you. You mentioned that you have not been able to trust other people. It is okay to identify this as a possible barrier to your therapy treatment. Being aware and consciously acknowledging barriers is the first step to overcoming them. I would be interested in hearing more about your experiences with trust and mistrust in the past. In what ways are you struggling to trust other people? What have you done to establish trust with other people in the past? Lastly, I would like to offer an open ended art therapy directive for you to utilize. As a provisionally licensed art therapist, I view art making as fuel for healing. Any creative activity that you can participate in would be beneficial for you to channel your inner thoughts and express your feelings. Take some time to create a collage and really allow your paranoia to be the energy and the driving force in your creation. If you are willing, search for images in magazines, newspapers, online and in your junk mail. Take some time to cut the images with scissors, arrange the images that you have gathered and glue them on cardboard or watercolor paper. Essentially, this will be a bit more about the process than the look of the finished product. However it turns out, feel free to take pride in your creative work! At this time, I recommend individual counseling for your current situation. The therapeutic process can be exceptionally healing and sometimes it can be enlightening and eye opening experience. The therapy room is an open space for you to bravely speak your mind, express your thoughts and explore your feelings. Therapy also offers a way for you to practice establishing trust through consistent communication as well as build rapport through the therapeutic alliance. I hope that the therapeutic journey is beneficial for you and that the therapist that you are matched with offers the helpful suggestions, insight and guidance that you have been searching for! I truly appreciate you taking the time to reach out for support on BetterHelp. You deserve to feel better about your personal experience. You can certainly achieve the goals that you have set for yourself! I want to thank you so much for your time asking this valuable question on the "Ask a Licensed Therapist" forum. I wish you all the best in your future and on your therapeutic journey!
Answered on 06/29/2022

How successful is CBT in treating OCD and phobia conditions?

Hello Coach, this is a great question. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a very difficult disorder to live with, and your concerns with contamination related to germs is a common aspect of it. You will be glad to read that there are very good treatments for OCD, and the gold standard for treating OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). You specifically asked if cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is successful in treating OCD and phobia conditions, and the answer is yes, because ERP is a type of CBT. There are several therapies that fall under the broad umbrella of cognitive behavioral therapy. Basically, therapies that place an emphasis on addressing our thoughts and implementing behavior change could be classified as CBT. ERP is mostly involved with the behavioral aspects. Unfortunately, talk therapy alone is not usually very successful in treating OCD. Talk therapy may include discussions about your obsessions, or exploration about why you have them, and it may include some behavioral elements, but it does not usually help with the learning and practice element that is necessary to move from having debilitating OCD to having a rich, full, meaningful life. ERP requires the individual to be systematically exposed to whatever is causing the obsessive thoughts or fears. The exposure part of ERP refers to exposing you to whatever the fear obsession is, and the response prevention is discontinuing the compulsive behaviors that you do to feel relief from the obsession. Many people believe that the obsessions are the problem, but it is actually the compulsive behaviors that continue the cycle of OCD. Once you begin to learn that you can be exposed to whatever is causing the fear and you can handle it, the thoughts generally become less intense and sometimes stop. Even if the thoughts are still difficult, you will learn that you can still choose what is important to you and not let OCD make the decision. There is a lot more information to share about OCD, and you may have more questions now. I suggest finding a counselor who has had specific training in Exposure and Response Prevention. There are counselors on BetterHelp with that training. 
Answered on 05/15/2022

How do i overcome fear especially fear of death and getting old?

Dear Pretty,   Thank you for your sharing. As humans we are all not as strong as we think we could be, and there are times we face situations like this that on one hand we are not satisfied with where we are, yet the thought of changing this situation also scares us. We don’t want to be abused, yet we fear more about being lonely.   Fear of loss is what I might think about when it comes to anxiety in relation with loss or change, especially failures. We are scared of losing the ones that we love, losing our health, losing what we treasure, losing our relationships, losing our success and potential. Being scared of losing make us feel anxious and often we would act impulsively on these fear.   "Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live." ~Norman Cousins   Of all the things that scare us, loss can seem like the most terrifying. At times, I've thought about it with such dread that it's felt overwhelming.   Whenever I quit a job I hated in that past, I felt stuck between two loss-related fears: the fear of losing my passion by staying, and the fear of losing my financial security if I walked away and didn't find something else.   Whenever I considered leaving a bad relationship, I felt paralyzed by two similar fears: the fear of losing my chance at fulfillment by staying, and the fear of losing the comfort of companionship if I walked away and didn't find someone else.   I haven't only worried about the potential for loss as it pertains to big decisions. I've worried about losing people I love, pleasures I enjoy, and circumstances that feel comfortable. I've dreaded losing my youth, my health, and my sense of identity.   And then there are the everyday losses: If I don't do this, will I lose someone's respect? If I don't do that, will I lose my own? If I don't go, will I lose some as of yet unknown opportunity? If I don't stay, will I lose my sense of comfort and security?   I might even go so far to say that whenever I fear something, loss is at the root of it. I suspect I'm not alone.   Loss Aversion   Economists have identified loss aversion as a major factor in financial decision-making, in that most people would rather avoid losing money than acquire more. The psychological impact of losing is thought to be twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining.   According to Ori and Ram Brafman, authors of Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, we often make poor decisions simply to avoid loss.   One example they offer involves Captain Jacob van Zanten, once a well-established and respected pilot who headed the safety program for KLM-a Dutch airline marketed as "the people who make punctuality possible."   In the spring of 1977, on a flight from Amsterdam to the Canary Islands, van Zanten learned that a terrorist bomb had exploded at Las Palmas airport, where he was supposed to land. Along with a number of other flights, his was diverted to a smaller airport 50 miles away.   After landing the plane safely, he started worrying about a number of problems that would result from failing to take off soon.   The government had instituted a mandated rest period between flights for pilots, which meant he could be imprisoned if he took off after a certain hour. Staying overnight meant putting the passengers up in a hotel, which would be costly for the airline.   Waiting much longer meant losing time, money, and his reputation for punctuality.   Ultimately, van Zanten took off in a thick fog-despite knowing the risks, and not receiving take off clearance-because it seemed like a now-or-never moment. He didn't see the Pan Am 747 across the runway until it was too late-and 584 people died as a result.   The pressures and potential consequences of lost time piled up, and van Zanten acted against his better judgment, hoping to evade them.   Loss Aversion in Everyday Life   We all make irrational decisions everyday simply to avoid losing.   We buy things we don't need (or groupons we won't use) because a sale's ending soon. We grab an item of clothing because there's only one left and someone else might take it-even if we aren't really sure we want it. We keep gym memberships we aren't actively using if we know we won't be able to get that same rate again.   And then there are the bigger things.   We turn down opportunities that could be rewarding to avoid the risk of losing something else that feels good enough. We use our time in ways that feel unfulfilling because we fear losing time on a decision that might be wrong. And we fail to invest in ourselves, even though we're aching to expand, because it can feel painful to part with our money.   We can't ever know for certain that a risk will payoff, but we can choose to recognize when the fear of loss motivates our actions, and make a conscious effort to overcome it. If we don't, it can severely limit our potential for growth, happiness, and fulfillment.   Overcoming the Fear of Loss   I first recognized this fear, and it's associated irrational thoughts and behaviors, when I felt devastated after someone I wanted to break up with broke up with me first.   I realized I didn't make the decision myself because I preferred a bad (even abusive) relationship to being single. I also understood that I would have been far less affected if I'd made the choice to walk away, and that my feelings completely transformed because I felt out of control-like I lost something, and it wasn't my choice.   Since then, I've developed a little system for identifying this fear when it takes hold-and a few practices for overcoming it so that it doesn't overcome me.   1. Ask yourself, "What am I scared of losing?"   This may seem like an obvious question, but I've learned that it's all too easy to go through our days, making choices, without recognizing the underlying feelings that motivate them.   Whenever you have a choice to make, recognize in what way you're motivated by the fear of losing something, whether it's comfort, security, control, money, companionship, or something else.   Once you understand what you're scared of losing, you can…   2. Ascertain if you're seeing the whole picture.   There was a time when I worked 60+ hours/week to hold onto a job I didn't even want. I was the last remaining employee after a massive layoff, but I didn't feel ready to lose that job.   After several months of working long hours from home, I realized I'd never feel ready. It wasn't until I finally got laid off that I started planning for this site.   My logic was faulty-that it was best to stay with the sure thing, because I wasn't ready to do something else-because the reality was that I needed the time and space to figure out that something else.   In other words, loss was necessary to set me up for gain; it wasn't the other way around.   If you're making a decision, or avoiding making a decision, based on the fear of what you might lose, ask yourself if you're losing more by not doing what you really want to do.   When you attempt to see beyond the fear, you're better able to recognize if you're keeping yourself stuck-and if you'd benefit from letting go of what you think you need.   3. Use loss aversion as motivation to pursue what you really want.   My mentor once suggested that we can benefit from the fear of loss by charting our progress toward a goal. Just as we don't want to lose time and money, we don't want to lose momentum.   If you hang a large calendar on your wall, and put a star on every day when you do something positive-like exercise, practice a new hobby, or send out a resume for a new job-you'll create a psychological need to keep that streak going.   She said to me, "Your disappointment in seeing a day without a gold star is greater than your happiness at any single day's work."   Of course, you have to know what you really want first. That takes time and patience for us to reflect and think with our imagination, not logics.   4. Regularly assess your intentions and motivations.   This ties into the last one. Sometimes we think we want something because we've wanted it for years-and then we feel scared to lose that dream and all its related rewards.   But sometimes, as we grow and learn about ourselves and the world, our wants change.   A friend of mine racked up massive debt studying law, only to realize a couple years into her career that it didn't fulfill her as she hoped it would. She'd built her whole life around this possibility-and she had close to $100,000 in student loans.   She could easily have felt stuck, as if she'd lose too much if she walked away. But she did anyways. She moved to Chile and became a Pilates teacher, and though she ultimately realized she'd need to return to law for a while longer to pay off her debt, she's released the emotional fears associated with pursuing a different path.   And because she's experienced the joy of doing something else, she now has a compelling motivation to do it again: She knows what she stands to gain is greater than what she stands to lose.   If you're forcing yourself to do something and a part of you feels it isn't right, ask yourself, "Do I actually want this right now?" There's a chance you do, and you're just feeling frustrated and discouraged-but there's also a chance you don't anymore. Only you can know for sure what you really want.   5. Change how you see the inevitability of loss.   The reality is that loss is inevitable.   We will all lose relationships, situations, and states of being that we enjoy and love. Even if we practice non-attachment, on some level we will get comfortable with people and circumstances.   You could say that this is what makes life beautiful and meaningful-since nothing lasts forever, each moment presents unique possibilities worth fully appreciating and savoring.   Or you could say this is what makes life tragic-that everything is fleeting, and eventually it all slips away.   How we choose to see things dictates how we'll experience them. Would you rather see everything as precious or pointless?   If we can choose the former, we can recognize that every loss provides opportunities for future gains-new relationships, experiences, and ways of being that may fulfill us in ways we can't possibly predict.   Of course, this can only happen if we trust in our ability to recognize and create these new connections and situations. We all have the potential to do it.   Some losses feel devastating when we experience them-and sometimes, the gain isn't proportionate to the loss.   But somehow, we survive in the wake of almost every storm. Whether we thrive is up to us. That's a choice we need to make proactively, not in response to what we fear, but in response to what we genuinely want to feel and do in this life.   So I leave you with this question: Why are you afraid of losing? And are you ready to trust in yourself and your abilities so that you can get unstuck?   The answer could be no to this question. It is absolutely acceptable to acknowledge our fears and be honest with ourselves if we don’t feel ready to change. We are all humans and that means we have a right to not be perfect. There is no judgement. We are all in this together.   Looking forward to learn your thoughts, thank you for your trust. Jono
Answered on 05/21/2021

Which therapy is used for treating phobia?

When treating phobias, therapists typically use 2 types of methods (sometimes at the same time): Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy. With both of these approaches, the point is to expose the client to their phobia/fear with the hope of cultivating healing and developing coping skills. Exposure therapy involves a therapist gradually exposing a client to the thing that is at the source of their phobia. For example, if a client has a phobia of spiders, then a therapist who specializes in exposure therapy might start by simply engaging in a conversation with the client about spiders. Then, the therapist might have the client look at pictures of spiders in therapy. Then, look at pictures of spiders at home. The therapist might even bring a spider into a session that is contained within a cage or instruct the client to visit a zoo and spend time near an enclosure. The point is to keep exposing the client to their fear/phobia over and over again as a means of “desensitizing” them to their fear. A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach to phobias also involves the therapist exposing their client to the source of their phobia. However, in this method, the therapist will also teach the client different skills that will help them cope with their feelings of fear rather than relying on the effects of desensitization. Some of these skills include teaching the client how to process their feelings and emotions associated with their phobia rather than allowing their thoughts and feelings to “take over” and control their lives. In both of these therapy methods/approaches, the therapist will also teach the client relaxation techniques that can help to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that they might experience during times of exposure. The therapist might aim to treat some of the physiological responses that one experiences such as rapid heart rate and trouble breathing by educating the client on the use of breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation. As a general rule of thumb, it is always a good idea for people to be mindful when choosing a therapist to treat their mental health issues. When looking for a therapist to treat a phobia, it is important to select one that states that they either have experience working with people with phobias or even specialize in the treatment of phobias.
(Masters, of, Social, Work)
Answered on 04/23/2021