This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Have you ever felt like someone was staring at you or talking about you? Did you ever believe that your coworkers were working against you? If this is the case, and there was no proof to back up these beliefs, then you were experiencing paranoid thoughts.
Paranoia is a normal feeling that we all experience from time to time. However, it becomes a more severe condition when it is chronic or interferes with daily life. By reading this article, you will learn about all the important facets of paranoia, including its causes, range of symptoms, and associated psychiatric conditions.
What Is Paranoia?
Paranoia is the feeling that you are in harm or under threat in some way when there is no proof that this is true. This can include thinking that people are watching you, acting against you, or plotting against you in some way.
When untreated, this can have dire consequences. You can easily slip into a state of mind that everyone is against you and that no one is trustworthy. As you can imagine, it is extremely difficult to maintain healthy relationships or function normally in society with this mindset.
It’s important to note that many people feel a bit of paranoia from time to time. Experiencing this feeling occasionally does not mean there is something wrong with you. However, you should discuss your paranoia with a therapist if you experience paranoia often and it shapes your relationships or work life.
What Causes Paranoia?
Many factors can contribute to the presence of paranoia. Everything from unhealthy lifestyle habits to psychiatric disorders has been known to increase these irrational beliefs and feelings. Read on to see how these factors influence the presence of paranoia.
- Sleep: Though one or two nights of little sleep probably won’t cause paranoia, chronic sleeping problems may. Without proper sleep, it is hard to think clearly or maintain good relationships and connections without being irritable or moody. This can result in thinking people are working against you when, at worst, they may just be reacting to your crabbiness.
- Stress And Anxiety: Chronic stress and overwhelm can easily contribute to paranoid thoughts. When overwhelmed or tense, it is much easier to believe that someone may be against you or is acting suspiciously. Furthermore, paranoia is often associated with anxiety, as the condition can easily lead to paranoid thoughts if left untreated.
- Psychiatric Disorders: In some cases, paranoia results from living with a certain psychiatric condition, such as schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder. In these cases, paranoia is often clinically severe, and no lifestyle change will reduce the paranoid thoughts.
- Memory Loss: Some memory-related conditions, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, may result in more paranoid thoughts. As the disease progresses, the affected person may exhibit significant changes in their personality and ways of thinking, including increased paranoia.
- Drug Use: The chemical makeup of alcohol and certain drugs may induce more paranoid thoughts and feelings. Though most of these go away after sobering up, chronic use of these substances can result in more severe symptoms or the triggering of psychiatric disorders.
As with most conditions, genetics and environment may also play a role in developing paranoia. However, research is inconclusive, so it is unclear how these factors may affect this condition.
What Are The Common Symptoms Of Paranoia?
Though, in theory, paranoia seems like a symptom that would be easy to discern right away, in truth, it isn’t. Very few people who experience chronic paranoia are vocal about their delusions or self-aware enough to realize there is a problem.
However, there are other behaviors and symptoms that can indicate that someone has a paranoid mindset. People who live with paranoia will often exhibit the following symptoms:
- Taking offense easily
- Distrusting of others
- Sensitive to criticism
- Find hidden or harmful meanings in common remarks or looks
- Frequently hostile and aggressive
- Unable to compromise and often argumentative and stubborn
- Always on the defensive
- Having a hard time forgiving others
- Unable to confide in others
- Extremely suspicious of others
- Assume others are out to harm or sabotage them
- Susceptible to believing conspiracy theories
- Feel persecuted by the world at large
What Conditions Are Associated With Paranoia?
In severe cases, paranoia is a clinical concern that leads to a more serious psychiatric condition. Clinical paranoia manifests into three conditions: paranoid personality disorder, delusional disorder, and paranoid schizophrenia.
- Paranoid Personality Disorder: This disorder occurs when paranoia takes over one’s mindset. The person is consistently suspicious and distrusting of others, often without a good reason or any proof. They go through life believing that everyone is out to harm them or sabotage them in some way.
- Delusional (Paranoid) Disorder: This condition is characterized by the dominance of one specific delusion. Their symptoms and behaviors will ultimately depend on what exactly they are paranoid about. This disorder often occurs without the presence of other psychiatric disorders or concerns.
- Paranoid Schizophrenia: This disorder combines paranoia with the symptoms of schizophrenia, which include bizarre delusions and hallucinations. Therefore, someone with this condition will experience paranoia but in more unusual ways. For example, they may believe their thoughts are being transmitted over the radio or that they are being watched and followed by the government.
How Can Paranoia Be Treated?
If you are experiencing more paranoid thoughts than usual, then the best treatment option is to talk to a therapist. They can help you get to the root of your thoughts and determine if this is a symptom of a worse condition.
But you should also make sure to partake in self-care. Get plenty of sleep, eat well, exercise often, and refrain from alcohol and drug use. Since paranoia increases when we don’t take care of ourselves, self-care is one of the easiest options to calm down your mind.
Finally, you should partake in calming activities such as meditation or deep breathing. Since paranoia is often a form of anxiety or comes from stress, calming your mind may reduce your paranoid thoughts.
As you can see, paranoia ranges from being a normal feeling to a psychiatric condition. Though most people can find treatment with simple lifestyle changes and therapy, more severe cases will need to utilize other treatment options. If you are concerned about your paranoid thoughts, then talking to a therapist is the best first step for treatment and help. For more information on paranoia and how to treat it, you can find more resources over at BetterHelp.