I Think I'm Paranoid: What to Do If You Feel This Way

paranoid man

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You constantly feel like people are out to get you or threaten you in some way. You feel suspicious of every little thing in life. You’d characterize yourself as someone who jumps to conclusions often, usually without evidence. If this describes you, you may be wondering if you are paranoid, and if so, what that means.

It’s common to experience feelings of paranoia from time to time, especially during periods of stress and upheaval. Sometimes paranoid feelings are characteristic of a mental health disorder, such as schizophrenia, or paranoid personality disorder.

Let’s take a look at what to do if you are feeling paranoid, and how you can start to feel better.

What Is Paranoia?

Paranoia

Paranoia is characterized by feelings of suspicion or an impending threat, but without credible evidence that something bad is about to happen.

People who experience paranoia may feel like they're "on edge" or like they are constantly looking over their shoulder. They may find it very hard to trust others, and often believe that people who they interact with have an ulterior motive.

Although paranoia is often linked to serious mental health conditions—such as psychosis, schizophrenia, and paranoid personality disorder—milder forms of paranoia are common in the general population and can become chronic.

Paranoia can make it hard to sustain healthy relationships and can make you feel stressed and anxious.

What Does Paranoia Feel Like?

Paranoia can be described as a general mistrust of people, institutions, and even governments. People who experience paranoia may feel fearful of many things, but most of the time, there is no real reason for them to be afraid. Paranoia is characterized by irrational fears—believing things that are not true.

Some of the symptoms of paranoia include:

  • Feeling suspicious of everyone and everything
  • Having a hard time trusting that others are telling you the truth
  • Feeling like people or institutions have hidden agendas
  • Having a tough time forgiving people
  • Being prone to believing conspiracy theories
  • Feeling like everyone is out to to get you, but not taking responsibility for your own actions
  • Feeling easily betrayed and taken advantage of
  • Feelings of self-importance and not being able to accept critique
  • Experiencing intense feelings of anger
  • Always arguing and feeling defensive
  • Feeling anxious and hypervigilant

What Causes Paranoia?

While paranoia can be part of a serious mental illness, it’s also an emotional state that is common in the general population. It’s common to have times in life where you are less trustful of others, or you suspect that people aren’t being completely truthful with you.

Mild to moderate feelings of paranoia can be triggered by difficult social situations, times of significant life stress, or abuse and trauma.

Paranoia can also have medical origins. People with a history of brain injuries or epilepsy might experience paranoia as a side effect. A person who experiences memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease may exhibit signs of paranoia as well.

Certain recreational drugs may trigger feelings of paranoia. For example, amphetamine and marijuana can cause paranoid thinking. Cocaine, ecstasy, and alcohol can have similar effects, and these effects may be amplified as someone withdraws from these substances.

More severe paranoia can be debilitating and is characteristic of certain mental health conditions, including psychosis and personality disorders. The following conditions may include symptoms of paranoia:

In addition, people who live with depression, have low self-esteem, or exhibit dysfunctional emotional regulation strategies may be more likely to experience paranoia.

What to Do If You Think You’re Paranoid

If you or someone you love is experiencing heightened feelings of paranoia, it’s important to first visit a healthcare provider to rule out any underlying medical issues, including brain damage, reactions to drugs or medications, or other cognitive issues.

If your healthcare provider believes you may be experiencing a mental health condition, they may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for diagnosis.

Diagnosis

To figure out what may be causing your feelings of paranoia, your healthcare provider or psychiatrist may ask you a series of medical questions, inquire about your family history, and ask you to list any medical issues you’ve had or medications or drugs you are using. Blood work may have to be done, and other diagnostic tests may be required, as needed.

Treatment

Treatment for paranoia depends on the cause. If your paranoia stems from a medical issue, such as a brain injury or memory issue, your healthcare team will come up with a plan to tackle that. If you are taking drugs that are causing your symptoms, you may need help decreasing your use, and possibly receive treatment for substance addiction.

Psychiatric issues, such as schizophrenia, delusional disorder, and paranoid personality disorder, require psychiatric care. Medication, such as antipsychotic drugs, may be indicated, and are usually combined with psychotherapy and group therapy. At times, specialized care in a psychiatric facility may be necessary.

Coping With Feeling Paranoid

Many people experience paranoia that can’t be attributed to a medical issue or serious psychiatric condition. But that doesn’t mean feelings of paranoia have to be something you just live with or muddle through.

Often, paranoid feelings are related to chronic stress, a recent or past trauma, difficulties with social situations, or low self-esteem. These are all treatable with counseling or therapy. Your therapist can help you understand why you are feeling the way you are, what may be triggering those feelings, and what techniques you can use to manage your feelings.

Many people who experience paranoia are often reluctant to seek therapy. After all, paranoia itself makes a person distrustful of others. But living with feelings of paranoia isn’t pleasant or healthy, and you deserve to feel well.

It can be difficult to talk about your feelings of paranoia with a mental health professional, but these feelings are common—almost all of us have felt paranoid at times. Your therapist or counselor won’t judge you for how you are feeling.

A Word From Verywell

If you think you are paranoid, or if you suspect someone you love is experiencing paranoia, it’s important to seek help. Sometimes paranoia needs to be treated by a healthcare provider or mental health professional. Other times, it can be managed by connecting “talking it out” with a close friend, counselor, or therapist.

Either way, understanding how to cope with paranoia starts with understanding what is causing the feelings, and then seeking appropriate help and care. It can be challenging to share your feelings of paranoia, or to confront a loved one about their paranoid behaviors. But paranoia is treatable, and isn’t something that needs to take over a person’s life.

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10 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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