How to Feel Less Paranoid in a Relationship

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What Is Relationship Paranoia?

Do you check your partner’s phone when they’re sleeping? Are you worried that their relationship with a coworker is more than it seems? Do you call them to check up on them when they’re out? Do you think they’re lying to you about finances? Do you find yourself picking a fight every time they meet a friend? These are some of the signs of relationship paranoia.

“[Relationship] paranoia is characterized by a groundless and insistent belief that your partner is acting against you. This belief leads to mistrust, which interferes with your relationship as well as your ability to function independently,” says Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University.

It's helpful to note that paranoia was originally a term used to describe a symptom of psychosis, which occurs in mental health conditions such as schizophrenia. Its definition, however, has evolved to apply to anxiety or worry that people experience in everyday situations—which is how the term is generally used in "relationship paranoia."

Paranoia as a symptom of psychosis can include hallucinations, delusions, and may result in harm to the person experiencing it and/or others around them. If you are experiencing symptoms of psychosis, it's important to seek medical attention.

This article explores the causes and impact of relationship paranoia, as well as some steps you can take to be less paranoid in a relationship.

Causes of Relationship Paranoia

There are many different underlying causes of paranoia, says Dr. Romanoff. Below, she unpacks some of the causes of relationship paranoia.

Previous Relationships

A person's past relationships may have an impact on whether they feel paranoid in their current relationship as paranoia often stems from traumatic life events in the person's past.

For instance, the person may have been repeatedly cheated on in the past, or their trust may have been severely violated. That can color the way they view the world, and in turn, their paranoid thoughts may be a defense mechanism to protect against future threats. 

Elevated Stress Levels

Another common cause for paranoia is elevated stress levels. Specifically, people with high stress levels are more likely to experience paranoid thoughts. 

A combination of history and environmental factors can contribute to relationship paranoia, where if a person has a history of trauma or trust violations and high levels of relationship stress, they may be more predisposed to paranoia and hypervigilant to threat.

Trust Violations

It is important to note that paranoia can stem from valid causes. The person’s partner may have violated their trust, either recently or in the past, with regard to infidelity or other factors such as finances or social situations.

If you are feeling paranoid, it can be helpful to trust your instincts, especially if your partner has provided reasons to be distrustful in the past or if there is something off in the relationship.

Impact of Relationship Paranoia

Paranoia can take a toll on your health, your partner, and your relationship. Dr. Romanoff outlines the impact of relationship paranoia below. 

Impact on Your Health

Paranoia can have a significant impact on your health because it causes you to be on high alert. It is a period of concentrated stress that causes a physiological response in your body. It triggers the release of stress hormones that prepare your body to either fight or flight.

Persistent and acute relationship paranoia can lead to anxiety, exhaustion, fatigue, and poor sleep quality.

Impact on Your Partner

Your partner may become frustrated if your paranoid beliefs cause you to respond in a way that the situation doesn’t warrant. They may become resigned to the process of convincing you that the threat is self-created and may feel exasperated with repeatedly being accused of violating your trust.

Impact on Your Relationship

Underlying paranoia is a lack of trust in your partner. This tends to erode the relationship, unless you are able to feel secure in the relationship and your partner is able to demonstrate that they are trustworthy.

How to Feel Less Paranoid in a Relationship

These are some steps you can take to reduce relationship paranoia:

  • Understand the cause: It can be helpful to understand the cause of your paranoia, particularly if it stems from a past experience. You can spend some time looking within yourself to try and understand what’s causing these feelings, or talk to friends or loved ones about it. 
  • Identify situations that trigger you: You may notice that certain feelings or situations trigger your paranoia. It can be helpful to track these triggers, so that you know which areas you need to work on. If you like, you can note down your feelings in a journal, to help improve self-awareness.
  • Pause before you react: Paranoia can cause you to react without thinking. Make it a point to pause, take a deep breath, process the situation, understand that there's no threat, and then react mindfully, so that you don’t say or do things that you’ll later regret.
  • Share your feelings with your partner: Have an honest discussion with your partner where you explain what you’re feeling and why. Instead of blaming them, focus on expressing your feelings. For instance, instead of saying “You upset me by…” say “I sometimes feel upset when…”
  • Be open to their perspective: Be open to your partner’s feedback. It’s important to hear them out and understand things from their perspective.
  • Discuss your needs: Start telling your partner what you need from them in order to feel more secure and, in turn, ask them what they need from you.
  • Work to build trust: “You and your partner can practice building trust in the relationship by following through with commitments. Both of you can also improve trust by being more emotionally present when you're together and by being accountable to each other,” says Dr. Romanoff.
  • Let your guard down: Make a conscious effort to relax and let your guard down. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised by the emotional connection you can build when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with your partner.
  • Avoid giving in to your paranoia: If you find yourself engaging in paranoid behaviors, find other ways to occupy yourself and keep yourself busy. Watch a movie, go out with your friends, focus on your work, engage in a hobby, cook a fun meal, or do something else you enjoy. 
  • Seek therapy: A therapist can work with you to explore the causes of your paranoia, identify your triggers, develop coping techniques, and improve your communication skills.

A Word From Verywell

Relationship paranoia can make it hard for you to trust your partner and you may constantly feel like they are cheating on you, lying to you, or trying to harm you. Your feelings may be valid if your partner has violated your trust and given you cause to mistrust them. 

However, paranoia often stems from stress or past trauma, and you may be holding your partner at fault for someone else’s actions. It’s important to explore the root cause of your paranoia, understand what triggers you, and work on your relationship with your partner. Otherwise, paranoia can take a toll on your partner and your relationship, not to mention your health and your peace of mind.

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5 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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