Paranoia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments


What is paranoia?

Paranoia is a psychological condition where an individual experiences irrational feelings of distrust, suspicion, and fear toward others. Many people experience it at some point in their lives. While you may not have any real reason to worry, it can be troubling if your concerns arise too often.

Clinical paranoia is more serious. The illness occurs when you believe others are intentionally harming you, are unfair, lie, or purposely lie when there is no proof. You don’t believe you’re paranoid as long as you feel sure it’s true. Paranoia is not normal if someone truly wants to harm you.

Readout: Personality Disorders

Are there any things you can be paranoid about?

The experience of paranoia will be different for everyone. There are several types of paranoid thoughts, but here are a few examples.

The following might come to mind:

  • People or organizations (on or offline) are talking about you behind your back
  • Someone tries to exclude you or make you look bad
  • Physical harm or death may occur to you
  • You are secretly threatened by hints and double meanings
  • Someone deliberately upsets or irritates you
  • Money or possessions are being taken from you
  • Someone is interfering with your thoughts or actions
  • Control is being exercised over you or the government targets you

These thoughts might come to mind all the time, or maybe just occasionally when you are stressed out. You may find them distressing or not really bothersome.

Paranoid thoughts are usually associated with threats or harm to yourself, but they can also be associated with threats or harm to other people, your culture, or society in general.

Anxiety vs. Paranoid thoughts

Paranoid thoughts are anxious thoughts. When you’re anxious, you may feel paranoid about various things, which can affect how long you feel that way. Anxiety can also be caused by paranoid thoughts.

There is nothing wrong with feeling anxious sometimes, especially if you’ve just lost a job or ended a relationship. Some people worry they will be judged for what they say or how they dress and act in groups of people. Imagine walking into a party alone and thinking, “Everyone wonders why I’m here alone.”.

It is called paranoia, but we all think like this at times. It is not necessarily a sign of mental disorder when you are worried about what people are thinking about you. When someone is convinced of something even though the facts show that it isn’t true, clinical paranoia occurs.

It’s more likely that you have some anxiety than paranoia if you think your thoughts are paranoid. Whenever your anxiety doesn’t seem to go away or improve, you might need to talk to a doctor about it.

You may have an anxiety disorder if you suffer from feelings of anxiety or panic for a long time or when they interfere with your daily activities. When paranoia is severe, the symptoms are more severe.

Also, check: Side Effects of Overthinking

Symptoms of paranoia

The following are paranoia symptoms:

  • Arguing, being hostile and being defensive
  • Being easily offended
  • An inability to relax or let your guard down and believing you are always right
  • Having problems compromising, forgiving and accepting criticism
  • Trusting or relying on others is impossible
  • Understanding hidden meanings behind people’s routine behaviors

Three main types

Three conditions are associated with paranoia:

  • Paranoid personality disorder: This is the mildest type. Although paranoid personality disorder makes people distrust the world, they can function well nonetheless. People with this disorder often discover that their attitudes and behaviors have been present for much of their lives when they become obvious.
  • Delusional (paranoid) disorder: This condition is characterized by a dominant delusion (false belief) without any other signs of mental illness. Delusions affect a person’s behavior in different ways. Someone with a delusion of persecution, for example, may believe that others are spying on or harming them. A person who believes they are dating an unknown movie star, for instance, could be stalked by delusional (paranoid) disorder. Doctors may repeatedly reassure a patient that they do not have a serious illness.
  • Paranoid schizophrenia: One of the most severe types. People with this condition experience strange delusions, such as believing that they are broadcast on radio. It is also common for people suffering from the condition to experience bizarre hallucinations as well. The world is confusing for someone who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and their functioning is impaired without treatment.

What causes paranoia?

Paranoia Causes

Sleep deprivation

The restless night of a single individual probably won’t cause paranoia. Sleep deprivation can lead to fatigue if you don’t get enough.

This might affect your ability to think clearly, and you may have conflicts with others or misunderstand them more easily. When people act the same way as they always do, it may appear like they’re working against you.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you may even start hearing and seeing things that aren’t there (your doctor will call these hallucinations).

To be alert and mentally healthy, adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.

You should know about Insomnia disorder.


When stress increases in your life, you may start feeling suspicious of others. You don’t have to experience an illness or lose your job to experience stress. There is such a thing as paranoid thoughts, even with happy occasions such as weddings.

There are a few things you can do to help ease the tension:

  • Relax and forget everything that’s causing you stress
  • Get together with friends
  • Laugh and smile at something
  • Exercise regularly
  • Make your mind clear by meditating

Psychiatric disorders

It is difficult to trust others when you have a paranoid personality disorder. It can make you think things you don’t want to believe, like “They don’t like me,” “They’re making fun of me,” or even “They’re plotting against me.”

Sometimes no amount of evidence will convince you otherwise. The result can be true clinical paranoia. It is possible to believe some of the unrealistic thoughts that enter your head, even though you don’t believe them all.

Schizophrenia disorder can affect one’s ability to distinguish between the real and the imagined. You may not even realize when your thoughts are becoming paranoid most of the time. Many people do not realize they’re sick until family members, friends, or medical professionals point it out.

Borderline personality disorders in which we have rapid emotional swings, such as worshipping someone one minute and hating them the next, can also cause paranoid feelings and clinical paranoia.

Paranoia or worrying about what others think about you occasionally does not necessarily indicate that you suffer from a mental illness. You may be in good mental health if you are aware that your thoughts do not make sense.

If you are constantly paranoid or paranoia becomes a problem in your everyday life, it might be worth consulting a doctor or mental health professional to figure out what to do.

Check: Types of Overthinking

Drug use

Some people feel paranoid for a short period of time when they use marijuana, hallucinogens (LSD, psychotropic mushrooms) and stimulants (cocaine, methamphetamine). Paranoia also disappears when the chemicals leave your system. Even hours or days of heavy alcohol use can cause short-term paranoia, which may lead to chronic paranoia and even hallucinations over the long term.

When you are anxious or depressed, drugs will make these symptoms worse. Symptoms associated with them include true clinical paranoia in some individuals suffering from a psychiatric disorder.

Also, alcohol can make paranoia worse. In addition, it can make us less inhibited, which makes controlling our emotions more difficult.

Memory loss

In the case of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, which is more common with age, your brain may become more suspicious of others due to the disease. It is common for people with dementia to hide things such as jewelry or money or believe that others attempt to harm them.

It is a part of the condition. Managing these symptoms might be possible with the help of their doctor.

Must Recommend: Multiple Strategies to Control Overthinking

Paranoia treatments

Consult your doctor or a mental health professional if you believe you’re losing your grip on reality. As long as you are aware that your thoughts are unreasonably distorted, you can still help.

Starting from the beginning, eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep are important. All of these factors contribute to a mental balance that can prevent paranoid thoughts.

Talking with yourself about paranoid thoughts can help after that. The trick only works if you can tell your thoughts aren’t reasonable. Keep your expectations realistic. Try to keep your thoughts from being described as delusional or paranoid by saying instead: “I’m worried about something unlikely to happen.”

Despite not having a mental illness, you may want to speak to a social worker, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist if your paranoid or irrational thoughts interfere with your activities. You might feel better with some kind of therapy or medication.

Many people who feel paranoid don’t realize that their thoughts are unrealistic, so they don’t seek treatment. Talk to a health professional or a resource, such as NCMI (, 800-950-NAMI), or SAMHSA (, 800-662-HELP).

Recommended: How to help someone with Depression

Coping with paranoia

Paranoia should be discussed with your physician or psychiatrist if you are experiencing this feeling. It may be a sign that your medication or treatment needs to be changed if you’ve already been diagnosed with another mental illness.

If you experience these symptoms, contact your mental health care provider so they can help keep you safe and make sure you get the right treatment.

How does paranoia affect people?

When a person with paranoia seeks treatment and follows through with it, the outlook is usually positive. However, treatment may take a long time. It can be treated with therapy and medication. It is common for paranoid people to perceive paranoid thoughts as real and distrustful of others. Obtaining treatment becomes difficult in this situation.

Paranoia may seem harmless to someone who shows the symptoms, so they might not seek medical attention. It is still important to encourage them to consult a doctor for a diagnosis as soon as possible.


Treatment for paranoia usually has a positive outcome for those who seek it and adhere to it. Nevertheless, treatment may take time. There is an effective treatment for it in the form of therapy and medication. Paranoid people usually distrust other people and believe paranoid thoughts to be true. It is difficult to seek treatment because of this.

It is possible for someone you know to believe they do not require medical attention when they exhibit symptoms of paranoia. However, you should recommend that they see a doctor to get a diagnosis.

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