Content reviewed by Gillian Bieler, LCSW, CSAT, Clinical Director at ARC

Paranoia is an eerie, gnawing feeling that something isn’t right. Perhaps you are excessively worried that someone is stalking you even though no one is. Or you may sense that you have a variety of fatal illnesses that haven’t been diagnosed or even evaluated. Paranoia can be very disturbing and disruptive to your mental well-being and ability to live life relatively stress-free. Chronic paranoia can make situations nerve-racking and upsetting for you and everyone involved.

Is it paranoia or harmless suspicion?

Paranoid thoughts tend to be about threats or harm to one’s well-being or loved ones. They often involve ideas about how other people might behave or think and are sometimes described as delusions or exaggerated suspicions.

Paranoia triggers a magnification of your fears and things around you become threatening to your safety and security. However, there is a fine line between true paranoia and justified suspicion, but it can be difficult to tell the difference.

Distrustful thoughts are probably paranoia if the following things are true:

  • There is no concrete evidence for what you believe.
  • It is unlikely that the threat would target only you.
  • There is evidence that conflicts with the suspicious thought.
  • Your friends and family don’t believe anything strange is going on.
  • Despite receiving solace from others, you still feel something is wrong.
  • Your fears are based on feelings and ambiguous events or circumstances, not logic.

Be skeptical of paranoid thoughts and feelings.

On the other hand, you may be convinced that you have good reason to be concerned. Maybe robberies occur frequently in your neighborhood, or a myriad of health problems run in your family.

By challenging your own suspicious thoughts and how they could be false rather than true, you may be able to overcome paranoia and see reality for what it is.

5 reasons that may be causing your paranoia.

Reason 1: 

You may be paranoid if you face ongoing stress—such as being a Covid-19 frontline worker—or have lived through traumatic life events. Trauma, stress and paranoia interact in disorders like post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), which often manifests in individuals who fought in wars or were victims of horrific crimes.

Reason 2:

Childhood experiences shape much of what adults believe and how they behave. If childhood abuse or chronic stress occurred, an individual could grow up with distorted ideas about themselves and their place in the world, creating paranoid behavior.

Reason 3:

Mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and bipolar disorder include paranoia as a possible symptom. Due to the nature of these conditions, certain situations may be very bothersome or triggering.

For example, intrusive thoughts caused by OCD may cause a person to be paranoid that they will act out in dangerous ways, causing great distress. If you are depressed, you may struggle with a poor self-imagine, causing you to worry excessively about how others view you.

Reason 4:

Another reason a person may be paranoid is due to the effects of recreational drugs and chronic alcohol consumption. This will likely occur if you’re not in a good mental state or are inexperienced with the effects the substance produces.

Drugs like cannabis can make a person feel detached from their environment, triggering anxiety and fear. By their very nature, psychedelics significantly alter a person’s perception of reality for many hours, which can be terrifying. Cocaine, alcohol, ecstasy, and amphetamines can also cause paranoia.

Reason 5:

Lastly, physical illnesses can be responsible for paranoid thoughts and behaviors. Some medical conditions include strokes, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Alzheimer’s. Those with hearing loss may also struggle with paranoia as well as people with poor sleep patterns, as they can induce unsettling feelings and even disturbing hallucinations.

As is true with many conditions, genetics and family history likely influence a person’s experience with paranoia.

Paranoia is a key symptom in three mental health conditions.

Three mental health conditions share paranoia as a primary symptom: paranoid personality disorder, delusional paranoid disorder and paranoid schizophrenia.

Paranoid personality disorder is the mildest condition of the three. Despite being highly distrustful of the world, most individuals function well.

Delusional paranoid disorder is marked by one driving delusion and exhibits no other signs of a problem. Their everyday behavior is specific to whatever they are concerned with, although some individuals with this disorder stalk others as a result of their false beliefs regarding them.

Paranoid schizophrenia is the most severe of the three conditions and involves even more peculiar ideas about their interactions in the world. Many patients have bizarre hallucinations and require treatment to function.

Don’t ignore how you feel and get help.

By ignoring your thoughts and feelings, your paranoia will continue to cause you pain and suffering. It’s essential to determine the root of your fears and worries so you can start to manage them and enjoy life again. Starting a bad habit of misusing drugs and alcohol to avoid or suppress them can lead to more problems. The road of addiction can be torturous, and your paranoia will likely worsen with drugs and alcohol.

Authentic Recovery Center is a fully licensed treatment facility for addiction and mental health conditions. Our residential facilities are located in West Los Angeles in a quiet neighborhood ideal for healing. We provide personalized and compassionate treatment plans and high-quality care guided by the latest scientific research. We have access to qualified, diverse staff from top hospitals, universities and healthcare institutions, so our patients have all the tools and resources they need to get well. To learn more about our addiction and mental health programs, call us today at (866) 786-1376.