Paranoia: causes, types, treatment and prevention

Paranoia: causes, types, treatment and prevention

Girl in fear

Paranoia when broken down, consists of two words, para which means abnormal and noia which came from greek word ‘noose’ means mind, so paranoia basically  refers to the state of mind which is beyond normal or the mind functioning abnormally.

What is paranoia?

Paranoia involves intense fear or anxiety and feeling of distrust, suspicion, conspiracy and persecution, which means feeling superior and mistreating others based on their status, caste, religion or nationality, which generally occurs when one, thinks superior of himself. Often the thoughts associated with paranoia are irrational and are not true to be real. Some of the beliefs or behavior of paranoia includes hypervigilance where person keep looking for possible threats In the surrounding which could harm them. People having paranoia have difficulty in forgiving others and they tend to look for the hidden motives or unexpressed desires lingering behind anyone’s deed.

Paranoid people builds a defensive thought process with response to ‘imagined criticism’, which includes judging oneself on other’s behalf thinking ‘what others might think’. It could lead to interpreting or making a negative assumption for a future outcome which could otherwise have a possibility of turning out well, this leads to self doubt, insecurity and having second thoughts about a situation even before doing anything.

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Symptom Across Multiple Mental Disorders

Paranoia could be a symptom of multiple mental disorders, but it is not a disorder or a syndrome itself. It is the common symptom of psychosis and other disorders like schizophrenia, delusional disorder, paranoia personality disorder, dimentia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, PTSD and alzeimer’s disease.

Paranoia can be explained through various definitions or keywords, one among them is ‘delusional psychosis’ meaning false, irrational beliefs in context of oneself or others,  which is quite different from general personality disorganization or hallucinations where there is sensory perceptions which may not be present in real life settings.

People with paranoia feel they could be easily tricked or being taken advantage of, so they get extra cautious and shows difficulty trusting others no matter how genuine or sober the person is. People also believe that they’re being pryed on by others or someone is out there to get them or cause harm to them.

Causes of paranoia

The reason for causation of paranoia is still unknown. Paranoia is not a disorder or a diagnosis itself, but a symptom of various other disorders. Paranoia may be caused due to chemical composition of brain or it may be genetic. It can happen as a result of some traumatic life event or when one goes through a stressful situation or some unexpected experiences like betrayal, defeat, distrust, etc. Paranoid thoughts can also occur as a result of substance use like alcohol, drugs or anything that may cause person to loose control over their thoughts and themselves.

Also Read: 6 Reasons People Make False Accusations and How to Deal with it

We often seem to have paranoid thoughts when we don’t get enough sleep as usual or when we are constantly in a state of worry or confusion. When there is a war ongoing or during the time of pandemic outbreak, people tend to be more paranoid out of fear or worry.

Paranoia ranges from mild(non-clinical paranoia) to severe(clinical paranoia) level and may vary from person to person. In case of clinical paranoia, it is advised to seek for mental health expert, a psychologist or psychiatrist.

As said earlier, Paranoia can be caused as a result of mental health disorders:
Delusional disorder:

Delusional disorders takes place when a person have no symptom other than delusion or paranoia, which includes having false beliefs or feeling superior than others i.e. persecution. They believe that someone is following them or they are constantly being pryed by others as a result they feel no sense of privacy. Stalking or constant worry for a particular symptom or disease, even after repeated reassurance by the experts can be one among other symptoms of this disorder.

Paranoid personality disorder:

It is not a severe type of disorder like schizophrenia, but paranoid personality disorder may have long term symptom of disbelief, conspiracy, suspicion followed by feeling of being taken advantage of or hypervigilance. People with this disorder don’t trust others easily or work with them, resulting in isolation to protect themselves. The disorder can’t be cured, but it can be treated.

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Paranoid schizophrenia:

People with schizophrenia exhibit paranoid thoughts and beliefs that they are being controlled or someone is keeping an eye on them. Hallucinations are the most common symptom of this disorder which involves sensory perceptions, people see things or hear voices inside their head that aren’t real. They also believe that their thoughts could cause harm to themselves or the world.

Treatment of paranoia

Although paranoia does not have a particular cause, signs and symptoms can be managed with the help of medications or therapy, depending on its severity and the diagnosis.


You can take anti-anxiety drugs or antipsychotic drugs to gain control over the condition of paranoia. However, person with paranoia seems to avoid taking pills or tablets questioning their composition, believing that the person or the doctor could cause harm to them through these medications. Hence, the preferred treatment for paranoia is psychotherapy which includes CBT or some of the life coping strategies or skills.

Cognitive behavior therapy:

Cognitive behavior therapy helps you with your paranoia by changing the thought process. Professionals use this form of therapy to help you become aware of your own harmful thoughts or feelings that may be hindering your life by affecting your behavior or way of thinking. When one succeeds in Identifying their faulty thought process,they could replace them by using problem solving skills or techniques.

Also Read: Taking a step towards Forgiveness

Support groups:

Rehabilitation or support groups along with the medications and therapies may seem to be beneficial in order to disrupt the paranoid thoughts and behavior patterns.

Prevention of paranoia

Limiting the intake of substances like alcohol or harmful drugs that alter your thoughts or perceptions of the world around can control or prevent paranoid thoughts from causing further damage. Get enough sleep of 7-8hours so that your body functions well throughout the day and take control over your diet by eating healthy regularly and maintaining your blood sugar level to keep mood and energy levels intact.

Practice yoga or meditation to keep your mind relaxed and devoid of worries and stress. Maintain a journal and write down your thoughts and feelings to keep a track of it and get aware. Also,it’s necessary to give your trust to your loved ones around whom you feels comfortable and safe,without doubting or thinking ill of them.

Anyone in the world can experience feelings of paranoia or unusual paranoid thoughts at any time, and going through this experience can be quite scary or frustrating. It is advised to seek help or talk about it with someone you trust well in order to keep it under control.


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