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By Medicover Hospitals / 27 Mar 2021
Home | symptoms | paranoia
  • Paranoia is a thought process that causes you to have irrational suspicion or distrust of others. Paranoid people may feel like they are being persecuted, or that someone is there to catch them. They can feel the threat of physical injury even if they are not in danger. People with dementia sometimes experience paranoia, and this can also occur in people who abuse drugs. Paranoid thoughts can also be a symptom of a mental illness or personality disorder.
  • Article Context:

    1. What is paranoia?
    2. Causes
    3. Diagnosis
    4. Treatment
    5. When to visit a Doctor?
    6. Prevention
    7. FAQ's

    What is paranoia?

  • Paranoia refers to feelings of mistrust, suspicion, or persecution that are not based on reality. Paranoia is a kind of illusion in which a person thinks they are being chosen negatively. Paranoid people will look for evidence to prove that they are distinguished and refuse to see that they have an exaggerated view of their meaning.
  • The exact cause of paranoia is not known. Paranoia is more common in men than in women, although the exact prevalence of paranoia is not known. Paranoia is a mental and emotional symptom of many types of mental illnesses, including paranoid personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. There are many types of paranoia.
  • Paranoia is characterized by delusions that others have hidden motives or a desire to harm you, feelings of mistrust and hostility, feelings of persecution, and social isolation and withdrawal. A mental health professional should evaluate paranoia. Paranoia is often difficult to treat because people with paranoia are often wary of medical intervention.
  • For those who receive treatment, therapy and medication can help reduce feelings of paranoia. Usually, paranoia is part of a personality disorder or mental illness, so the full treatment depends on the underlying disorder. Untreated paranoia can lead to social isolation and absenteeism from work or school.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you experience paranoia besides hallucinations if you cannot take care of your basic needs, or have thoughts to harm yourself or others. If your paranoia persists or worries you, see a doctor right away.
  • Causes:

    Too little sleep:

  • A single restless night is unlikely to cause paranoid thoughts. But if you go without sleep a lot, it can start to take its toll. You may not think so clearly, and you may be more likely to conflict with or have misunderstandings with others. It may seem like people are working against you when they act like they always do. If you don't sleep long enough, you might even start to see and hear things that aren't there (your doctor will call them hallucinations). Adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night to stay alert and mentally healthy.
  • Stress:

  • When the tension builds in your life, you might start to be wary of others. And stress doesn't have to be something negative like illness or job loss. Even a happy occasion, like a wedding, can create a kind of stress that brings out paranoid thoughts with joy. To help relieve tension, you can:
    • Take time to relax and try to forget what is stressing you
    • Spend time with friends
    • Find something to smile and laugh at
    • Get plenty of exercises
    • Meditate to clear your mind

    Psychiatric disorders:

    • One condition, Paranoid Personality Disorder, can make it difficult to trust others. It can cause negative thoughts about people that are just not true, like"They are plotting against me", "They're laughing at me" or even "They don't like me." In some cases, there is no evidence to convince you otherwise. This can lead to true clinical paranoia. Even if you don't believe every unrealistic thought that comes to your mind, you do.
    • Schizophrenia, another serious disorder, can make it difficult to tell what is real and what is imagined. Most of the time, you just don't know when your thoughts have gotten paranoid. Friends, relatives, or healthcare professionals often need to report this and try to help you get treatment.
    • Borderline personality disorder, in which you have rapid emotional fluctuations where you can adore someone one moment and hate them the next, can also cause paranoid thoughts and even clinical paranoia in some people.
    • Just because you feel paranoid or worry about what others think about you from time to time doesn't mean that you have a psychiatric disorder. Knowing that your thoughts are meaningless can be a sign of good mental health. But if these paranoid feelings come up all the time or start to interfere with your home or work life, you might want to talk to your doctor or mental health care provider.

    Drug use:

    • Drugs like marijuana, hallucinogens, and stimulants contain chemicals that make some people paranoid for short periods. Once the chemicals leave your system, the paranoia goes away as well. Days or weeks of heavy drinking can also cause short-term paranoia and, in the long term, permanent paranoia and even hallucinations.
    • If paranoid thoughts make you anxious or have minor symptoms of depression, medications may make them worse. In some people, they can trigger a psychiatric disorder with true clinical paranoia as a symptom.
    • Alcohol can also make paranoia worse. Also, it makes us less inhibited, which makes it more difficult to control these feelings.

    Memory loss:

  • Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, which are more likely as you age, can change your brain in a way that makes you more suspicious of other people. You may notice that a loved one with dementia begins to hide things like jewelry or money, or becomes convinced that people have bad intentions towards them. It's part of the disease. Their doctor may be able to help you manage these symptoms.
  • Treatment:

  • If your paranoid thoughts are causing you distress, you may want to seek treatment. You can also receive treatment for paranoia as part of your treatment for a mental health condition.
  • The first step is usually to visit your physician. Our information on finding help with a mental health problem can help you talk to your doctor about your mental health.
  • Spoken therapy:

  • Talking therapies can help you understand your experiences and build coping strategies to manage them.
    • Spoken therapy:

    • The most common form of talk therapy for paranoia is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). During CBT, you will examine your thinking and the evidence for your beliefs and look for different possible interpretations. CBT can also help reduce worry and anxiety which can influence and increase feelings of paranoia.
    • Other talk therapy:

    • Many other forms of talk therapy are available, including:
      • psychodynamic therapy
      • advice
      • family (or systemic) therapy
    • Talking therapies are free on the NHS, but wait times can vary and can be long. You can choose to see a therapist in private if you can afford it. The British Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) and the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy (BACP) have a list of trained and registered therapists.

    Creative Arts and Therapies:

  • The arts and creative therapies use artistic activities to help you express how you feel, in a therapeutic environment. These types of therapy can be helpful if you are having difficulty talking about your experience.
  • Medication:

  • If you are diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia or delusional disorder, you will likely be offered an antipsychotic medication to reduce your symptoms. Antipsychotics can reduce paranoid thoughts or make you feel less threatened by them.
  • If you suffer from anxiety or depression, your physician may suggest antidepressants or minor tranquilizers. These can help you feel less worried about your thoughts and can keep them from getting worse. See our medication pages for more general information.
  • Diagnosis:

  • Your physician will perform a medical exam and take a full medical history to help rule out a physical or medical reason for your symptoms, such as dementia.
  • If your paranoia is part of a psychiatric problem, your doctor will refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist who will then perform clinical psychological assessment and testing to help determine your mental state.
  • Other conditions that can occur in people with paranoia are:
    • bipolar disorder
    • anxiety
    • depression


  • While it may not be possible to prevent paranoid personality disorder, treatment can sometimes allow a person prone to this disorder to learn more productive ways to deal with situations.
  • Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Doubting the commitment, loyalty, or reliability of others, believing that others are exploiting or cheating on them. Are reluctant to confide in others or reveal personal information because they fear that this information will be used against them. Are ruthless and hold a grudge.
  • Paranoia is persistent anxiety about a specific fear. Paranoid anxieties often revolve around persecution, being watched, or being treated unfairly. The hallmark of paranoia is that it is rooted in a false belief. Persons who have paranoid thoughts may also have false beliefs about their own power or importance.
  • People with paranoid schizophrenia have an altered perception of reality. They may see or hear things that are not there, speak confusedly, believe that others are trying to hurt them, or feel like they are constantly being watched.
  • Signs of paranoia can include:
    • Be defensive, hostile, and aggressive
    • Being easily offended
    • Believing that you are always right and having a hard time relaxing or letting your guard down
    • Not being able to compromise, forgive, or accept criticism
    • Not being able to trust or confide in other people


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