Paranoia is a feeling of not trusting others and constantly feeling threatened, without adequate and justified reasoning behind it.

We have all gone through thoughts of fear and panic when we are faced with adverse situations. And while many of these thoughts are justified and totally normal, sometimes there might not be enough foundation to understand why we are feeling a certain way. When these thoughts of panic and fear become threatening in nature, and even delusional, it is termed as paranoia.

Most of us experience paranoia at one stage or the other in our lives. A study, published in Wiley Psychology and psychotherapy, looks at how the student population experiences paranoia. It suggests that paranoia is a major issue experienced by students, and the main causes of these include trust issues and strange social situations.

What is paranoia?

Paranoid thoughts are constant feelings of being threatened in some way or the other, without any evidence or justification behind it. Health Shots got in touch with Dr Imran Noorani, consultant psychologist at Child Development Center Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, who explains what can paranoia lead to. “Paranoid thoughts are like delusions that people have. There are lots of different kinds of threat you might be scared and worried about,” he says.

A woman experiencing fear
Establishing trust and working on self esteem can help with paranoid thoughts. Image Courtesy: Freepik

What are the symptoms of paranoia?

There are various tips to help with worry and fear. But if these symptoms prolong, and transform into paranoid thoughts, it can also takes a toll on your mental health, social and physical well being. “The symptoms of paranoia are very different depending on their severity. However, these can easily impact all areas of your life. Symptoms include constant stress or anxiety related to beliefs they have about others, mistrust of others, feeling disbelieved or misunderstood, feeling victimized or persecuted when there isn’t a threat, isolation,” says Dr Noorani.

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Needless to say, making relationships and maintaining them can be tough in these situations. “Not trusting other people and constantly being anxious can make it very difficult to form relationships and interact with others difficult. In fact, things can become so extreme that this can cause problems with at your workplace and even at home,” explains Dr Noorani.

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What causes paranoia?

While why paranoia happens to someone people and not to others, or for that matter any personality disorder or mental illness, cannot be clearly defined. However, it may be a combination of factors.

1. Genetics

Paranoia can be a result of our genes as well. This study, published in Biology Letters, links paranoid thinking to out genetic model. This includes delusional thoughts as well as actions and plans.

2. Stress

Research points to the fact that stress can be a major reason for someone being paranoid. This study, published in Schizophrenia Bulletin, proves that stress can lead to paranoid thoughts and victims must practice stress management techniques.

3. Brain chemistry

This is due to the neurotransmitters that help us think and feel a certain way. A research paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), claims that dopamine is related to paranoia.

Woman experiencing stress
Stress can be a major reason behing paranoia. Image courtesy: Freepik

4. Drugs

Drug use can also cause paranoia. The use of methamphetamines can cause paranoid behaviour and delusions. The drugs that can cause paranoid feelings include PCP and LSD.

How can you treat paranoia?

If you can relate to the symptoms mentioned above and are looking for a way to keep those paranoid thought at bay, then you can look at various ways that are sure to help you feel at ease. “There are some very practical ways to help keep paranoid thoughts away. These include practical things such as accepting vulnerability, increasing self esteem, developing trust in others and learning to express as well as handle your emotions in a positive manner,” says Dr Noorani.

It is important to get the treatment based on the causes as well as the severity of your symptoms. There are various ways to treat paranoia, including medication and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy helps one develop skills that helps one socialise as well as communicate better. If you are diagnosed with paranoid personality disorder, a mental health condition where one experiences constant distrust and suspicion without proper reason, then you can also be prescribed anti- anxiety medicines. If paranoid schizophrenia has been diagnosed then antipsychotic medication, as well as anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants might be prescribed by your doctor. Psychotherapy as well as counselling, both personal as well as with your family, will also be done post treatment.
If paranoia has happened due to drugs, then treatment will be given till the effect of the drugs wear off, and then probably a rehabilitation programme will be recommended.

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