Paranoia can be so convincing it’s hard to know if you should trust your thoughts – and even harder if you’re on drugs. We’re here to explain what paranoia is and what you can do about it.
What is paranoia?
Paranoia is where you’re convinced people are ‘out to get you’ in some way. Whether that’s by spreading rumours about you, trying to physically hurt you, or by conning you out of money.
Examples of paranoid thoughts are:
- ‘My housemates are always talking behind my back.’
- ‘My teacher will give me low marks on my exam on purpose, because they don’t like me.’
- ‘The Government is trying to kill me.’
What makes this ‘paranoia’ rather than ‘the truth’ is if these thoughts are based on no real facts or evidence. So if you do overhear your housemates talking about you behind your back, you’re not paranoid, they’re just horrid.
How do I know if I’m paranoid or justified?
Again, do you have any hard evidence to back up your thoughts? This is a tricky one, because if you’re really paranoid you may twist what you’ve seen or heard to confirm your beliefs.
If you’re unsure and you’re worried, talk to someone you trust. Do they think you should be worried? If not, and if you have no evidence, then you may be suffering from some paranoia.
If I’m paranoid does that mean I’ve got a mental health problem?
Paranoia isn’t a mental health problem itself. However, serious paranoia is a symptom of some mental health problems, including schizophrenia and bipolar. So it’s really worth going to see your GP if you feel paranoid.
How can I help someone who’s paranoid?
Supporting someone with paranoia can be hard, especially if they don’t realise they have a problem and are convinced their suspicions are justified.
Start by trying to understand where they’re coming from. Just because someone’s fears seem unfounded doesn’t make them any less scary for them, so don’t dismiss how they’re feeling.
- Listen carefully.
- Ask questions, giving them the opportunity to tell you what their paranoid thoughts are.
- Show that you understand that they’re scared.
- Gently encourage them to see their GP and offer to go with them.
- Give logical reasons why they don’t need to be afraid, for example: “why would so-and-so be trying to hurt you? You haven’t done anything wrong.”
- Get support yourself from a trusted friend, or give SANEline a call for a chat.
- Say things like “that’s definitely not true” as this can convince them even more.
- Pretend you believe their paranoid thoughts.
- Think that helping them is entirely your responsibility – it’s not.