for better mental health

Paranoia

Explains paranoia, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

How could paranoia affect me?

You might do or feel specific things as a result of your paranoid thoughts. These things can feel helpful at the time – but in the long term they could make your paranoia worse.

Safety behaviours

Safety behaviours are things you do that make you feel safe. For example, you might avoid certain people or places, stay indoors a lot or wear protective clothing. These are also known as safety seeking behaviours.

Behaviour towards other people

If you think someone is threatening you or wants to harm you in some way, you may behave suspiciously or aggressively towards them. You might push them away or decide that you are better off without them.

But this means that people might start to treat you differently. They might try to avoid you too. It might become harder to make or keep friends. This can make you feel as if your beliefs were justified in the first place.

Safety behaviours can sometimes start to act as evidence for your paranoid thoughts. You might think that you are safe because you do those things and then do them even more. But this means you don't have a chance to try different ways of coping with scary situations or to test your beliefs and see if they are justified or not.

Talking therapies can help you test your thoughts and practise dealing with scary situations and people. This can be very uncomfortable at first but the therapist should offer you a lot of support and take things at a pace that you can manage.

"Paranoia can appear to make people very selfish, and self-absorbed."

Isolation

Paranoid thoughts can make you feel alone. You might feel as if no one understands you, and it can be hard when other people don't believe what feels very real to you. If you avoid people or stay indoors a lot, you may feel even more isolated. You might find it helpful to read our information on talking to someone you trust

"Paranoia is a very lonely and very frightening illness – it strips people of their confidence."

Worry and sadness

You might feel anxious and worried about your paranoid thoughts or feel low and sad about what they mean and how they affect your life.

Anxiety and low mood might make you more vulnerable to paranoid thoughts. Research has also shown that people who are more anxious or have low mood are more distressed by paranoid thoughts. It might help to read our information on anxiety and depression.

"What really disturbed me was the strength of the panic that felt like being stabbed. I realised this thought was paranoid but it was the idea that I could think something as bizarre as this that was terrifying to me."

Hearing voices, paranoia and schizophrenia 

Watch Miles talking about his experiences of paranoia and hearing voices.  

Paranoia and stigma

There are a lot of misunderstandings about what it means to experience paranoia. It's important to remember that you aren't alone and you don't have to put up with people treating you badly. Here are some options for you to think about:

  • Show people this information to help them understand more about paranoia.
  • Talk to other people who experience paranoia by going to a peer support group – or setting one up for yourself.
  • Share your experience with others. Mind publishes blogs and video blogs from people with experience of mental health problems, including paranoia. See our pages of mental health stories, including information on how to contribute your story with a blog or vlog.  
  • Know your rights. Our pages on legal rights provide more information.
  • Take action with Mind. See our campaigning page for details of the different ways you can get involved with helping us challenge stigma.

This information was published in July 2020. We will revise it in 2023.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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