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Supporting someone with paranoia

If someone you care about is experiencing paranoid thoughts, it can be difficult to know how to help. You might feel unsure of how to react, particularly if you don't agree with their beliefs. This page has some tips that may help.

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg. This link will take you to a Welsh translation of this page.

Consider the basis of their beliefs

You might not think their beliefs are justified. But their paranoid thoughts may have developed from anxiety about a real situation or past experiences.

Try to explore or think about whether there's a basis for their thoughts. This can help both of you understand how the thoughts have developed.

The most helpful thing for me is to be taken seriously. On some level I know my beliefs can't be real, yet to me they are utterly terrifying. Treating the fear as very real, even if you can't go along with my reasons for the fear, is so important.

Don't dismiss their fears

Their thoughts and feelings are very real to them. So try to understand how they feel, even if you don't agree that they're under threat.

It's possible to recognise their emotions without agreeing with why they feel that way. For example, you could say something like 'Things sound really scary for you at the moment'.

Be there for them

People experiencing paranoid thoughts may lack trust in others. Their actions may start to push away people in their lives, even if they don't mean to. For example, they may avoid social situations where you might see them. This can be really difficult, and it may leave you feeling upset and hurt.

Try to remember that they're dealing with difficult moods, emotions and experiences. You can let them know you'll be there for them when they need you.

It helps to deal with the agitation by focusing on the feelings, and giving general comforting phrases such as 'All is well, there is nothing to worry about, you are safe.' Providing distraction activities can also help to break the cycle of paranoia.

Support them to seek help

You can't force anyone to get help if they don't want it. But you can reassure them that it's ok to ask for help, and that help is available. See our pages on supporting someone else to seek help for more information.

Respect their wishes

Don't try and take over or make decisions without them. Try to respect their wishes, even if you feel that you know what's best.

Agree how to get help in a crisis

They might struggle to talk about their experiences, or feel like they can’t open up. This means they may become very unwell before you realise they need help.

If you're worried about them having a mental health crisis, you could suggest that they use their crisis plan, if they have one. Our information on crisis services explains more about how to get help for a crisis.

Look after yourself

Seeing someone you care about experiencing paranoia can be distressing or even frightening. You may feel as if you have no time for yourself, but looking after your own wellbeing is important for you and for them.

There are lots of ways to find support, for example through talking therapy or peer support. This may be available at a local Mind or a carers' group, such as Carers UK.

See our pages on looking after yourself when supporting someone else for more tips.

Looking after someone with paranoia is incredibly draining… having the same conversations day in day out. I learnt to be very clear and concise in my conversations with my father, to be very boundaried and always do what I said I was going to do, leaving no room for misinterpretation.

This information was published in February 2024. We will revise it in 2027.

References and bibliography available on request.

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