I keep thinking that people are out to get me.
How many times have you been confronted with this thought, or a thought like it? Paranoia affects us all to some extent. But for some of us, paranoid and suspicious thoughts pervade our daily lives to dangerous levels.
I thought I’d write this article because there are very few resources out there specifically focused on the paranoid person. Having dealt with paranoia in the past, I wanted to share with you what I have learned.
(Note: If you suspect that your paranoia is edging close to psychosis, I recommend seeking out medical help immediately. This article has only been written for general self-help purposes only.)
What You Should Know About Paranoid Thoughts
- They cause us to worry about other people or situations causing us unfounded or unrealistic harm.
- They can result from social anxiety, shyness, schizophrenia and stress disorders.
- People experiencing them often fear different things, such as being watched or talked about, hidden double meanings, physical harm, social harm (e.g. ridicule), psychological harm (e.g. people trying to irritate you), financial harm, and thoughts or actions being interfered with by others.
- They make you feel: anxious, stressed, scared, mistrustful, isolated, victimized, worried and tired.
Why Paranoid Thoughts Occur
Common triggers can be:
1. Stress and major life changes. For instance; relationship problems, financial pressures, leaving home, sleeplessness, shyness, death of a loved one etc.
These can lead to …
2. Negative emotions and beliefs. For instance; depression, anger, anxiety, guilt, low self-esteem, cynicism.
Leading to …
3. External triggers. For instance:
- When we’re in social situations.
- Situations hard to escape from.
- Situations where we feel exposed.
- Unusual or out-of-the-ordinary situations.
- When we’re alone.
4. Internal triggers. For instance:
- Our emotions (unhappiness, shame, anger etc.)
- Arousal, e.g. when we’re feeling especially alert and sensitive.
- Changes in the way we perceive or experience the world (e.g. things for some reason seem louder, brighter and more intrusive than usual).
- The use of drugs or alcohol.
How We React to Our Paranoid Thoughts
There are a number of ways we choose to deal with our thoughts. These are to:
1. Ignore the thoughts.
2. Adopt a problem-solving approach, e.g. reasoning or analyzing the thoughts.
3. Responding emotionally, e.g. feeling miserable, annoyed, helpless or ashamed.
4. Avoiding the thoughts, e.g. withdrawing from people and situations.
5. Thinking the thoughts are true.
6. Trying to understand the thoughts, e.g. getting other people’s perspectives, finding out more information.
In the essence, the way we react to our suspicious and paranoid thoughts actually determines how long they’ll persist, and how badly they’ll affect us.
What We Can Do to Overcome Our Paranoid Thoughts
The smartest way to approach our paranoid thoughts is to have a problem-solving approach in which we explore where they came from and how we can stop them. Think of this as being a Sherlock Holmes of your mind.
One good way to start is to record in a journal daily what triggered your paranoid thoughts and how you reacted to them. This will allow you to become increasingly conscious of your paranoid thoughts. After all, how can you possibly stop your thoughts in their tracks if you’re not even aware of them first?
It may also help you to record the stress and major life changes, followed by emotions, and followed by the internal or external triggers that may have led up to your paranoid thought.
Learn more about how to journal.
Tips: The goal is to become a detached observer of your anxieties.
Next, you will need to assess and challenge the paranoid thoughts that arise in you.
I have found these 5 rules to be extremely helpful:
1. Don’t treat your thoughts and feelings as facts.
2. Think for evidence both for and against your thoughts.
3. Try to think of alternative explanations for events.
4. Test out your explanations.
5. Always try to keep an open mind.
These are extremely important.
Paranoid people tend to jump to conclusions, generalize, take things personally and catastrophize events very easily. This is why it’s a good idea to record your suspicious thoughts, the evidence for and against them and how strongly you believe them both before you’ve weighed up the evidence and afterward.
Tips: It’s a good idea to have a supportive statement prepared for when you experience paranoid thoughts, for instance: “I am a realistic person” or “They’re just thoughts – they’ll pass soon”.
Remember, resistance is what causes suffering. Don’t fight your suspicious thoughts – they will only come back to haunt you. Instead, focus your efforts on surrendering, accepting and trying to learn from your tendency to be paranoid as a conscious observer.
If you deal with paranoia, feel free to share any helpful strategies of your own below!
I am so pleased I came across your site I love it..It covers all my traits & inerests..I am 58 now but have always been Hsp & an intense empath..I have been on one hell of a journey, I’ve lived & experienced a few lives within this one.. I’ve lost my Spirit for living recently, I’m not myself & I hate it..I read your Lost Soul chapter.. I think that’s what happened..
And for the record. I have discovered a chain of words in my head that repeditivily pop up. And I see right through it. This happens in a loop. I would love some feedback on this.
“Just do it”
And no many other words that kind of just repeat over and over like a dang robot. They often pop up during times when I’m speaking the truth and stating something obvious. I also hear blunt commands that I dont really obey most of the time and for good reason they are rude and disrespectful. Hell even when I’m doing something that part of my mind will give a command of me doing it before I was even given the command just to feel like it’s got some kind of control over me. It’s actually more funny then it is annoying. Personally I think this part of me is just going to end up fading out of existence still repeating the same line over and over again. And to be honest. I don’t even care at this point..
Hello. I agree with with alot of what your saying but a small part of my mind is in Denial. It’s very obvious. Most of my mind agrees. The denial part just constantly keeps coming up with excuses to keep being Intrusive. I am actually very confident this is all going to go away and stay away to foresight is very clear. A part of my mind constantly keeps asking how over and over again and I keep telling it over and over again. God. And it just doesn’t want to accept the truth. So my mind has started multiple scenarios in order to get rid of it because I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t going to accept the truth. And I’m ok with that. And I don’t believe that means it stays in my life forever. I’m aware that this process is not instant. It takes time and practice. I also know what’s needed in my life to aid in completely ridding it. A woman. And that’s exactly what is about to happen soon in my life. I’m excited. I’m relieved. I’m alittle angry for the long wait but it’s all good because I know that she’s… Read more »
I can identify with this type of paranoid thinking. Many years ago I went through a series of relationship betrayals/breakdowns/losses, within a 5 year period I lost my mother, my brother and my best friend. the loss of my mother was due to death, but we had so many unresolved issues. I lost my brother thru betrayal, he has his own pain he lives with and cannot see past it. I lost my best friend thru dishonesty. It broke my heart what happened. Loosing my best friend was probably the most devastating. It took me 10 years to end our friendship. Out of loyalty and my own illusion of being a “good person” I believed if I forgave her everything would go back to normal. Wrong, it only seem to get worse. In my pretending to forgive her, I found myself getting more angry, resentful, jealous. I could not understand why after I had “forgiven” her why good things continued to happen for her. It seemed as if a dark cloud followed me everywhere. I became paranoid, thinking no one liked me, everyone was out to get me, everyone was talking about me, I don’t belong here, I feel alone.… Read more »
I feel there has to be a greater purpose for my paranoia and suspicion. I wish I knew what it was. It is such a struggle.
I deal with paranoid thoughts it seems on a daily basis, well they are more coincidences but a lot of them and it is overwhelming. The only difference is, they are real but if you tell someone, they don’t believe you. I often wish they were really just paranoia but they are not. There is a lot of stigma and gang mentality in my home town and trying to get help is very difficult. I watch what is happening and my heart is just broken. Professionals are very discriminating towards those of us struggling and I have been on both sides but my heart always has and always will be with those less fortunate that continue to cry out for help and are ignored.
Chris, thanks for sharing your experience. I’m sure that time will make you feel better.