It is hard when someone you love is struggling with their mental health. You might feel helpless like there is nothing you can do to aid their struggle. One of the hardest things to witness your loved one go through is paranoia.
Paranoia is a feeling of severe fear and anxiety that often relate to threats or conspiracy. Some things they feel paranoid about might be impossible or sound ridiculous to you, but they are very real to them.
Sometimes, paranoid thoughts can turn into delusions. That happens when they become so intense that nothing can convince them the irrational thoughts are not real. If this happens often, they could be living with a delusion disorder.
Paranoia can be a symptom of many mental health conditions.
- Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD)
- Major Depressive DIsorder
- Anxiety Disorders
- Bipolar Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Delusional Disorder
While some disorders experience more severe paranoia than others, the intensity of it depends on the individual.
Many signs of paranoia might seem subtle initially but can intensify over time. By knowing how different behaviors relate to paranoia, you might be able to tell when they are struggling with it.
People struggling with paranoia often doubt what they used to believe was true, such as their ability to form positive relationships or that they are good at their job. There usually isn’t anything that would reasonably trigger that doubt.
People with paranoia are often hypersensitive about questions, comments or actions that they or other people say or do. They often think the situation is more severe or serious than it actually is.
People struggling with paranoia often misinterpret what you say or do, as well as their thoughts and feelings. They may take comments you make out of concern as you being mean. They might think the typical thoughts and feelings around a situation are wrong.
Often when someone is dealing with paranoia, they will not trust anyone to keep them safe or healthy. People living the condition often are on edge because they feel like something has to go wrong or someone is out to get them.
Due to intense intrusive thoughts and feelings, they never truly feel comfortable, even in relaxing scenarios. They can have trouble sleeping or sitting still because they are always looking for threats.
Suspicion is common when people struggle with paranoia. They think about ulterior motives people have for doing innocent or helpful things, even when they have no reason to suspect anything is wrong.
Understandably, people living with paranoia deal with irritability. It can be hard to speak up about their intrusive thoughts and feelings, especially when those things tell them it makes them crazy or unsafe.
A coping mechanism for many people with paranoia is refusing to be wrong. It’s easy to control a situation if they portray themselves as making the correct decisions about it. They often lash out when anyone challenges this overconfidence.
Paranoia can easily lead to people isolating themselves from loved ones. Repeatedly rejecting opportunities they used to love could mean the paranoia they feel makes even hanging out with friends or family members too much to handle.
While these symptoms are often connected, someone does not have to have all of them to live with the condition.
It is difficult to see someone you care about live with paranoia. Here are three ways you can help.
Living with paranoia can be terrifying. They likely know that some of their thoughts and feelings are irrational, but their thoughts and feelings are so strong and real that it becomes hard to function.
As someone on the outside, it can be hard to understand them and begin to feel frustrated with them because they say or do things that seem overkill. One of the worst things you can do is make the person feel alone.
It is not always easy but try to stay calm and assure your loved one that you are there for them and will help them in any way you can. Don’t dismiss their anxiety but let them know they are safe and that they can handle whatever happens. Explain that you know their feelings are very real, and while you may not understand it, you want to support them however you can.
Professional therapists and psychologists treat the conditions that cause paranoia and can prescribe behavioral therapy, IV supplementation and other psychiatric treatments that could improve their life. However, you can not make them get help and pushing them to do so could create a rift in your relationship.
You can mention that professionals might be able to help and that more than 50 million people in the United States live with mental health conditions, many of which can cause paranoia.
If they mention wanting help, you can offer to set up or drive them to appointments and let them know they can talk as little or as much about their experience as possible. If they do not mesh well with their first professional, encourage them to reach out to others and be there for them to vent or celebrate their progress.
When someone experiences paranoia, it could lead to a mental health crisis. Knowing the signs of a crisis and how to get help if this occurs is crucial to keep your loved one safe.
If you think they are putting themselves or others at risk, call 911. Equipping them with the right phone numbers and any coping tools they rely on can create a crisis kit to seek out the right services if needed.
Paranoid thoughts and feelings can be hard to live with. Learning about and understanding paranoia can equip you to help your loved ones best.