It is very normal to distrust others at times. But when these suspicious feelings occur without any basis in fact, it can become paranoia, which is an extremely debilitating disease. With help, though, the paranoid feelings can be suppressed and peace can be restored.

Let’s say that as you’re driving down the road, you start to hear a thumping sound from the engine of your car. You take the car in to the nearest repair station only to be given a quote of several thousand dollars. You might be suspicious that the repair shop owner is taking advantage of you or trying to get you to pay for repairs that aren’t needed or recommended. This would be considered suspicion based upon fact. Now let’s say that you’re driving down the road and you start to feel that the driver of the car behind you is out to get you, even though he hasn’t done anything to make you feel scared. This would be suspicions without any basis in fact and would be considered paranoia.

When Paranoia Can Harm Us

Paranoia begins with a suspicion of others. Even those who don’t struggle with paranoia on a day to day basis may feel paranoia from time to time. It is difficult sometimes to understand other people and appreciate their intentions towards us. If personalities are different, we may misread someone else’s cues and start to become suspicious of them when there’s no need to do so. However, this does not mean we suffer from paranoia. In this situation, there may not be a cause, but just one incidence doesn’t disrupt our daily lives nor does it consume our thoughts.

In a person who suffers from paranoia, the suspicion becomes pervasive and overwhelming. It’s not just a matter of misunderstanding one person – it’s a very real fear that the world is out to get you. Everyone becomes a subject of suspicion and the sufferer fears that they are continually under attack. An innocent conversation can hold very menacing perceptions to the paranoid. A simple discussion about whether or not it will rain can hold very dark meaning to the paranoid. Fear emotions are highly exaggerated in response to the situation and the sufferer may become argumentative and perceive everything as a threat.

The paranoid person feels an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety revolving around every day activities. They believe they’re being persecuted at all times and live a very ego-centric life. This means that they believe everything revolves around them. People walking by them on the streets can read their thoughts. Newspaper headlines can have special meaning just for them that no one else can understand. Organizations, such as the government, can target them specifically. They may even believe they have special powers or delusions of grandeur.

Paranoia and External Relationships

By its very nature, paranoia is extremely isolating. Those who suffer from paranoia may become hostile, distrustful of everyone and are very reluctant to share anything of their thoughts with others. For this reason, those who are paranoid usually live very solitary lives.

Let’s look at an example. A person with pervasive paranoia may move out of their family’s home because he feels his parents are not trustworthy, his siblings have no loyalty towards him and has still never forgiven his cousin for some perceived slight. He will be extremely sensitive to anything perceived as criticism. A simple question about why he is not going to school may be perceived as an attack on their character. Even a discussion about why a simple question about going to school wasn’t meant as an attack can cause issues because the person with paranoia always believes they are right.

Those with mild paranoia may be able to function normally - at least from the outside. They can hold a job, have relationships with their family and friends and attend school. However, underneath this seeming normalcy, they may have a pervasive distrust of others or feel they are continually being persecuted. They never really open themselves up to others as they fear what might happen.

Therapy, especially, is difficult for those diagnosed with paranoia. The paranoid person is distrustful, simply by his own nature. The sufferer may try to sabotage his own treatment in order to “prove” that the therapist should not be trusted. Those who are paranoid are extremely reluctant to share any insight or thoughts of themselves. They are defensive and automatically wary of the doctor and everyone working in the doctor’s office.

How Therapy Can Help

Therapists can help those who exhibit paranoid symptoms. There are a multitude of different treatment options for a therapist to use to assist those who suffer from this disorder start to normalize their own behavior and become more trusting and less fearful. With proper therapeutic treatment, the symptoms of distrust can be managed and the extreme fear and anxiety produced by therapy can be alleviated. Life does become better.

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