Paranoia is something that is difficult for not only the sufferer to deal with but those directly around them. It is estimated that somewhere between 0.5% – 2.5% of the entire population of the United States is suffering from a paranoid personality disorder and some of them have not even been diagnosed properly. Not to mention some who suffer from the illness don’t have the proper coping skills for paranoia and have a difficult time maintaining a normal life. But the truth is, just like any illness and disease, there are ways to some relief against paranoia and empower yourself to gain more control over your life. Keep reading below to get three great coping skills from this contributed post…
We all experience paranoia at some point in our lives. That nagging feeling that someone new that we meet don’t like or “get” us. The sense of unease that comes with entering a room of unfamiliar people or the completely understandable jitters that come with walking home alone on a quiet night. This form of paranoia is merely an extension of our natural instinct to protect ourselves. In the paleolithic era, it was what kept us alive and out of the reach of predators or rivals for our food and resources. Any individual living in a society has a need for a survival instinct. While we may not encounter man-eating predators on a daily basis we still face plenty of hazards to our health and safety. Yet, there comes a point where this survival instinct becomes an impediment rather than an instrument and the times we live in don’t exactly help either…
Today, in the post 9-11 era, we’re constantly taught to be vigilant, living in a state of high alert almost 24/7 and seeing calamitous threats in something as innocuous as an unattended sports bag or a stranger with a hood pulled over their face. The times we live in are more conducive than ever to paranoia. There’s political capital to be gained in paranoia. Stoking up fear or anxiety towards the looming prospect of an internal or external threat has long been a technique used by the powerful to cling to power. Whether it’s the McCarthy communist witch hunts of the Cold War Era, the climate of Islamophobia following 9-11 or Trump’s wall around Mexico politicians have become adept at using paranoia as a tool. “Vote for us”, they say, “look who we protect you from”.
Most of us, however, are able to rid ourselves of political or social paranoia when the need arises. We’re able to shrug it off and rise above it, allowing common sense or our better natures to control the narrative in our minds.
For some, however, paranoia is a way of life that can be socially and functionally crippling. It can cause people to see threats all around them, lurking behind every corner, seeing menace in the eyes of strangers and mistrust in the eyes of their friends. If you feel that your paranoia has begun to get the better of you, it’s important to empower yourself against it.
Paranoia may be the tip of the psychological iceberg
Living with paranoia is hard enough but paranoia is often a symptom of a much deeper psychological issue. It can be a manifestation of Delusional Disorder or even Schizophrenia. Decades of ignorance has warped our understanding of these potentially serious conditions leading to people struggling to get by without diagnosis or treatment. You should consider seeing a doctor for a referral to a mental health specialist if you regularly feel:
- That people are talking about you behind your back
- You feel in imminent danger of being hurt or killed
- You think that even innocent statements have hidden meanings designed to threaten or upset you
- You feel that your thoughts or actions are being controlled by someone else
- You suspect your activities are being monitored
While diagnosis and treatment are always the best recourse against these feelings, you can also help yourself by…
Practice Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the practice of catching unhelpful thoughts, analyzing them and disproving them to yourself before they can go on to have a negative impact on your wellbeing. It is a widely used practice amongst those suffering from anxiety and depression and can be equally useful for paranoia. “How can this person not like me, they haven’t gotten to know me yet.”, “Nobody’s trying to get into my home because they couldn’t get past my DIY home security system”, “Maybe that guy’s looking at me because he finds me attractive”. By challenging your unhelpful thoughts you can mitigate their impact on your wellbeing.
Have someone you trust on hand for a reality check
As useful as CBT can be, it’s often useful to get a second opinion. That’s why it’s useful to have someone you trust readily available as your “go to” to act as a sounding board for your concerns and anxieties. They will be able to help allay your fears and help you gain some perspective on your feelings.
Have a code word or exit strategy in social situations
Gradual and controlled exposure to social situations is a far more effective panacea against paranoia than barricading yourself in at home. Nonetheless, it’s important to leave yourself the option of a “back door” in case things get really bad and your paranoid thoughts become unbearable. Establishing a code word of an exit strategy with your friends, family or colleagues will enable you to enjoy your time with them knowing that you have the option to exit gracefully if it all gets too much.
Everyone suffers from some form of paranoia to some degree but for those with a paranoid personality disorder, their lives can be ruled by their fears and thoughts. This fear can be further exaggerated by the world we now live in and things such as smartphones and televisionsdo not allow you to escape.
However, with the help of others, you can have some relief. Cognitive behavior therapy is a useful tool and is not only useful for those who suffer from paranoia but all of us. Negative thoughts can affect your emotions and it is best to get a hold of them as soon as they start.
Having a loved one with you when you go to doctors appointments and for second opinions is a great way to have someone you trust around to help you ease your fears. Lastly, you can still enjoy social outings with your family and friends by using a code word. I love this tip and I think it is a very useful way to help you get control of stressful situations.
Paranoia may be a part of your life but it doesn’t have to run your life.
Do you have another tip that I may have missed? I would love to hear about your experiences below.