How Do I Recognize the Symptoms of Paranoia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 03 August 2018
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The symptoms of paranoia involve a hypersensitive response to a delusion, which is a belief in something that isn't true. Patients who experience paranoia tend to put themselves at the center of complex scenarios that reinforce the delusion, and they may believe that the people around them are out to get them. It can be difficult for a patient to recognize symptoms and seek treatment, as the patient may think that medical providers plan to harm her. Friends and family who notice signs of paranoia should discuss them with a mental health professional to get advice on what to do, as approaching the patient directly could be counterproductive.

Paranoia can occur on its own or as part of a mental health condition. The patient develops a delusion, like the belief that a famous celebrity wants to marry him, or a suspicion that a coworker wants to kill him. He becomes increasingly defensive about the delusion and may become aggressive. When friends and family laugh off the delusion or try to minimize it, the patient can get very agitated and upset.


One of the key symptoms of paranoia is the tendency to exaggerate situations and to believe that everything ties back to the original delusion. For example, a paranoid patient who thinks coworkers are plotting against her would see two coworkers chatting in the hall and think they are talking about her. Likewise, any kind of communications from the company would be scrutinized to see if they contain hidden messages. Since none will be present, the employee may become agitated and will develop fear and anxiety, convinced that an innocuous change like a letterhead redesign is sinister in nature.

The signs of paranoia also include constant questions about the motives of other people. These can become irritating, and people might start to become aggressive, which leads the patient to believe that his suspicions are correct. When people cannot answer questions because they are not hiding anything and there's no more information left to discuss, the patient uses this as evidence to support the delusion. As the patient encounters resistance to the delusion, the symptoms of paranoia can get worse.

People who recognize the symptoms of paranoia in themselves can meet with a mental health professional to discuss the situation and talk about treatment options. These can include talk therapy as well as medications to correct imbalances in brain chemistry. Other patients may reject the idea that they have a mental health condition, and may be in need of careful intervention. This may include hospitalization for patients with very severe symptoms of paranoia.


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Post 12

@betterment - It is hard to bring this stuff up with people. I had a family member who was suffering the symptoms of a panic disorder, and it was really difficult to get them to see that they needed help.

Post 11
It seems like the symptoms of paranoia are pretty severe. I have a good friend that I was worried might be suffering from paranoia. However, after reading this article I'm pretty sure she doesn't suffer from paranoia.

I'm thinking her symptoms are the symptoms of anxiety, because she seems excessively worried all the time, but not hypersensitive or totally out of touch with reality. Now hopefully I can find a good way to bring this up with her.

Post 10
I took a psychology class in college, and I remember paranoia being one of the symptoms of schizophrenia. Although schizophrenics usually also hallucinate, so I imagine their paranoia is probably worse than paranoia caused by another disorder.
Post 9

@Ted41 - Mental illness definitely can cause a lot of problems in relationships. I have an anxiety disorder, and the symptoms of panic attacks have caused problems in a few of my relationships in the past.

Luckily I have things pretty much under control now. However, I imagine someone with paranoia might have a harder time seeking help.

Post 8

@lighth0se33 - That's very sad about your friend. However, I'm not surprised people with symptoms of paranoia have trouble making and keeping friends. After all, most people do not enjoy being around someone who is constantly on edge and questioning them about every little detail!

Post 7

I knew a guy who had paranoid personality disorder, and it was impossible for him to make close friends. He would take innocent comments and turn them around and take offense at them, so talking to him was really unpleasant.

This also made it hard for him to have a girlfriend. He finally found a girl who was willing to put up with his symptoms, but he was very emotionally and mentally abusive to her, and after a couple of years, she left him. This only fueled his disorder further.

Post 6

I suppose paranoid schizophrenics are on the extreme end of the paranoia scale. They actually hear voices and obey them.

Even when the voices tell them to do bad things to themselves, they sometimes comply. They believe that if they don't, harm will come to them.

A paranoid schizophrenic needs medication. Regular talk therapy would not be enough to quiet the voices, in my opinion. This has got to be due to a chemical imbalance.

Post 5

@healthy4life – I guess that depends on the type of paranoia you have and your personality. Some people with paranoia put all their energy toward protection and defense, while others probably do hide and experience panic attacks whenever anyone comes to check on them.

Panic attacks are something that paranoia and anxiety have in common. However, people with anxiety are generally worried about something that doesn't involve a conspiracy.

Post 4

Just telling someone that they need to seek paranoia treatment would be enough to fuel their conspiracy suspicions. They might believe that if they went, the doctor would be someone who was hired to mess with their mind.

It must be really difficult to live with paranoia. You couldn't trust anyone.

I would think that paranoia would lead to panic attacks. If I believed the world was against me, that would make me hyperventilate.

Post 3
@feruze-- I'm not a doctor, so I can't answer your question, but I think characteristics of paranoia can be found in other psychological conditions like schizophrenia, anxiety and other disorders. But only a psychiatrist can diagnose someone.

I understand what you mean though because I have an anxiety disorder which causes me to worry excessively over certain things. Sometimes I worry so much, that I become obsessed with it or I start questioning people and their motives. So paranoia can also be a symptom of an anxiety disorder.

Thankfully, I become aware of myself when I'm doing this and I try to stop. I know that might not be possible for everyone depending on how developed their situation is. I think if someone starts doubting everyone and everything and feels like the whole world is against them, it's necessary to speak to a doctor right away and see what's going on.

Post 2

What are the differences between signs and symptoms of paranoia and obsessive-compulsive disorder?

They sound really similar so I'm confused.

Post 1

I watched a film yesterday about John Forbes Nash, a famous mathematician who was suffering from paranoid symptoms.

The film was so interesting because it showed how Nash couldn't separate his paranoia and hallucinations from reality because they seemed very real to him. But since he was a man of science and logic, he eventually came to the conclusion that what he was seeing and hearing cannot be real since he is the only one who experiences them.

So he was a rare person who learned to live with his paranoia in a way that didn't damage his social life and personal relationships. I am so moved by this movie and Nash's life, I still can't stop thinking about it.

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