What are the Symptoms of Paranoia?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

One of the key symptoms of paranoia is a firm belief that other people intend to do harm to the patient, accompanied by a lack of trust in other people. Someone with paranoia is in a state of permanent delusion, with beliefs which cannot be shaken, despite ample evidence to the contrary. One of the big issues with the treatment of paranoia is that it can be difficult to get a patient to go to therapy or to find an acceptable therapist, due to deep-seated beliefs that everyone is out to get the patient, and is therefore not worthy of trust.

Paranoid psychosis can cause people to misinterpret their environment and the actions of people around them.
Paranoid psychosis can cause people to misinterpret their environment and the actions of people around them.

Paranoia can take a broad number of forms. Some people have classic persecutory paranoia, in which they believe that they are in danger from everyone else. Others might have litigious paranoia, in which they repeatedly attempt to sue people or threaten people with suit over perceived offenses, or they may suffer from reformatory paranoia, characterized by the belief that the patient needs to correct the behavior and beliefs of others. There are a number of other forms of paranoia, all of which revolve around a core belief which the patient believes is true, although it is not, and the symptoms of paranoia are usually similar, no matter what form it takes.

People with paranoia can meet with a mental health professional to talk about treatment options.
People with paranoia can meet with a mental health professional to talk about treatment options.

Distrust is the hallmark of paranoia. Someone who suffers from paranoia is very defensive, sometimes to the point of being aggressive, and may constantly question the motives of others. Even if people appear harmless on the surface, the paranoid patient believes that they are simply trying to lull the patient into a sense of complacency, and the patient will remain on guard as a result. Other symptoms of paranoia can include a sense of social isolation caused in part by the patient's defensive and suspicious behavior, and a lack of humor.

Paranoid individuals tend to think that people around them are attempting to harm them,.
Paranoid individuals tend to think that people around them are attempting to harm them,.

Paranoid patients are also hypersensitive. Casual comments or innocuous statements are perceived as personal attacks or insults by someone with paranoia, making extreme sensitivity one of the distinctive symptoms of paranoia, in addition to a diagnostic criterion. The onset of symptoms is usually gradual as the delusion becomes more deep-seated, and as the patient encounters opposition, concern, or confusion which reinforce the patient's beliefs that no one in the world is safe or trustworthy.

Pananoia typically accompanies a mental health condition, such as schizophrenia.
Pananoia typically accompanies a mental health condition, such as schizophrenia.

Because people with paranoia believe that other people intend to do them harm, when the symptoms of paranoia are identified, it is not necessarily a good idea to bring someone's attention to them, or to push someone to seek therapy or help. A paranoid patient will take these well-meaning attempts as hostile threats. It can help to consult a mental health professional for advice on dealing with someone who may have paranoia.

Someone who has paranoia has trouble trusting romantic partners.
Someone who has paranoia has trouble trusting romantic partners.
Social isolation may be a symptom of paranoia.
Social isolation may be a symptom of paranoia.
Individuals suffering with schizophrenia may experience paranoia and inappropriate emotional responses.
Individuals suffering with schizophrenia may experience paranoia and inappropriate emotional responses.
An individual suffering from paranoia may not believe that he or she has a problem.
An individual suffering from paranoia may not believe that he or she has a problem.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


My boyfriend got out of jail after one year. He's been out for one and half months, and he thinks I'm setting him up with the police. He says he can't trust me. His family thinks there is something wrong with him. He thinks everyone is talking about him, and everywhere we go in the car, he thinks someone is following him, and he thinks I have someone who is after him. He makes me switch my phone off because apparently I have someone tracking him or I'm wearing a wire.

Please, I need help desperately. His family told me to leave him, because he is getting worse. Help me. I want him to be normal again.


My friend told me one time that he always wondered if people were staring at him and talking about him until one day he realized they were, so forget them. Best advice ever!


The answer that anon167602 gives is so correct. It is not always paranoia that a person is suffering from, such as in my case when my ex husband and a girlfriend had me harassed by the organizations that they are in. I have pictures, videos and police reports of my harassment. So do not always think that if you are harassed that you are being paranoid. Research organized harassment to decide if you are paranoid or if you are truly being harassed.


I feel that way too, but with a basis for it. As a kid, my eyes were messed up so people always made fun of me until I became tough and mean, then they stopped.

I started getting confidence at 18 when I moved but then I fell in love with a guy and found out he doesn't think I'm attractive and all the feelings from the past came back. He's nice to me but as I'm with him more I see myself as unattractive and just wish someone would kill me.

I don't go anywhere because of how he thinks I look has rubbed off on me even though he is nice to me and doesn't put me down. Is this dysmorphia too, or am I just a freak waiting to die?


@LivHappy: You don't sound like you suffer from paranoia, but more on the lines of body dysmorphic disorder. People who suffer from this disorder tend to see flaws and think they're disfigured. It's almost comparable to someone who has anorexia. No matter how many people think that the person is skinny -- too skinny, to be precise -- the person suffering from the disorder views him or her self as fat. And no matter how many people think you're attractive, it will not register until you accept and learn that appearances shouldn't matter.

Hygiene is great, but excessive worrying over your own beauty is vain. And I'm not coming from a critical stance, but more from the view that I've suffered and still suffer from the same thing, too. If I go out in public, I think people are making fun of me (and perhaps they are), or I feel like people don't like me for whatever reason. But the thing is, what we are feeling and thinking is all too selfish. It's all about us and our preconceived notions about how people should behave and interact with us. In all reality, we should be concerned about how we are treating others and learn to be kind to those who may or may not be kind back.

Life is definitely a learning tool. I also wanted to point out that therapy can be a good way to overcome these feelings and disorders --- there are even medications that can help, but most importantly, I feel like we have been lied to with the pyscho-babble in today's world. We are told to have confidence, self-esteem, etc. But what ever happened to taking the focus off ourselves and helping others? I'll tell you what: when I'm focused on myself, all I can do is think about the way I'm being treated and how many people are out to "hurt" me, but if I take that focus and move it towards doing something good for other people, it takes the focus off me and helps me not concentrate on my insecurities, vanity and paranoia.


If you think they're out to get you and you have a sensible reason, they probably are. That's not paranoia.


LivHappy: You are very very beautiful, inside and out!

When you read this, close your eyes and think of all those who are in Haiti or soul-gems in afghanistan/Iraq/N./S. Korea/Pakistan, etc., etc., then open your eyes and just ask yourself: What is really, I mean *really* deep down, important to the people who love you and whom you love?

We all three know the answer to the question.

Get up, smile, freshen up, update yourself on your surroundings and read the Words, something uplifting, such as books by motivational speakers, etc.

Trust your own spirit and gut feeling(s).

The eyes are the secret to the soul as well as the window!

God bless, peace out and good luck to you from down under (sea level that is). Tweet. Great therapy too. --ttfn


i feel so depressed and let down at all times. i feel like people are making fun of me, and am insecure about my looks and everything.

I don't know what made me like this. my fiance is a super looking, impossibly nice guy and he says he wouldn't have stuck with me had i not been worth it but i still cannot stop blaming myself for every little thing that goes wrong or so it seems!

please, please, please help! i am living alone right now, in a different country from home and will be with my fiance and family in a couple of months!


My guy offered to go to counseling because he is afraid he is going to be like his mom who is bi-polar, paranoid and some other diagnosis's she has meds for. My guy always feels suspicious of me. He doesn't think I'm cheating, but he said he feels like I'm trying to keep him in the dark about something, or always keeping something from him.

he interrogates me about every little thing I do that he dreams is suspicious. He has tantrums and throws things when he is mad. He is a paralegal who is constantly checking new people that we encounter records to see if they're "bad people". I've always known he has had trust issues but should he be seeking professional help?


To Livhappyr: I can assure you that people would not compliment you if they truly didn't mean it. People rarely go out of their way to compliment other people. You can rest assured that you're hubby thinks you are beautiful as well or he wouldn't tell you that you are. Men rarely lie about stuff like that.

You probably have nothing to worry about and should just relax and enjoy your youth. God bless, Livhappyr. I'll be praying for you. Incidentally, it wouldn't hurt you to ask God for help as well. No one can help you better than He can. Good luck sweetie!


I feel so paranoid too that I am ugly and aging and that I smell and people are trying to judge and mock me! I'm avoiding social situations and fear the day ahead every time I get out of bed, I feel so depressed and anxious all the time.


You asked for womanly advice, but maybe you'd appreciate a male point of view. I have to admit, a low-cut dress and flirty nature catches our eye. But it grows old fast and we turn elsewhere. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and is absolute truth; your husband picked you after all! Have you thought about talking to someone on a professional level?


I have a hard time making public appearances. I feel as though every person in the room is passing judgment on me and making humorous comments. I’m not overweight and get picked up on at bars, but I feel it’s out of desperation. My husband, who was the ‘hunk’ at our high school, says it’s all in my head and that I look beautiful. I cannot shake this feeling my invitation to the party was to humor the normal looking people. I have the lowest self confidence. I spend lots of time trying to copy make-up tips from celebrity magazines. But no matter how many compliments I get in public, I cannot accept the compliment wholeheartedly. I try self confidence phrases and tapes, but I always feel like the ugliest woman on Earth… Women around the world, please, help me to find my inner and outer beauty!

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