Fear is an important feeling – it keeps us safe! Paranoia refers to fears that are exaggerated or are not justified. For example, feeling unsafe and fearful walking through a deserted car park at night is natural and can keep us on our guard – even if there’s nothing to be worried about, we’ll be alert and focused on getting us where we need to be. Once the situation has passed, we feel okay again. Believing that everyone we know is involved in an elaborate plot to have us arrested, making us constantly look for evidence and signs of suspicious behaviour is different - this is what’s referred to as paranoia.
If no-one else believes a person’s fears, paranoia can become worse – it might feel as though everyone’s involved in whatever the person believes is going on.
Paranoia is actually quite common – many of us will at some time have an unjustified belief that something is ‘going on’, but this doesn’t often last long or have a big impact on our lives. For a small group of people though, worries and fears can become so persistent and so deeply held that life becomes incredibly difficult.
Things like medication and psychological therapy can help with paranoia and there are also things that people can do to help themselves. For example, paranoia can get worse when people are tired, so getting a good night’s sleep can help. Some people also find meditation and mindfulness techniques useful.
Real life experience
It starts almost innocently it can be so subtle but that is how it manages to plant itself deeply and firmly into the fertile landscape of your imagination and slowly grows, its roots and branches gradually invading and becoming entwined with your conscious mind until it has command of your higher mind, logic, reason and even memory. It lies to you using your own thoughts and ideas and its circuitry allows it to transmit terrifying fantasy through your higher functions unchallenged, establishing itself as fact and producing a unique level of fear that you will never experience over anything else, becoming etched into your memory. This then plays over and over again until it becomes automatic and beyond your conscious control; a delusion is born. But this faulty circuitry can be deactivated and over written by the same mechanism that created it.
Breaking the thought-feeling-behaviour cycle at the right point is the key to recovery. Taking control of every stage of the thought process is essential even if you have to do it out loud. Whenever a fearful thought is spawned stop and slow the whole process down. Step outside of yourself and look inwards. Secondly breakdown the thought to its basic structure, verbalise it in plain English and its basic translation. Then consider evidence to support the truth of its factual content. While maintaining this objective position, consider alternatives and their likelihood based on hard facts. You will still have a nagging doubt as delusions are powerful entities so consider the possible that the original thought is true, what would the consequences and implications actually be?
You will find that the majority of everyday paranoia and delusions are not of a nature that threatens life and limb which means the fear is invalid as it is part of the adrenal fight/flight response to facilitate self preservation and if that is not an issue then from a logic point of view, it is an over reaction. Collect yourself and retain the emotional awareness you have attained and the cognitive control. Let the rational conclusion dominate and cascade through your conscious mind. Let the cool flow of relief extinguish the raging fire of fear that burns in your gut. Then consider the positive implications of what you have just achieved and its potential effect on your future quality of life.
By actively enforcing this system of control the paranoid or delusional circuitry is not used and will eventually be deactivated and moreover, this new way of processing thought and feeling will, by the same process, become hardwired, forming a circuit thus allowing it to become your automatic response and naturally self fulfilling. Your mood will rise naturally as your mind becomes a generally more optimistic environment and influence you entire perception of life and your place in the universe. Always remember that because of your suffering you are a shining light, a light that represents an inner strength that is a beacon of hope to those like you.