In 2013, the former CIA employee and government contractor Edward Snowden published classified documents revealing the broad scope of US government oversight. Suddenly, the fears that once seemed paranoid were really rooted in reality. Paranoia and anxiety are common. They can be part of the standard range of human experience or signs of a serious mental health diagnosis.
Line designing between normal fears, anxiety and paranoia can be difficult. This is particularly true when the seemingly paranoid fears of a person prove to be true – as was the case with the activists targeting programs like COINTELPRO, and for Ernest Hemingway, who actually had an FBI record. Knowing where to pull this line and how to decide whether or not fear is reasonable can help people look for proper mental health care.
What is paranoia?
The paranoia is a persistent concern for a particular fear. Paranoid concerns often focus on persecution, are monitored or treated unfairly. The trait of paranoia is that it has rooted mistaken belief. People with paranoid thoughts may also have false beliefs about their own strength or importance. For example, a person who does not hold a political position or do not engage in activism can believe in an international conspiracy to watch and torture him. In some cases, exposure to trauma or severe anxiety can make people more likely to experience paranoia.
People who face paranoid thoughts are often employed by these thoughts. They may be stable to get other people to accept their beliefs as true. They can make unusual choices that are designed to be protected from their sources of anxiety.
The wandering moments of paranoia are common and do not necessarily mean that a person has a mental health state. Paranoia is also distinct from stress in that:
- The paranoia focuses on a specific source of anxiety.
- People who experience paranoia often have false beliefs about themselves, the world or the people they know.
- A person with paranoid thoughts can face perceptual problems. A 2008 study comparing social concern with paranoia has shown that people with unusual perceptions, including illusions, were more likely to experience paranoia.
Delusional and logical paranoia
Paranoid paranoia is paranoia due to false faith. While it is often a feature of schizophrenia, it may also be due to other mental health diagnoses. When a person's fears are rooted in reality or logical, they are not paranoid. The challenge is to determine which beliefs are reasonable and which not.
A lawyer working with prisoners of immigration may worry that he is being watched by the government. A doctor who works with infectious diseases may be concerned about the infection or spread of the disease. Even if fear does not reach its heart, it is rooted in reality.
It is important for mental health providers to critically examine why a person has a particular fear and how their social bubble, occupation, culture and other factors can affect this fear. For example, young black Americans may be afraid of the police. To someone who has never had a negative interaction with the police, this fear may seem absurd, even paranoid. In a person exposed to police violence against young black people, fear is reasonable and unlikely to be due to a mental health diagnosis. Rejecting reasonable fears of a person can be very harmful, especially when it comes to treatment.
It is important for mental health providers to critically examine why a person has a particular fear and how their social bubble, occupation, culture and other factors can affect this fear.
One way to assess whether a person's anxiety is reasonable or not is to evaluate how they react to conflicting elements. People with schizophrenia, for example, can continue to support false beliefs, even if evidence has been given to the contrary. Conflicting evidence can still be seen as a sign of a greater conspiracy or reason of mistrust in a mental health provider. A person without schizophrenia who learns his false faith is untrue can be relieved rather than defend himself.
People who think someone they love may have schizophrenia should not spend time supporting the false or paranoid beliefs. This can harm the relationship, making it difficult for a person to feel comprehensible or loved. The discussion of false beliefs can inadvertently stigmatize the person or make them feel cruel.
Symptoms of schizophrenia: The connection to paranoia and anxiety
An individual who has paranoid thoughts may have schizophrenia or a related condition. Only a mental health professional can cure and diagnose this situation, so it is important to seek expert knowledge.
Schizophrenia begins usually in puberty or early adulthood. Someone who develops paranoid thoughts later in life may have another mental health condition, such as dementia.
Some schizophrenia symptoms you should watch include:
- Loss of contact with reality. Schizophrenia can make people see or hear things that others can not.
- Thoughts and beliefs that others perceive as strange or unusual.
- Changes to the effect. A person with schizophrenia may have an effect that looks flat, showing few feelings and seemingly very fragmentary.
- Problem with memory, especially working memory.
- Extensive operating difficulties that make it hard to concentrate or stay at work.
- Problem with starting or sticking with new hobbies or activities.
- We do not talk much.
- Behavior associated with false beliefs. A person with schizophrenia may try to communicate with a celebrity to alert him to a threat or to address a lawyer to report government surveillance that does not seem to be the case.
When to look for treatment for stress on monitoring
Mental health therapy can help anyone experiencing anxiety if their anxiety has roots in a real source or the product of a mental health diagnosis. Activists like lawyers or protest leaders who have reasonable fears to be monitored can find treatment to help them manage their anxiety, cope with the effects of these fears in their relationships, and distinguish reasonable fears from absurdities.
People who have a condition associated with absurd paranoia can also find tremendous relief in treatment. Treatment can help a person understand his anxiety, confront false beliefs and evaluate the results of false beliefs in their lives. People with diagnoses associated with illusions often struggle at work, at school and in their relationships. Treatment can help develop better communication skills and address the challenges of schizophrenia and other diagnoses associated with delusional ideas.
- Freeman, D., Gittins, M., Pugh, K., Antley, A., Slater, M. & Dunn, G. (2008). What makes a person paranoid and another person anxious? Differential prediction of social anxiety and persecution in an experimental situation. Psychological Medicine, 8(38), 1121-1132. doi: 10.1017 / S0033291708003589
- Schizophrenia. (2016, February). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml
- Shakeel, M. K., & Docherty, N. M. (2015). Arrangements in schizophrenia. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 1(20), 1-13. doi: 10.1080 / 13546805.2014.940886
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