“Paranoia, self-destroyer.” Destroyer- The Kinks
Imagine walking into a crowded room where everyone stops talking, turns and looks directly at you. Then when the chatter picks up you notice people pointing in your direction, laughing and perhaps scowling. As you absorb all that negative energy you may start to feel anxious, scared and even unsure of yourself. That uncomfortable feeling is an example of what it feels like to be paranoid. That feeling can make the world feel like a prison and limit quality of life.
Quality of life (QOL) is a term used to describe general well being, and without a good level of QOL, existence would be miserable. While wealth and material possessions can improve QOL by granting access to experiences, money is not the main factor. Instead, environment, health, relationships and leisure time are the main components of a good QOL. If you have ever had a moment of paranoia, you know it can be a struggle to enjoy the reality of those surroundings and become unhappy and nervous all the time.
Anyone can feel the “everyone is out to get me” jitters; situations or drug use are common triggers. Feeling paranoid without those triggers, it could be a symptom of mental health problem. Alone, paranoia is not a freestanding mental disorder but a symptom of mental health issues conditions including paranoid personality disorder, delusional (paranoid) disorder, and schizophrenia.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that one percent of the general population have paranoid schizophrenia. Genetics plays a large role in who is at risk for developing the disease: the NIMH has reported that 10 percent of all people who have an immediate relative (parent, brother, or sister) with the disorder develop the disease. Plus, individuals with grandparents, cousins or uncles with the illness have a greater risk of developing the disease overtime and may notice symptoms between the ages of 16 and 30.
Regardless of the causes, those suffering from paranoid will experience a negative impact their QOL. With symptoms such as hallucinations, irrational thinking, believing in mind control, having delusions, and not feeling pleasure at all navigating life navigate life while feeling constantly at unease is debilitating.
My confidant J has an anxiety disorder. She told me that when she has had moments of paranoia the tense state has taken its toll on her QOL. When she feels paranoid, she locks herself in her apartment and watches tons of Sci-Fi. When she fears the world, J loses her appetite, becomes incredibly klutzy and jumpy. Any criticism she has during that time cuts her to the core. Her paranoia has caused her to read between the lines and create an unpleasant translation. She has fallen down the rabbit hole and has spent time rolling around the muck at the bottom. Wallowing in fear only compounds the problem and makes her feel miserable.
If I ever have a moment like that and cannot seek professional help, I try to control my thoughts and talk myself down from the ledge. With my therapist, I can talk about my fears and mistrust of people in a safe environment and express my thoughts sans judgment. That process allows me to exorcise my demons and with professional guidance, and I can sort truth from fiction. That process is cathartic; afterwards I can see clearly and appreciate all the good in my life.
Life is way too short to be scared of what can be seen during the day, what goes bump in the night and everything in-between. The emotional luggage associated with paranoia is more weight that anyone should have to carry and that fear can manifest in physical and mental ways. When you are paranoid, you will respond differently to stimuli, as you will no longer trust what you see or hear. By acting upon that false information, you can ostracize friends and family and inadvertently destroy relationships that are essential to a good QOL.
If you are feeling paranoid and cannot find a logical reason for the panic, there is help available. There is no need to suffer in silence and by seeking help you can live your life on your terms and without fear.