Is paranoia a form of anxiety?
Yes, paranoia is a form of anxiety. The medical definition of anxiety provided in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.” Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress and depending on its severity can manifest in a variety of ways. The Oxford English Dictionary defines paranoia as “a mental condition by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically elaborated into an organized system.” More specifically, paranoia is a pattern of thinking that results in suspicion of other people and irrational mistrust.
According to Good Therapy, “the hallmark of paranoia is that it is rooted in false belief.” Paranoia can range in severity from mild feelings of discomfort to pervasive, debilitating patterns of thinking. Verywell Mind provides examples of paranoid thoughts, some of which include the following:
- You think someone might steal from, hurt, or kill you.
- You feel like everyone is staring at you and/ or talking about you.
- You think people are deliberately trying to exclude you or make you feel bad.
- You believe the government, an organization, or an individual is spying on or following you.
- You interpret certain facial gestures among others (strangers or friends) as some sort of inside joke that is all about you.
- You think people are laughing at you or whispering about you behind your back.
Prolonged and frequent fits of paranoia could be indicative of paranoid personality disorder (PPD). PPD is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as one of the ten standalone personality disorders. According to Healthline, paranoid personality disorder is characterized by “intense mistrust and suspicion of others.” The symptoms of PPD fundamentally interfere with a teen’s ability to confide in others, which in turn prevents them from developing close, meaningful relationships.
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