A Comprehensive Guide to Paranoia and Anxiety

Goda Brzozauskaite
  • Apr 01, 2022
  • 5 min read
girl with split personality disorder

Both paranoia and anxiety are symptoms of a wide range of mental health disorders, although each can present as a condition of its own. However, as with all health conditions, the severity and symptoms differ from person to person. 

Mental illnesses exist on a spectrum, and a person can have several different mental health conditions at any given time. 

To further complicate the matter, these can morph into other mental illnesses, which makes understanding paranoia and anxiety a bit higher grade. 

These days, anxiety and paranoia are actually pretty common. Paranoid thoughts and anxious feelings crop up from time to time, even in the healthiest of individuals. Similarly, everyone has felt anxious at one time or another, but anxiety disorders are more pervasive than pre-exam jitters. 

In America alone, more than 40 million adults are suffering from a form of anxiety, which may or may not include aspects of paranoia. So, where is the line between “normality,” and when is it time to seek help? Generally, when thoughts and feelings begin to affect daily life, it’s a good idea to seek counseling in a form that works for you. 

In-person or online therapy can help patients understand the overlapping symptoms of paranoia and anxiety more clearly while offering tools to deal with the unique set of mental health conditions. If you or a loved one are struggling to cope, early intervention can help, so reach out now by clicking right here.

Anxiety and paranoia are not the same thing, but anxiety can cause paranoid thoughts, and paranoia can cause anxiety. The main similarity between paranoia and anxiety comes down to a feeling of fear, which also manifests in overlapping symptoms such as:

  • Restlessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Reluctance to trust
  • Reluctance to reach out
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Digestive problems

The Difference Between Paranoia and Anxiety

Paranoid thoughts are variations of anxious thoughts, revolving mostly around ideas of persecution (or thoughts that others have it in for you). Essentially, paranoia is a deep and irrational mistrust of people which can make it difficult to form relationships or function well socially. You might become easily offended at things that are actually meaningless.

Anxiety differs quite a bit in that it causes a person to feel concerned about judgment as opposed to ill-intentions. Social anxiety disorder (SAD), for example, often results in patients worrying that others are thinking unkindly about how they look or act. This also rings true for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and other types of anxiety too. It often crops up in group situations and could even be a thought like “everyone must be wondering why I am dressed too *insert random judgment.*”

Although everyone suffers from insecure moments from time to time, those with anxiety will have reoccurring thoughts like this frequently. Even though your friends might flippantly call you “paranoid,” this term is actually only used clinically when a person is 100% convinced of being correct of something false. Paranoia is rarer than anxiety and is often much more severe in terms of mental well-being.

Signs and Symptoms of Paranoia

Signs of paranoia include irrational fears that somebody or something can’t be trusted. As a mental health condition, this could even mean that loved ones are questioned, causing serious strain on valuable relationships. On the other hand, it could just be health professionals or medicine itself. Either way, the key characteristic of paranoia is that it isn’t logical, and therefore it is difficult to comprehend for some people.

Signs and symptoms of paranoia include:

  • Highly suspicious without reasonable proof
  • Believing oneself to be 100% correct
  • Distrusting and easy to offend
  • Hypervigilant, preoccupied
  • Defensive, argumentative, hostile
  • Unable to relax or trust others
  • Concerns about others taking advantage
  • Trouble forgiving others, compromising
  • Difficulties accepting critical feedback
  • Feeling people have it in for you
  • Reading into situations inaccurately

Symptoms and Signs of Anxiety

If you are concerned that you might be having paranoid thoughts, it is more likely that you are suffering from anxiety. This is because full-blown paranoia renders a person unable to muse as to whether or not they could be incorrect. 

However, anxiety itself still warrants medical support, which could be found with either in-person or online therapy. If your anxiety isn’t going away, reach out today and get the help you need to ease unwanted symptoms like:

  • Nightmares, flashbacks
  • Restlessness, nervousness
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Obsessive thoughts that won’t go away
  • Excessive, uncontrollable feelings of worry
  • Inability to think about anything other than the emotion/trigger
  • Avoiding the triggers that cause anxiety
  • Panic attacks that cause a person to think they are dying

While the anxious thoughts that come with anxiety disorders tend to vary from person to person, physical symptoms are often the same. The body goes into fight or flight mode, which tends to result in symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating, shaking, hyperventilating
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Gastrointestinal problems

Causes of Paranoia: What Causes Paranoia in Adults?

Paranoia often goes hand in hand with a number of other psychological disorders, including anxiety. In terms of anxiety itself, research suggests it has an influence on what a person is paranoid about as well as how long the paranoia lasts. 

Paranoid symptoms are thought to be related to projected, denied, or repressed thoughts and emotions. These often center around relationships or specific life events that tend to be highly personal or even taboo. As a result, people suffering from paranoia may choose to isolate themselves, possibly fearing reaching out. Unfortunately, this can prevent patients from seeking much-needed help, but luckily, different online counseling services offer hope in a private or anonymous way.

Paranoia isn’t always caused by one thing, but could be the result of a combination (or selection) of the following risk factors:

Causes of Anxiety

Anyone can experience anxiety, regardless of social standing, age, physical health, or any other factors. Mental health does not discriminate; however, certain individuals are more at risk than others. 

Adults under the age of 35 are among the most likely to have anxiety, as are immigrants, low-income earners, people with chronic diseases, racial minorities, and drug users. Women are 50% more likely to have anxiety than men. It is worth mentioning that many of these groups are also susceptible to paranoia.

There are a number of other psychological as well as biological factors that are a contributing cause to the onset of anxiety. These include:

  • Genetics or history of mental health problems in the biological family
  • Trauma, both past or recent, frequently attributed to abuse or the loss of a loved one
  • Socioeconomic factors (either experienced in childhood or ongoing)
  • Stress from relationships or world events


There are many types of treatment for people suffering from paranoia and anxiety, but not all methods are created equal. Herbal remedies, for example, are not as effective as chemical-based medicines. Similarly, not all types of therapy are best suited to anxiety or paranoia. 

One study titled Treatment of Anxiety Disorders has revealed that “in most cases, drug treatment and CBT may substantially improve quality of life in GAD patients.” CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a type of counseling touted to improve a wide range of mental health conditions. This study echoes what has been known in mental health circles for years – a combination of medication and therapy is the most effective treatment for both paranoia and anxiety. 

If you or a loved one are looking for a counselor, you can find premium support at your fingertips with our online therapy service. At DoMental, you can find relief from the privacy and comfort of your own home.

Ways to Cope

Coping with a mental health condition isn’t always easy, but it is possible. Of course, therapy and medication will provide optimal relief, but other steps can be taken alongside treatment.

Research has revealed that the following techniques can help with anxiety and paranoia:

  • Nutrition (avoiding processed foods)
  • Exercise (aiming for 30 minutes a day)
  • Meditation, visualization, and deep breathing
  • Getting a good night’s rest
  • Eliminating substances including alcohol and tobacco
  • Learning social skills and more about your condition

The Bottom Line

Although paranoia and anxiety are not exactly the same, there are overlapping factors in the way these illnesses present from a place of fear. 

While most people have anxious or paranoid moments here or there, if your thoughts and emotions are ruling your life, then it is definitely time to seek help. Always remember that there is life beyond your wildest imaginings and strive for a better tomorrow. Reach out today with online therapy here at DoMental, or seek in-person counseling at your local hospital. 

Early detection of mental health problems can save you a lot of pain and heartache in the long run, and with one click of a button, you can take your first step to freedom.

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