How to stop paranoid thoughts

I'm a paranoid person. It's something I try to hide, but it's true.

Paranoia is the constant feeling that people are watching you or acting against you, even though there's no proof it's actually happening.

I've always been insecure but this paranoia has developed over the last year or so. It started after a co-worker at my last job, who I thought was my friend, started gossiping about me to literally everyone we worked with. As you can imagine, for someone who already has anxiety disorder and, considering anxiety can cause paranoia, this experience messed me up pretty good.

Now, every time I hear co-workers whisper, I assume it's about me. Every time I go to the bathroom when I'm out with friends, I assume they're talking bad about me. Every time I meet a new person, I assume they think I'm annoying. Every time someone gets quiet when they're around me, I assume they're mad at me. And every time someone deletes me on social media, I assume I must have done something wrong.

It's an exhausting life, and it has made me the epitome of a people pleaser (even more so than I used to be, which I didn't think was possible). I'm the kind of girl who never says "No," and tries to always listen to other people instead of ever talking about myself.

And guess what? Even after burning myself out trying to get everyone to like me, there are still people who don't like me and never will. And, instead of thinking, "Psh their loss," I think, "What did I do? What's wrong with me?"

As 2020 kicks off, I know I can't handle being like this for another year. So, if you're like me, what can you do to stop being so paranoid?

First things first: Do you just have paranoid thoughts or do you have clinical paranoia?

While paranoid thoughts are much more common, clinical paranoia is a rare condition. Some symptoms of clinical paranoia include:

● You don’t actually think you’re paranoid.
● No amount of evidence will convince you otherwise.
● You can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined.
● The paranoia isn't linked to anxiety.
● It isn’t situational, but instead has no obvious cause.
● It never seems to get better or go away.

If you think you may have clinical paranoia, if you know someone who you’re worried has it, or if your paranoid thoughts are affecting your everyday life, talk to a mental health professional NOW. I’m sorry but I can’t give you tips on how to get rid of it because it’s a mental illness. This isn’t something you can wish away or work on getting rid of by yourself. It’s a medical issue, and you need medical help to treat it.

Now, for paranoid thoughts spurred by anxiety (like mine), there are tips for stopping this paranoia from controlling you.

Tasha Rube, LMSW licensed master social worker, says, “Give yourself a designated worry time” where you evaluate your thoughts, try to minimize them and then move on.

Some other tips for helping limit paranoid thoughts, according to Rube and WebMD, are:

● Limit alcohol and marijuana use, as they can heighten paranoid thoughts.
● Support your entire mental well-being by eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep.
● When you find yourself thinking a paranoid thought, remind yourself, “This is highly unlikely to be true.”
● Think about the optimistic outcomes or reasons for a situation, rather than just the pessimistic. (i.e.: That girl didn’t delete me on social media because she hates me. She deleted me because we haven’t talked in five years.)
● Open up to someone close to you about your paranoid thoughts. (Or, if you're like me, open up about it on your blog or social media for everyone to see!)
● Stay busy and focus your energy on something more productive than being paranoid.

And, remember, even if someone doesn’t like you because of their subjective opinion of you, who cares? That doesn’t mean what they think is true.

“Remind yourself that it takes all kinds of people to make the world. Not everyone is going to be your best friend, but that also doesn't mean everyone wants to be your worst enemy,” says Rube.

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