How can I help myself?
There are certain things you can try doing yourself to help you address your paranoia. These techniques can be used along with other treatments and support from friends, family and professionals.
“The things that help me include talking to my very supportive mental health team, using Elefriends [Mind’s online support community], and listening to music whilst thinking about fun times I’ve had with friends”
Look after your health
If you are able to improve your overall wellbeing, you are likely to feel more grounded. This will help you cope better with any fears you may be experiencing.
- Get enough sleep – learning to relax before bed, making sure you do enough exercise during the day to tire you out physically and establishing a sleep routine can all help
- Avoid drugs and alcohol – stopping or reducing your use of drugs and/or alcohol will help you feel more in control of your thoughts, and make it easier to rationalise your feelings
- Eat well – eating regular healthy meals can make a big difference to your overall sense of wellbeing
Try a mindfulness technique
If your paranoia is related to anxiety or stress, you might find a mindfulness or meditation technique helpful. Mindfulness is a way of paying more attention to the present moment and learning to focus on your own thoughts and feelings, and on the world around you. It can help you improve your mental wellbeing, calm your feelings and stop you becoming overwhelmed by them.
Keep a diary
You might find it helpful to track your thoughts and feelings for a short time. Doing this may help you identify what might be triggering your paranoia. It can also be a good way of releasing negative thoughts, so they do not get to you as much.
At the end of each day, or every few days, write down the thoughts that have been troubling you and make a note of how many times a day they worry you.
Try and look for patterns in the thoughts you have recorded. You might find it helpful to give them a number from 1–10 to show how strongly you believe them, and how distressing you find them.
As you build up a picture of how your thoughts are affecting you, you can start to consider which things might be acting as triggers. For example, you may find that you are more likely to have paranoid thoughts after an argument, or when you are particularly tired.
Learn to recognise and challenge paranoid thoughts
Self-help techniques associated with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be helpful in coping with paranoid thoughts. However, these techniques can be difficult to use or implement on your own, so you may need support from a professional therapist to help you.
Here are some CBT techniques that you might find helpful:
Consider your reactions
You might find it helpful to consider a few different situations you have been in where you have experienced paranoid thoughts, and try to write down how the paranoia developed in a chain of events. This can help you see how paranoid thoughts begin to develop and recognise patterns. For example, the chain of events may look something like this:
- My sister said she would call on Saturday
- By 5pm she had not called
- She must be ignoring me
- By 8.30pm there was still no call – she does not like me
- My whole family hates me – none of them have called today
- I phoned a friend and they did not answer.
- I am convinced no one likes me
- I am worried that they are plotting together to make me upset
- I then read through old emails and started to see double meanings in them
- I became increasingly scared and suspicious
Begin to assess evidence
Once you have built an awareness of your thoughts and how they develop, you can start to challenge your thinking. It may help you to make a list of what you feel the ‘evidence for the thought’ is, and then compare it to a list of what the ‘evidence against the thought’
As you build the evidence against your paranoid thoughts, you might find it useful to keep some of the most helpful statements on a piece of paper in your wallet, or as a note on your phone. This way you can refer to them if you start to feel anxious. For example, the statement might say, ‘Sometimes I do not answer calls and it does not mean I hate the person.’
“I found it helpful to write things down at first, before I was more able to internalise the process [and do it in my head]”
Talk about your thoughts with someone you trust
Some people find that talking their thoughts through with a trusted friend or family member can reduce stress and help them rationalise their paranoia.
“I’ve found that it becomes easier and less straining on yourself once you share your thoughts with someone else.”
However, you have the right to choose who you talk to, and how much you wish to tell them. If you are experiencing severe paranoia, you might not have much control over what you say. You may find yourself telling people more about your thoughts and feelings than you would normally feel comfortable with. If you notice that you tend to share things that you feel unhappy about at a later point, you might find it helpful to discuss how you feel with the person when you are feeling calmer. That way they will know what you are comfortable talking about.
Go to a support group
There are a growing number of support groups offering people a chance to talk to others who have had similar experiences to them. If you do use online support, it is important that you know how to do this safely.