Symptom: Paranoid Thinking

When asked whether I suffer from paranoid thinking, I’d say no. I don’t really think the people around me want to deliberately hurt me. I don’t automatically think the worst of other people or assume anything about their speech or behavior without good evidence. Not that I’m aware of, anyways.

I do have this sense that I mustn’t show weakness, or show if I’m nervous/afraid/uncomfortable, that if I show other people that they can hurt me, they probably will. It doesn’t register to me as an actual fear. I simply quietly avoid it, let it pass me by without a conscious thought. And so, when people inevitably hurt or disappointment me, I know it wasn’t on purpose, because if they’d known, then surely they wouldn’t have said or done what they did. Maybe I’m afraid to find out that if I did give others the opportunity, that they would want to hurt me deliberately? So it’s better to hide and forgive any accidental toe-stepping.

I’ve heard that sometimes people suffering from schizotypal disorder can have small, momentary paranoid delusions, or maybe paranoid stray thoughts. They might be very self-conscious about it and feel that the thought is silly, that “of course my friend isn’t a government spy” or “bodysnatchers isn’t real and mrs. Jensen down the hall isn’t actually an alien in disguise” but… Often, such thoughts are fairly quickly and easily dismissed.

Sometimes, the idea might feel all too real and even if they sound silly to others, they make perfect sense to the person experiencing them. Those tend to enter the realm of full-blown paranoid delusions. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced this myself, that I can remember. I’ve enough in worrying that my subjective reality isn’t quite the same as objective reality, or the reality experienced by everyone else, so that there’s no chance I’ll ever be able to truly understand what others are talking about, or make myself understood. Could that be considered a paranoia?

Paranoid thinking could also be things such as, if a friend takes a little longer to reply to a text, “it’s because she’s angry or doesn’t like me”, or “everyone at work hates me,” even though there’s no real evidence for it. It could also be the immediate assumption that if someone says something hurtful, it’s deliberate, or interpreting general comments as referring to you personally. I heard a story of a man once, who, while suffering from paranoid delusions, became convinced that the happy smiley faces staff members left on whiteboard messages for general use were in fact caricatures of him, which the staff drew purely to mock him. It might sound like a silly, little thing, but it’s truly deeply disturbing and hurtful for the one experiencing it.

Mostly, my own fears are never so concrete or focused, although I’ll admit I’m absolutely terrified of ghosts (even though I don’t really believe they exist, I can’t say they definitely don’t exist either). It’s usually just a vague sense of “I’m not safe”, “I’m alone, but it feels like there’s someone else here” or “I’m completely, utterly alone in a cold and uncaring world”. I’m aware the latter is an incredibly ungrateful thought, that I have people close to me who care a great deal about me. But well, they have their own problems. They have their own lives to worry about. They don’t and can’t possibly understand what I’m going through. Although in truth, I’m sure they understand and recognize a great deal more than I’d think.

I hate this part of me, who thinks this way. Like an overly dramatic teenager. But I can’t quite get rid of her. It’s silly and stupid, but it’s the way I feel, and feelings aren’t so simple to change. The fact I feel ashamed for feeling this way in the first place makes it all the harder to admit to and discuss, even just with myself.

I don’t know what to do about the vague feeling of being unsafe. Mostly, I just try to ignore it, distract myself, turn on the lights so I can see around the room, play some music, read a book. But this often ensures I won’t get much sleep that night and I’ll be tired and cranky the next day.

Sometimes, if I catch myself thinking or feeling something negative, I use techniques from CBT (That’s Cognitive Behavior Therapy, not the… kinky one) and try to challenge the thought or feeling using reason. I’ll ask myself things like: Where am I? Have I ever experienced something bad here? How likely is it, that this thought/feeling is true and reasonable? If I’m feeling alone, maybe I’ll challenge the feeling by texting a friend. She usually texts back. Maybe I’ll line up examples in my head where my bad expectations were justified versus where they were proved wrong and usually I’ll find just enough examples to put my mind at ease. I can use this technique to determine the likelihood of a thought being true as well. Like, “if Mrs. Jensen down the hall were an alien, what’s the evidence for it? Could there be other, more likely explanations? Maybe she just had a bad day and goes back to normal soon enough?”

 

I’d love to hear if anyone else experience anything like what I’ve described and how you deal/cope with them.

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