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Am I Paranoid?

Question:

I have a tendency to become obsessive about what other people think/say about me, but I do not necessarily feel that I distrust them. I used to look into people’s office after work to see if they had anything written about me, realized that it was wrong and have avoided doing it. However, at one point I left a tape recorder in office I shared with other people just to see if they talked about me. Is this paranoid? How can I stop being preoccupied about what they say/think about me?

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Answer:

Paranoia is not a tightly defined word, but generally means that someone believes that others are out to harm them. Are you acting paranoid when you snoop on others around you for clues to whether they don’t like you. Well, sure you are. But at the same time, it must be understood that the type of paranoia you’re describing is not at all the same or nearly as severe as how bad paranoia can get. A person with Paranoid Schizophrenia, for instance, might believe that the FBI, CIA (or even MIB) were out to get him or her. I can recall several experiences I have had working in psychiatric hospitals where patients would insist that they were in communication with starships or needed to cover the floor with tinfoil so as to keep the people attacking them in the basement from shooting radiation guns through the floor. We can and should distinguish between psychotic paranoia (where a break with shared social reality occurs), non-psychotic paranoia (where someone is prejudiced to believe that there are others conspiring to harm him or her, but where those beliefs are within the bounds of reality (e.g., that neighbors don’t like him or her), and simple insecurity about whether others like and accept you or not. As best I can tell from your short letter, you might fit into the latter category. As to how to remediate the condition, you might perhaps profit from a group psychotherapy experience. Paranoid feelings necessarily involve suspicion of others and that the self is vulnerable. Becoming an accepted part of a safe group environment might go a long way towards helping you get past your fears.

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Comments
  • paranoia

    i am frequently scared of being sick...scared of the future...scared of death...am I paranoid?

    Dr. Dombeck's Note: It's possible, but there are other possibilities too. You may just be sensitive or a bit philosophically inclined. Please take a look at this question/answer, "obsessive strange thoughts about life and existentialism" and see if what is described there fits you.

  • John Borden

    Hi I'm John Borden. I have been experiencing some thoughts that may be paranoia, but I'm not sure. For example, sometimes I make myself believe that God and or or the Lord Jesus Christ are telling and or or wanting me to to touch the corner of a desk, wall, chair, ect. I also sometimes make myself believe that they may be telling me to cross a certain physical line or go past and or or a certain spot, and maybe touch the object their, usually the corner of it. I experienced this on the sidewalk today, feeling compelled to go past a certain line. Also, in the gym. It happens in the gym and a field a lot. There are a lot of lines in the gym. I also sometimes feel sad for no reason. Also, I think I might be paranoid somehow about something that is kind of hard to explain. I guess it kind of has to do with knowing. Like knowing which lines and the path of the lines I draw when I doodle on my paper in class. Also, I was in tears because I didn't know which candy I had in my easter basket from the empty eggs. I even wrote C (for chocolate) on one and C Prob CM for chocolate probably chololate melt. I was also crying because I felt compelled to show my easter basket more loved. I guess this probably sounds insane to you, but I'm not lying. Unless this never happened and I'm just going crazy. Also, sometimes I cant figure out if something was a dream or not. Not that often though, Thankfully. I'm 13, so some of this, like the sadness, may be from changing hormones, but I'm not sure. Maybe everybody has these feelings and just don't share it. Anyways, please respond, even if it only takes a minute of your time. Thanks. From, John Augustus Borden

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