If you deal with anxiety, you know it can be hard to tell the difference between paranoia and legitimate suspicion or mistrust. You try to convince yourself that your worry is irrational and that everyone has bad days from time to time, but sometimes you just have this feeling.
And it’s based on a situation where evidence lends credibility to your fear. In this article, I will explain the difference between paranoia and suspicion to help give you some real insight into determining when your fears are valid.
What Is Paranoia?
Paranoia is a way of thinking that makes you feel like everyone is out to get you or that something terrible is about to happen. It can make you feel that people are talking about you or plotting against you. Paranoia can cause you to think that people are watching or following you or that they’re trying to hurt your reputation or take advantage of you.
It can be caused by anxiety disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These conditions change the way your brain works and make it more difficult for your brain to process information correctly. Your thoughts become less clear and organized, which can lead to paranoia.
What Is the Difference Between Paranoia and Paranoid?
The difference between paranoia and paranoid is the state of mind.
Paranoia is a mental disorder characterized by feelings of persecution or extreme distrust toward others. People with paranoia often believe that their actions are being closely watched or that others are plotting to harm them or their loved ones. They may also be suspicious about what others are thinking about them or believe that others can read their minds or control their thoughts.
Paranoid is an adjective that describes someone who behaves in a way characteristic of paranoia. For example, if someone has recently been acting suspiciously, you might describe them as paranoid. Someone who displays signs of paranoia may also be considered neurotic or psychotic, but these labels would not necessarily indicate that they have full-blown symptoms of paranoia.
A person suffering from full-blown symptoms of paranoia may hear voices telling them to harm themselves or others, see things that aren’t there (hallucinations), and have difficulty holding onto reality (delusional thinking). These symptoms can cause considerable distress but may also be part of other conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
In most cases, people who exhibit milder forms of paranoid behavior do not require treatment unless their behavior significantly interferes with their day-to-day life.
What Is Suspicion?
Suspicion is a feeling that something is not correct. Mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and depression, can cause it. A person with suspicion may think that other people are lying to them, are out to get them, or are hiding something from them.
When a person has a suspicion, they feel that they must constantly watch what other people are doing, making them very anxious. They may also believe that other people are talking about them behind their backs, and this causes further anxiety and stress.
So, What Is the Difference Between Paranoia and Suspicion?
Paranoia is a mental illness characterized by an exaggerated feeling of fear, mistrust, and suspicion. People suffering from paranoia may feel that others are out to get them and have ulterior motives.
Suspicion is also a form of fear, but it differs from paranoia because it is more limited in scope. A person who suspects something will typically be wary of only one or two things.
For example, if someone suspects another person is trying to poison them, they might want to avoid eating anything that person offers them. However, they will not necessarily need to avoid all food or assume that everyone around them has malicious intentions toward them.
Paranoia and suspicion are similar in that they both involve feelings of distrust, but there are subtle differences between them.
As I mentioned, paranoia is a mental health condition in which a person experiences delusions or false beliefs about what others think. A paranoid person may believe that they are being spied on or persecuted.
On the other hand, suspicion is doubt or mistrust of someone or something. A suspicious person may question the motives of others, even when no evidence proves that their suspicions are justified.
A person experiencing paranoia will often be unable to distinguish between fact and fiction. In contrast, a suspicious person may doubt whether certain things are true or false but still be able to identify facts from fiction.
When Is the Time to Seek Professional Help for Paranoia?
If you’re one of the millions of people in the U.S. who suffer from paranoia, you may feel that you have to keep your fears and anxieties a secret. But there are many ways to get help for social anxiety, including therapy and medication.
The first step to getting treatment is recognizing when it’s time to seek help. Are you avoiding social situations because of your anxiety? Do you experience physical symptoms such as sweating, headaches, and nausea when you’re around other people? If so, it might be time for professional help.
Here are five signs that indicate it’s time for treatment:
- You avoid social situations because of your fear of being watched or judged by others
- You feel self-conscious in front of other people — even though they don’t seem to notice anything wrong with you
- You avoid eye contact with others because it makes you anxious
- You become uncomfortable when someone looks at you while talking with them
- You are more comfortable talking on the phone than in person
While most people may consider them similar, there are distinct differences between paranoia and suspicion. Of the two, paranoia is the more extreme form. It’s based on false assumptions and can often lead to unfortunate consequences, as in some cases of persecution. Whereas suspicion is more level-headed and rational, having a basis. This can help us analyze our surroundings better and make more informed decisions.
Many people can relate to having these fears, and it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. You might be able to get professional help if you think it would benefit you. If possible, try not to isolate yourself too much and surround yourself with friends and family. As tempting as it may be to withdraw from society, the only thing this will do is make your paranoia worse. Also, finding hobbies can help take your mind off worrying about things.
- Shakeel, M. K., & Docherty, N. M. (2014). Confabulations in Schizophrenia. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 20(1), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1080/13546805.2014.940886
- Freeman, D., Gittins, M., Pugh, K., Antley, A., Slater, M., & Dunn, G. (2008). What makes one person paranoid and another person anxious? The differential prediction of social anxiety and persecutory ideation in an experimental situation. Psychological Medicine, 38(8), 1121–1132. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0033291708003589
- Khouzam, H. R., Gill, T. S., & Tan, D. T. (2007). CHAPTER 12 – The Personality-Disordered Patient. In Handbook of Emergency Psychiatry (pp. 234–255). essay, Mosby/Elsevier.