This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Being suspicious and anxious about the behavior or actions of others can be a natural instinct used to protect yourself. But these kinds of anxiety and what many people typically call “paranoid” feelings aren’t necessarily to the same extent as paranoia. Instead, paranoia is worry over things that aren’t going to happen, often caused by overthinking and dwelling on imaginary scenarios or fears.
When you create imaginary scenarios in your mind that convince you that others have the intention of harming you or your reputation, this is a result of paranoia. You may be worried your partner is going to leave you, a coworker is going to frame you for a bad job, or a stranger is going to attack you out of nowhere.
These feelings, if not discussed and worked through, can begin to negatively affect your relationships.
How Paranoia Can Affect Your Relationships
Relationships, whether they’re romantic or platonic, can become stressful at times, especially when there’s miscommunication or a misunderstanding. However, feelings of paranoia can increase this stress because there aren’t necessarily signs that a real problem exists. While it’s normal to worry and feel anxious sometimes, it can create multiple problems in your daily life if you’re constantly battling with these fears.
A lack of communication can increase feelings of paranoia because it allows for increased anxiety and a string of “what if” questions. If you believe you notice a change in someone’s attitude or typical mannerisms, you may begin to convince yourself that this means they are hiding something or planning something against you.
Online mental health resources such as BetterHelp can help you better understand paranoia and how it may be affecting other areas in your life as well. It’s important to acknowledge these imaginary scenarios and focus on realistic evidence instead of obsessing over potentially negative outcomes.
For individuals that frequently experience paranoid thoughts, these feelings are often festered due to miscommunication. Whether it’s a misunderstanding about a task, a change in tone, or even an interpretation of body language, their mind works with minor details that support the harmful narrative in their mind. This is why it’s important to practice open communication and honesty with those around you.
What Is Open Communication?
Open communication is when you’re able to be honest and transparent in a conversation without feeling judged or ridiculed. This kind of communication relies on active listening, sharing thoughts, and asking questions. It may seem like individuals with paranoia could have a more difficult time with open communication because of their fears and distrust of those around them.
However, this is exactly why open communication is so important for people who frequently feel paranoid. They practice the ability to express their fears and point out the small behaviors that made them upset so that they can receive reassurance in return.
Practicing open communication helps you get into the habit of coming forward with your concerns or anxieties. Because paranoia can come from even minor misunderstandings, communicating provides an opportunity to fill in any blanks, discuss tones or body language, and express your insecurities in a healthy way.
You can practice open communication first with your support system. This group of trusted individuals should already make you comfortable enough to express yourself without feeling criticized. A support system can consist of close friends, family members, and mental health care professionals.
Start by asking for clarification if you don’t understand something they say; confide in them if you’re uneasy or unsure about their tone or body language; and listen to their feedback, self-expression, and concerns in return.
Establishing Trust And Boundaries
Open communication won’t necessarily erase feelings of paranoia or anxiety. Rather, it can help you navigate and cope with these feelings. Because paranoia comes from suspicion and fabricated scenarios, building ways to establish trust with others can provide you with evidence against these concerns and thoughts.
The other important factor open communication offers is the establishment of boundaries. It gives you the opportunity to express discomfort, decline requests, and talk about actions or behavior that have made you feel paranoid.
Boundaries can range from not yelling in an argument to requesting space if you need to recharge your social battery. Maintaining these needs in your relationships is crucial to staying comfortable and building trust with others; it’s just as important for you to learn and respect the boundaries of those around you.
You may have feelings of paranoia because you believe others are hiding things from you, whether it’s their emotions or plans. You can work to regain confidence in your relationships by learning to express these concerns through open communication.
It’s important to make an effort to establish trust and respect the boundaries of yourself and others around you. This encourages you and your friends, family, or colleagues to be more transparent about their thoughts and emotions to ensure everyone is on the same page.