What do people say about you behind your back?

So… Paranoia.  Yes, that title was paranoid-person-click-bait. Does a winky smile make up for it? 😉

We are all at least loosely familiar with the definition of paranoia: “A mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically elaborated into an organized system.”

But we don’t often think of paranoia as the backbone of issues such as anxiety, depression, and relationship turmoil. In fact, isn’t it a little dismissive to tell some who is emotionally suffering that they are being “paranoid?” Ummmm….. yes.  

Therefore, therapists generally explain (and validate, because rarely does paranoia come about without having had some bad experiences that are grounded in at least a little bit of truth) the specifics of the thinking errors within paranoia.  And if a therapist doesn’t use the judgy word “paranoid,” but still gets the patient to hone-in on her faulty thinking, everybody wins.

If you’re being honest with yourself, do you think you engage in any of these “thinking errors,” also known as “paranoid ways of thinking”?

1)Confirmation bias. Seeking out only the info that confirms what you already think (everybody hates me, I am rejectable, He’s not really running late because he got a flat tire- He just doesn’t want to be around me!). (Attention bias is when you are extra sensitive to perceiving negative experiences, so you especially attend to them.)

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I just heard someone whispering. They were probably talking about my crazy hair that I just know everyone is going to judge. #confirmationbias #attentionbias #paranoia

2) Faulty reasoning. Rejecting new evidence because you have already made up your mind about how the world and other people are.

3) Paranoid projecting: When you expect rejection/disapproval, so you preemptively act rejecting and disapproving toward others.

4) Superstitious/magical thinking: expecting negative consequences from not knocking on wood, seeing a black cat, stepping on cracks, the number 13, etc. Or attaching meaning to meaningless phenomena.

5) Overgeneralizing. When a bad thing happened in a certain context, so you believe it will be so in all contexts and similar scenarios.

6) Delusions of persecution. Believing others are doing things because they are “out to get you” or intend to cause harm.

7) Reaction formation. This one is part defense mechanism and part thinking error. For people who have experienced abandonment/rejection, it is often painful to acknlowledge the reality that most others around them aren’t giving them a second thought. So to protect themselves from internalizing this truth, they create a defensive belief of “everybody is focused on me.”

If you think any of these describe your thinking habits, your awareness is 80% of the battle. And Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness practice can help with the other 20%!

Just something to think about, as usual, from the therapist who once wore a Jamaican monokini in public and found that not a single person actually gave a damn, thereby demonstrating her own paranoia.

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