Anxiety related disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses that people experience with 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population being affected. (Source: National Institute of Mental Health) However, I believe that not only is it important to talk about and raise awareness of mental illnesses that affect a lot of people, it is equally important to educate people about less common mental illnesses that people suffer from.
One of those is paranoia. Paranoia is actually more common than you would think, as Matti explains in this #SpeakUp post. Despite, it being very common it is very rarely spoken about and if I am completely honest with you , I didn't know much about it either until I read this post. Paranoia can be really hard and difficult to understand and cope with. You are definitely not mad, crazy or insane, there is help out there for you.
Which Matti so brilliantly explains and highlights in this post. If you feel like you are suffering from paranoia or anxiety after reading this post, please do seek help, you are not alone. I am so glad that Matti decided to not only focus on anxiety in her #SpeakUp post but paranoia as well. She did an amazing job at explaining what it feels like and I am so proud of her for sharing her personal story. I hope you enjoy this post and it educates you a little bit more about what it is like suffering from anxiety and paranoia.
Anxiety and paranoia are not commonly matched together. Anxiety and panic attacks, anxiety attacks, depression, all of these things seem to be automatically connected in people’s minds, but paranoia is rarely one of those things. Actually, come to think of it, paranoia is rarely one of the mental illnesses that are regularly discussed, even though it is more common than you would first think.
Let me give you some figures: a UK study showed that out of 8,500 adults, 21 percent thought there had been times when others were acting against them - I know that 21 percent doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s still 1,785 people. I could give you a thousand different numbers and percentages, but to be honest, it may not mean a whole lot eventually. To keep it brief and simple, several studies in Britain, the US and elsewhere have shown that basically, between 5 and 50% of people have experienced paranoid thoughts at one point or another in their lives.
I’ve suffered from paranoia for so long I can’t even remember when it started. I think it comes from a long period of isolation, seeing as, in my second year of high school, the entirety of my friend group decided they were going to turn against me, and I spent a large portion of that summer being alone and tormented by them in any way they could find. I contracted a fear of answering the phone and texts, I mean, my Mum would ring me, and I’d be convinced it was those girls who had somehow managed to make it look like my Mum was ringing me when in fact, it was them and would become riddled with anxiety.
I lived in constant fear that they were going to come and get me somehow and make my life miserable in my own home. That feeling followed me all through the other years of my high-school life and into my first year of college (even though in college I had an incredible group of friends that never did anything for me to have this paranoia), even though I had no reason to, whenever someone would ring me or text me, I was convinced they were going to start shouting at me, accusing me of having done things I hadn’t actually done and not allowing me to explain myself or anything. It doesn’t just stop at calling and texting, if anyone who will pull me away to talk to me in private, I would be convinced they were going to tell me that they hate me, and that’s I’m a bitch and just generally hurt me (spoiler alert - no one ever did).
I’m going to try and explain what it feels like when you get anxiety and paranoia. Basically, imagine you have a really bad stomach cramps, but that you feel like a six-year-old on steroids is running around in your stomach, using your organs as a climbing frame. You feel like acid, and liquid metal is running through your veins, and you’re a *bit* worried your legs are going to give out at any moment without notice. You feel like someone, or something is sitting on your chest, and try as you might to get enough air into your lungs, it’s never really enough to quench you. You can’t really concentrate on anything, and everything people are saying to you is pretty much going over your head.
Oh hey, anxiety, how’re you doing? Now, something happens that triggers your paranoia. It could literally be something as small as someone not replying to your text or someone posting something on Facebook. It’s totally pointless and stupid, but it triggers you right off, and now you’re paranoid. “They hate me.” “They were only pretending to be my friend and really they were just pretending to like me because they had pitied me - oh wait! That would explain why so-and-so said such and such a thing and…” and so the cycle of stress, self-hatred, and paranoia. Even if the person replies to said text, I’ll still be paranoid that they’re just replying to be nice.
My type of paranoia is called rational paranoia (totally made that up but I couldn’t find anything on the internet). I know my paranoia is silly and that what I’m paranoid about is silly and that no, my friends don’t hate me, they were probably just busy or eating or something like that. I know all of this, and it’s not like I know it, but it’s only a little voice in my head getting squashed down, but I blatantly say to myself during all this anxiety ‘Matti, stop! You know you’re talking crap so why are you stressing so much?!” - basically, my brain knows that I’m being an idiot, but it doesn’t care it’s going to freak the fuck out anyway.
I feel like paranoia is something that isn’t talked about enough. Like I said that the start of the post, you’re definitely not the only one, it’s just that it’s not part of the more spoken about mental illnesses (depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia), which frustrates me because it makes me honestly feel so silly and petty. I don’t even dare talk about it to anyone because I know fully well that it’s going to be dismissed as me being silly and that I’m overreacting.
All this to say, if you ever start to feel paranoid, and that’s it’s getting frequent and too much, go and see a specialist. They can help you and give you the guidance you need in order to keep this at bay.
Thank you so much, Matti, for sharing your story about coping with anxiety and paranoia. If you would like to guest post on my blog and write an article for the #SpeakUp project about something that affects young people's health and wellbeing then do not hesitate to get in contact.
Thank you for reading, as always X