Is Mild Paranoia Characteristic of Depression?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I was wondering if mild paranoia is a common characteristic of depressive disorders? I was diagnosed with depression and I’m taking an SSRI for it, which has helped quite a bit, although I wouldn’t say that I’m “cured.” I also had some pretty severe hypochondria-related anxiety that started about nine months ago and lasted for about three months. The anxiety is no longer problematic–I still have hypochondriacal thoughts occasionally, but I can manage them and I know that they’re irrational and part of my depression.

I also have experienced a bit of paranoia (it’s been more noticeable since I first had the anxiety problems) with health-related things. I’m really careful about checking medications and making sure they’re the right ones. If I leave a glass of water unattended for a minute or two, I have to get a new one because of fear that someone could have put something in it. I worry that strange smells in the air are gas leaks. And sometimes if I’m on a bus or plane (I’m a little bit claustrophobic to begin with) I worry that either we’ll get into an accident or get trapped on the bus/plane or that someone has a bomb. The thing is, I know this is irrational and I know it while it’s happening–I don’t really believe it, it’s more of a “what if,” like, “I know it’s extremely unlikely that anyone drugged my drink, and I don’t know why anyone would, but it’s possible.” This is the same line of thinking I had with the hypochondria–like, “I know that this mild ache in my joints is probably nothing, but it’s possible I have rheumatoid arthritis.” I was wondering if this is characteristic of depressive disorders, or if I could have something else as well? Is it just a character flaw? I know this kind of thinking can occur with OCD, but I don’t have any rituals or compulsions. Any insight would be great.

Thanks.

A: I am very glad you are taking care of yourself with the medicine, and have taken the time to ask us this question. You identified yourself as a freshman in college, and this is a good place and time to connect with the university counselors. Since you already know your thoughts are irrational, the work is on finding a way to convince yourself of that truth. A counselor familiar with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) would be the right approach. They will help you challenge your irrational thinking with hypochondrias, paranoia, and various anxieties.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Mar 2011

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2011). Is Mild Paranoia Characteristic of Depression?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/03/21/is-mild-paranoia-characteristic-of-depression/