Paranoia or Anxiety?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My paranoia started when I was a child, when my father forced me to go to the theaters and watch horror movies. I still remember the horror scenes, and the times I was crying and laying in the seat so it would block my view from the screen because once I see the image, it is stuck in my brain forever. My brain is like a sponge, once I see it, it’s there forever. My paranoia when I was a child wasn’t suddenly, it gradually developed over the years. I am now 18, going on 19 in a month, which finally my paranoia has reached its climax to where it is hard to deal with it daily. I have to constantly tell myself that it’s all in my head, I believe that there is nothing there to harm me, that the horror movies is all fictional, there’s no “monster” or “ghost” coming to get me. I have anxiety attacks daily if the room is dark (I still sleep with a night-light), I check behind doors, behind my back, I make sure to turn every light on to any room I may go into. Sometimes when I am showering, I start to have a mild panic attack that there may be someone(supernatural) on the other side. I take sleeping pills to calm my mind, and I am still scared to have my feet noticeable in the sheets in the bed (paranoid of a “monster” to grab my feet), I sleep with pillows on each side of my bed so I can’t see the ground (or my face is protected from a “monster/someone” grabbing me). Sometimes, if I am left home alone, I starve myself (two story house) because I am too scared to go downstairs in the kitchen to grab something to eat. When I am completely paranoid, to where I can’t stop thinking about the horrible thought, my stomach hurts, my back aches, my heart races, and my adrenaline starts pumping to where I have to leave the area or call a friend. I can’t live with this anymore. Is this a mental problem? Or is it something I have to deal with for the rest of my life? The adults (my mother) says I will grow out of it because I am scared like a child would be! It is getting WORSE AND WORSE, I wonder sometimes about the future, what happens if I did live alone? I feel like I couldn’t if my life depended on it.

A. You may be experiencing an anxiety disorder. You described yourself as being paranoid but it might be more accurate to say that you are primarily experiencing fear and anxiety. You have had mild panic attacks, another indication of a potential anxiety disorder.

The fact that your symptoms are becoming worse means that you should seek professional help. Your mother thought that this problem would simply go away but it hasn’t. That is a sign that professional help is required.

Anxiety is a very treatable condition. Typically, if left untreated it becomes worse. This may be what is happening to you.

Anxiety is often treated with both psychotherapy and medication. Medication can be particularly helpful in reducing your panic attacks and overall feelings of anxiety.

You also mentioned that you are taking “sleeping pills.” I am wondering which sleeping pills you’re taking. Ambien, and similar types of sleeping medications, can exacerbate anxiety and fear. Some sleeping pills are prescribed “as needed” and not to be taken on a regular basis. It would be helpful to review your sleeping pill regimen with a physician to determine if they are contributing to the problem.

My recommendation is to seek professional help as soon as possible. With the proper help, you can expect to live an anxiety-free life. The sooner that you receive help, the better the ultimate outcome. Don’t wait. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Jan 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2013). Paranoia or Anxiety?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/01/06/paranoia-or-anxiety/