I am a shy person by nature, I generally dislike and don’t care to be social. But in this past year I’ve gone further than that, rather what I would call paranoid tendencies. Even so much that I’m afraid to tell people my name, how old I am, and similar information, so I often end up lying. When I say something truthful I want to punch myself.

I have a hard time expressing myself, but I will try. It feels like people are talking behind my back, people are watching me, people are trying to make me look bad or even harm me, I’ve even had times where I thought the state was watching me (all this seems to start becoming apparent to people). I know that all these things may not be true, but I am afraid that I might believe them one day.

These things are in my body and mind every day, even writing this and the required information makes me deeply worried, because I am afraid that someone will use this information against me.

I can’t sleep because its bothering me at night, I think about it when I work, when I cook, when I watch a film.. all the time.

Do you believe that I should do anything about this (and what can I do) and what do you assume is wrong?

A. It’s normal to be slightly anxious and cautious when meeting new people, but your anxiety seems to be greater than that. Your fears seem to have evolved into a phobia of sorts that causes significant daily distress.

This problem is not unlike people who become homebound due to their belief that the outside world is a dangerous place (agoraphobia). A phobia is an irrational fear. Irrational fears are strengthened when an individual acts in accordance with their fears. It’s important to believe in reality and act in accordance with it. Doing so will extinguish fears and paranoia.

The solution to this problem is to seek treatment from a mental health professional. You might be reluctant because of your paranoia, but try to force yourself to go through with it. It’s important that you do so. Unchecked paranoia and anxiety typically worsens but treatment can prevent this from happening. With the proper treatment, you will learn that your fears are unrealistic. You can also learn how to be more comfortable with people. Those changes would significantly improve your life.

If you ignore this problem, it will likely continue. One of the most tragic realities of our time is that effective treatments exist for most mental health problems but the majority of people suffering with them don’t seek treatment. I hope that you make the right choice and seek treatment for a curable problem. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle