Dublin Counsellor Blog

What is Paranoia?

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What is paranoia? Paranoia is defined as ‘delusions of persecution’. The word ‘delusions’ is a way of saying ‘you are crazy and I (the doctor or mental health professional) is sane’. This is the mental health professional’s way of saying ‘I don’t understand what is happening, so I will label you to protect me’.

Paranoia is projected anxiety. It is our fear, when it is too much, projected onto the world. This is a defence mechanism that all humans use for overwhelming experience.

Projected experience

Generally, people with paranoia grew up in hostile families. This made them frightened and they learned that people are dangerous. As the fear is too much to cope with, they project it outside themselves as a form of self-defence but it creates the self-fulfilling prophecy of on-going persecution.

Growing up in a hostile environment, it is also unsafe for someone to experience or express their own anger. This also has to be projected outside, again, creating the self-fulfilling prophecy of on-going persecution. All people are angry/hostile.

The person sees the world as full of rage and fear, their experience growing up.

Embodied experience

Trauma psychotherapy tells us unprocessed experiences remain with us physically.

When flight or fight is not possible, the nervous system goes into ‘tonic immobility’ or ‘freeze’. This is the body’s anaesthetic or last line of defence. It protects the body but the charge from the experience remains in the body and so it feels as if the experience is still happening.

A therapist will know if this is happening by a client talking about such experiences in the present tense.

This makes the experiences still very real for the person.

As the client processes the experience, the charge gets discharged, the projections are withdrawn, the client can own their own experience of fear and anger, and the ‘delusions’ end.

For a wider description of how counselling works, and to see my own availability for counselling, check out https://thomaslarkin.ie/psychotherapy-counselling-dublin/