Symptoms of paranoia & excessive scary ruminations
Excessive thinking (ruminations) are common to all forms of anxiety and in some extreme conditions this problem of thinking may spill over into a more paranoid form of thinking that becomes destructive, overwhelming and very scary. The word rumination is often described in dictionaries as repetitively focusing on the symptoms of distress, and on its possible causes and consequences.
The word paranoia is labelled as a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself. (e.g. “Everyone is out to get me.”) Making false accusations and the general distrust of others also frequently accompany paranoia. For example, an incident most people would view as an accident or coincidence, a paranoid person might believe was intentional.
Caveat: We are not medical practitioners and or not describing complex medical conditions, like; schizophrenia or paranoid psychosis, we are outlining the diverse mental activity and symptoms of paranoia that many anxiety disorder sufferers find themselves experiencing and feel trapped by.
A good example of managing extreme paranoia
Towards the end of his life John Nash was interviewed (John was the real life inspiration for the film “A Beautiful Mind” during the interview he was asked “How true to life was the character (played by Russell Crowe) in the film, versus your actual experience?” – John said, that it was very real (the symptoms of paranoia were real) but for two important factors, firstly, he was older than the actor who played him when his paranoia worsened and secondly, he said that with his paranoid schizophrenia did not have any pictures in his mind (as depicted in the film) his paranoid encounters were all verbal through sounds, thoughts and voices in his mind.
Now, John had paranoid schizophrenia and that is not what this site is about, however, John learned to not believe the thoughts, he learned techniques that allowed him to separate reality from tricks that the mind was playing. We feel that it should offer (more than) hope that these intrusive ruminations and paranoid mind stories can be managed, lessened and finally dismissed.
We are amazed at how the mind can trick us and the wide spectrum of scary ruses that it can use that manifest as symptoms of paranoia! At a simple level I have a voice in my head that says “You idiot” if I make a mistake, does this mean I am paranoid because I listen to that voice, no. It is just my internal dialogue, my unconscious guidance system and personally, I don’t listen to it – I am not an idiot and would not accept talking to myself in that way. However, if I had a self-belief that I was an idiot then I may accept that voice as being me and being true! If we switch to the other end of the spectrum there are anxious individuals who think /see / hear all sorts of stories about horrific things which freak them out and exaggerates their fears of being out of control or going mad.
When paranoia or excessive ruminations arise in people suffering from extreme anxiety or OCD they must start a new mantra – “The thoughts arise from within me, but, are NOT ME!” Much like the way you can’t consciously control your digestion or your heart beat, you can’t control what the mind throws at you, however, you can control whether you believe it or not, in other words your attitude. This is the first step in regaining control.
Types of paranoid ruminations
We have worked with hundreds of clients who have experienced all forms of paranoia and incessant mind chatter and from our own experience most people have some form of internal dialogue that chats away in their mind to some degree or another. However, when anxiety rises to high levels or after a long period of living with anxious feelings or OCD these ruminations often get out of control or escalate up to paranoid levels.
Typically, these thoughts (mind stories) fall into a number of categories:
Self depreciating: – Thoughts that spin around in your mind reiterating how you are not good enough, not competent enough, not funny enough, not confident enough etc. Ruminations and explorations of all ways that you are unlovable and why would anybody stay with you, and what a bad mother or father you are. Often in these situations you are unknowingly looking for evidence that you are rubbish, whilst at the same time, ignoring any evidence that you are good enough. So, your partner says “I love you” and you reply “how could you possibly love someone like me?” You can read about how this works here.
Destructive or sabotaging ruminations: – These tend to be aimed at your work and close relationships, the stories that run around in your mind seem to make you sabotage yourself, for example; excessive thoughts about things they may (or may not) be doing that might lead you to feel jealous or angry, even if they are not doing them, but you can’t stop thinking about them. In work situations it is common to think about all the things that could go wrong in a presentations and become so scared that you refuse to do the presentation or don’t take a promotion because you would need to attend more meetings.
Sexual thoughts and paranoia: – These types of ruminations take two forms. either you believe people are flirting (or stalking) you, and even a glance or the smallest of comment can be whirled around into a story about what might happen next, and the second type is where you have overwhelming stories of a sexual nature in your mind about some people. On occasion, these thoughts may be of a sexual nature towards a minor or a person of the same sex and this can be very disconcerting, it is important to remember here that, these are just thoughts, 99% of the time nothing will happen and it doesn’t mean you are gay or a paedophile. The thoughts are coming into your mind from somewhere in your unconscious – the thoughts are not you!
OCD type ruminations: – We have discussed this in detail on the OCD page these thoughts go around and around and around, the same old stories about the same old things, and in many instances the more the ruminations go around, the more complex they become, then the more the stories of what might happen get associated to events in the external world, the more you become trapped – because the more you worry about getting ill, the more places you’ll be looking for where you might catch an illness….. and on and on you go.
Paranoid thoughts about harming other people: – Thoughts and fears about harming other people is one of the ways that the unconscious mind uses to trap people suffering from anxiety. The mind comes up with all sorts of scary scenarios about poisoning people, stabbing people or harming them in one of a thousand different ways, all of which “feel” real and “feel” like you might act on it, so it frightens you, as you know you would never do this, but begin to doubt yourself. As the doubt creeps in you may behave in security minded ways like not baby sitting in case you were to harm the child or hiding knives away in the garage if friends stay over for the night.
Paranoid feelings about death or people “out to get” you: – This particular type of paranoia is very common and very scary, but it is still a rumination. We have seen this many times after a person has been to see a medium (clairvoyant) and heard that something bad would happen or after a freaky coincidence, perhaps, being late collecting a family members medicine from the pharmacy only to find they had passed away when you finally get to them. These scary thoughts are often based around doing certain rituals to keep yourself (or others) safe and a fear that other people know something about you or are talking about you or are out to get you in some way.
We have said this before and we will say it again – the thoughts are the symptoms of paranoia (of your anxiety) and not the problem (although it causes other problems) you need to focus on the problem not the symptom! That is what this program does for you.
All these thoughts are just the unconscious minds way of trying to tell you that you are exhausted and need to change things in your life, it is as if they are trying to scare you into not being able to function in the world and then you will have to stay at home and get better. Of course the strategy is flawed, but it is the best your unconscious mind can do. Don’t believe the ruminations.
Am I going mad?
No. Enough said. Stop thinking about it! Can you not see that thinking is the problem? Plus, if you were mad it would be even more obvious that you shouldn’t listen to (or believe) the voices!
Meditation and a silent mind
For thousands of years those who mediate deeply have known that the way to quiet and calm the body (no anxiety / stress) is via a quiet mind, a silent mind is a silent body. We know that the body responds to what you hold in mind; calm thoughts evoke a calm body, sexy thoughts generate sexy feelings and anxious thoughts equal anxious feelings, at a fundamental level, it really is that simple. When people learn to meditate their biggest problem is that they try to think of nothing and the mind just wanders of in a thousand directions and keeps hooking them with all sorts of stories.
It is the same with ruminations – they hook our attention, then we focus on them, then we get an emotional reaction from them, then we (in error) believe that because they feel real, they are real. This is one of the cycles that absolutely needs to be broken.
Those who meditate often, know the thoughts are just thoughts, they seem to bubble up from somewhere (it doesn’t matter where) and they just observe them. Those who know how to meditate well, become the observer of their thoughts, whereas, those who have anxiety are the experiencer of their thoughts! There is a profound difference between the two.
Sleep, dreaming and your symptoms of paranoia
Anxiety and depression have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep disrupting the depth of sleep and the amount of time you spend in REM state dreaming, often meaning that you wake up in the morning feeling worse than when you went to bed. Unconsciously during times of anxiety we spend much more time dreaming than normal and when we dream our body is responding to our thoughts as if they were real, we have all awoken from a nightmare with a racing heart and all sweaty – it takes a lot of energy to dream.
It seems that dreaming is our way to discharge the angst in our lives and a way to practice our basic survival needs, such as, fighting, escaping, chasing, killing and reproducing. That is why when our unconscious mind feeds us with scary ruminations, so many of them are aligned with those basic aspects of our prehistoric mammalian needs.
In some anxious (and emotionally) exhausted people, it seems that the dreaming mind and the awake mind somehow get overlapped, like living in a real daydream, this adds a level of reality (awake) to the rumination (dreaming) and gives the experiencer a wild ride of emotions and thoughts.
As you progress through the Calmness in Mind Anxiety Program you’ll see that the quality of your sleep begins to improve, because as you deal with the underlying causes of anxiety, your quality of sleep improves and the need to dream so much lessens, thus, the ruminations begin to abate.
Stop believing your excuses
People experiencing bouts of anxiety and depression come up with the best excuses (sorry but it is true!) Especially when fearful ruminations are running around their minds, they say “Well, what if it really is happening?” or “I know it is silly but I just can’t do anything about it.”
It seems that when there is some logic to the responses (to the paranoid ruminations) we can accept the behaviours, for example; a person may be fastidious about cleaning their house and they argue their case using logic about germs, bacteria and disease– and even if they are spending 8 hours a day cleaning up – they have dozens of logical excuses they can use to defend their ego ‘s position. But, when a person believes that they may harm somebody all logic flies out of the door, and it feels uncomfortable because the individual says “I know this is stupid, BUT, IT IS ALSO REAL!”
Managing and treatment for your symptoms of paranoia
Overcoming anxiety is about leaning into the fear with a new story in your mind, whilst challenging old self-beliefs, and not trying to believe (or defend) all the stories in your mind. The Calmness in Mind Anxiety Program will help you to take back control of the symptoms of paranoia and teach you how to silence your mind or at least not believe the thoughts. (Please read our disclaimer.)