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16 ‘Paranoid’ Anxiety Thoughts People Had Growing Up

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When we think of “paranoia” in relation to mental illness, it’s easy to think of psychotic disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But what about those “paranoid” thoughts that pop up in the midst of feeling anxious?

According to the mental health nonprofit Mind, paranoia is defined as thinking and feeling as though there is a threat regardless of evidence to the contrary. In this case, the “paranoid” thoughts you might get when your anxiety is at its peak.

Excessive worrying, “irrational” fears and avoiding social situations are all symptoms of anxiety, so it should come as no surprise that experiencing paranoid thoughts related to these symptoms can be common. If you grew up with anxiety, these thoughts might have cropped up in your childhood as well.

We wanted to know what “paranoid” thoughts people with anxiety experienced as kids, so we turned to our mental health community to share their experiences.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. “Everyone hates me.”

“I was literally convinced everyone hated me. I’d hide behind this reclining chair and sit in a ball hugging my knees. I said one time and one time only, ‘Everyone hates me,’ and was told to stop being dramatic. I have carried that statement with me my entire life.” — Cay B.

“I was always paranoid that nobody around me liked me. l never had friendship groups and I thought the friends I did have were merely tolerating me rather than wanting to be with me. It affected my self-esteem and caused me even more social anxiety as I got older.” — Angharad M.

2. “I’m being watched.”

“I always felt like cameras were watching me. Even in my own house. My bedroom. I would search every inch of the house like every day. To this day everywhere I go, I look for cameras. Even in places where there clearly aren’t any. I look over and over and I can’t stop. I always feel like I’m being watched. I’m always paranoid and scared. It makes me sick to my stomach.” — Tyler J.

“I had an intense fear of P.E. class and being watched. I’d start planning out in my head when we had the mile or some big test for it coming up to the point where I’d make myself sick with horrid stomach pain. I did this with all school stuff starting in at least second grade, but P.E. was the worst because I felt like I was being watched. The teachers I had for some of those years only intensified it. Still gives me anxiety to think about.” — Julia A.

“I always thought that when people looked at me it was because something was wrong with me. I still struggle with it as an adult but I’ve become more comfortable with it. But, that thought still creeps into my mind when someone looks at me, for what to me is a little longer than they should.” — Laura M.

3. “My loved ones and I are going to die.”

“I had ‘separation anxiety.’ I was so afraid my family would never come back, or get into a horrible accident when they would leave home without me. I also had a horrible fear of loved ones (animals and humans alike) dying while I was sleeping. Caused me to lose a lot of sleep and be that creepy person who watched my siblings sleep and woke my pets up every couple of hours.” — Katie T.

“Worst-case scenario thinking, particularly envisioning my family and I crashing in a car down a mountainside and ending in the river and drowning.” — Crystal B.

4. “People might break into my home while everyone is asleep.”

“Every night I mentally prepared for someone to break into our home while everyone slept. It was a massive fear for me and it consumed my thoughts some nights before I could fall asleep. I stayed awake so I would know if someone was out there trying to get in, so I could run to my parents and wake them up to save the family. I had horrible insomnia and this anxiety was a big part of it.” — Heather S.

“I thought someone would climb through my window and take me or my sister. I also had serious anxiety about dying. I would stay up because I was so scared I wouldn’t wake up again if I fell asleep.” — Jena O.

“I am constantly on guard because I think someone is going to break into my home. I have OCD when going to bed at night double-checking that all windows and doors are locked up. And I’m really hard on myself when I forget to check a window or door. And I overly obsess about it for weeks after.” — Kristy G.

5. “They’re talking about me.”

“I just knew people were talking about me when they whispered nearby… particularly girls. Pointing, whispering, giggling… at least the boys were blunt, which I appreciated. It’s why I get along better with men, I think… no games, no plotting. This ‘need to know everything about everything’ makes me ‘nosy’ in my adult life… really. I just want to make sure it’s not me they’re whispering about. I’m 43. It still affects me.” — Emily V.

“In school, I was always so paranoid that people were making fun of me or whispering about me if I gave the wrong answer, stood in front of class, played games in P.E., or even just the way I ate at lunch. My anxiety got so bad that I started telling my parents I felt too sick to go to school almost every day, which wasn’t really a lie because I would get physically sick every morning from how anxious I was, and I missed so many days.” — Tessa S.

6. “I’m not good enough.”

“I was afraid if I wasn’t good at something the first time I tried it I was a failure, so I would never try things I really wanted to do. Never trying was better than failing.” — Baylei O.

“I had to be perfect at anything I did. I was a straight-A student, one of the best cheerleaders on my squad, a juvenile arthritis advocate, the girl that sold the most cookies of her girl scout troop — everything I did had to be perfect. I felt like I would be letting everyone around me down if I wasn’t the best. It was super tiring.” — Katherine H.

“I had intense anxiety that my parents didn’t think I was good enough so I’d get straight A’s, join sports and think of ways to make money so I’d be enough for them to accept and love me. I was 9 when this started…” – Kimberly L.

7. “I am a burden.”

“I was always afraid I was in the way. That I wasn’t needed. That I had no purpose. I spent my very young years endeavoring to be as useful as possible because if I was needed, I had worth, right? My parents worked very hard and I tried to not be a burden so I started cooking dinner for us from the age of 9. I walk to the grocery store to do the shopping. I would help my mother in her pottery at all hours of the day and night to try to lighten her workload and it was the only way I got to spend time with her. It never really felt like enough.” — Marguerite W.

8. “The house is going to burn down.”

“I have had anxiety for literally as long as I can remember. My earliest memories (around 3 years old) are of packing a bag every night because I was convinced that the house was going to burn down that night. I knew all the windows that opened to the roof and possible ways down in case of fire. I also used to keep my cats cage by my bed and slept fully clothed. There had been no experience with fire in my short little life so I have no idea where it came from… but it was very real in my mind.” — Cate M.

9. “If I relax and have fun, everything will fall apart.”

“That when I finally let go and was having a good time, I panicked believing I would have to pay for having fun, and that I had let my guard down, so I needed to get back to being hypervigilant so I would be aware of what bad thing was going to happen next.” — Jackie D.

10. “I’ve been left behind.”

“If I woke up in the morning and no one was home (or they were just outside), I was convinced the rapture happened and I was left behind… didn’t help when no one answered their phone, making me believe it even more.” — Jessica B.

11. “People can hear my racing thoughts.”

“I always tried to be careful of what I was thinking because I felt like people could hear my thoughts. I still think that sometimes even after therapy and medication.” — Lexi S.

“I was convinced everyone could see my anxiety. They could see my stress and constant, racing thoughts. While I’m sure my body language expressed my insecurities, I just felt like people could read me and knew something ‘wasn’t right’ with me. This caused me to be more of a defensive, standoffish person. I tried to make myself ‘different’ than the rest so I had an excuse for my feelings and awkwardness. In hindsight, I wish I would have realized that most kids are so wrapped up in their own world that they probably didn’t even realize I was there or give mind to what I was struggling with.” — Lauren J.

12. “I’m going to die if I throw up.”

“I had severe emetophobia. I thought I was going to throw up anything I ate so I refused to eat for several months at a time. I really thought I was going to throw up and die if I ate a meal. Hospital care and realizing I had a fear caused by anxiety helped me out of it.” — Kristi L.

“I thought that if I threw up, it meant I had an incurable illness. Because of it, I developed severe emetophobia and would sob/get angry anytime I felt like I was going to throw up or if anyone around me would throw up. It seems so dramatic, I know, but the fear and anxiety was very real and caused a lot of OCD behaviors and thoughts. I don’t know when the fear developed, but I carried it around for most of my life.” — Paige A.

13. “Someone is going to stab me in the back.”

“I was always afraid to eat in front of everyone. If I had to I’d eat with my hand in front of my mouth. Simultaneously afraid of literally being stabbed in my back, I sat always by a wall.” — Cassandra S.

14. “Are they really my friends?”

“I was always worried that my friends would stop being friends with me. I would ask constantly if they were mad at me or if we were really friends. I know I drove them ‘crazy.’ I hated feeling that way because friendship seemed so effortless for everyone else. As an adult, I’ve realized I’m a people-pleaser and seek validation from others. I still fear rejection so I keep my circle small because I don’t feel like I have the emotional energy to invest. It’s hard to trust others.” — Angela C.

15. “No one will love the real me.”

“That I was unlovable. I never thought people would love the real me. So I hid the real me. The intelligent me. I played ‘stupid’ or the ‘victim all the time to be loved. I don’t do that anymore. People now love the real woman I am. Should have done it years ago… The woman I am now is the woman I was meant to be.” — Bridgette T.

16. “I’m afraid I’ll ‘mess things up’ with my new family.”

“I was adopted at 3 years old. So in my eyes, I already messed it up with my real family. My biggest anxiety was being given back to social services. I never was, but eventually, it was even threatened. I have severe abandonment issues now because of it all.” — Veronica B.

If you find yourself struggling with “paranoid” thoughts, please reach out to a trusted mental health professional. You can also always reach out to The Mighty community by posting a Question or Thought with the hashtag, #CheckInWithMe.

For more on anxiety, check out the following stories:

Do you live with anxiety and have “paranoid” thoughts? Feel free to share them with us in the comments below.

Originally published: May 7, 2019
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