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22 'Paranoid' Thoughts People With Mental Illness Can Have

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Almost everyone will experience nervousness or worrisome thoughts at some point in their lives. If you live with a mental illness, you may experience more intense thoughts or feelings that are hard to shake, despite evidence telling you otherwise. These can be “paranoid” thoughts.

Feeling nervous and experiencing “paranoia” are different things. If you’re feeling nervous you might think something like, “I am afraid I’ll fail my test.” A thought rooted in paranoia is typically related to persecution, threat or conspiracy, according to Mental Health America.

It’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t experience paranoid thoughts. I thought people secretly hated me or were judging me, despite there being nothing concrete to prove that. I felt like a burden to loved ones because of my bipolar disorder and anxiety. These thoughts are not exactly ones of persecution or threat, but their intrusiveness can impact my daily life.

Although paranoia symptoms are often present in conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, they can occur in other mental illnesses as well. If you or someone you care about lives with a mental illness and struggles with these types of thoughts, you’re not alone.

To get an idea of what kinds of thoughts people can experience because of their mental illness, we asked members of our mental health community to share some of the “paranoid” thoughts they experience.

This is what they had to say:

1. “I feel like a burden.”

“I feel as if I’m a burden to the people I love! I know deep down I’m not, but I can’t seem to shake that feeling.” — Amber S.

“I’m a burden to everyone I love and everyone would be happier if I was gone.” — Ellie C.

2. “They’ll just leave me.”

“I am in a relationship with a great guy who loves me dearly, despite my mental health struggles, clinical depression, PTSD and anxiety. Sadly I cannot take any medications for the issues — they all make me worse. He has shown nothing but patience and understanding when my times of struggle are at their worst. Yet I always feel like he is just faking his feelings for me, and will leave at any second. Even though I know he wants to spend the rest of our lives together, I feel my mental issues will just drive him away.” — Andrea B.

“I have very intrusive thoughts about others not loving me or that they will leave me.” — Katelyn M.

I feel like if I reach out to someone when I’m at a low point and need a friend, that I’m bothering them and so I just shut down instead. I don’t feel worthy of other people. They’re just gonna disappoint me and abandon me anyway.” — Kimi S.

3. “My loved ones will die.”

“I have crippling thoughts of the death of my family members. The ones that affect me the most are about my grandchildren. When those thoughts take over, I become more insular and hopeless.” — Marilyn S.

“That I am going to lose my parents and I will be left alone.” — Nada F.

“My obsessive thoughts are people I love dying. Not like thinking about when they will be gone, but literally visualizing a death by a car accident, or airplane crash. I visualize what it would feel like, that fear. This is especially recurring with my son… It’s horrendous, these obsessive thoughts. OCD sucks.”  — Tiff K.

4. “I’m not a good parent.”

“My brain often tells me people think I’m a horrible mom. It tells me my mental illness prevents me from being a great mom and that everyone knows it and talks about it behind my back. This leads to depressive episodes and getting down on myself. On my ‘good days’ I know I love my kids unconditionally and I do my best to always give them my all; on my dark days, my paranoia makes me feel the opposite. It’s utterly exhausting.” — Jenn L.

5. “I’m a failure.”

“I frequently feel that anything I attempt to do will be met with failure. Always. I have such a creative mind and I have amazing potential. But then my brain tells me everything that will go wrong, that I am not that smart, that I am not capable and I will waste everyone’s time and waste money I don’t have, just to further prove I am a failure and a disappointment.” — Kimmee M.

6. “Everyone is judging me because of my mental illness.”

“Everyone is judging me because of my mental illnesses. That they will never see me for who I really am. It makes me think that everyone around me even friends and family are judging me because of my mental illnesses.” — Keirsten W.

7. “I’m making up my trauma.”

“‘What if I’m making up my trauma?’ I live with C-PTSD due to ongoing abuse and trauma. Due to the nature of the trauma, I have large gaps in my memory of it… some things, key details but I’m told about the fight or flight response and how this can make your brain shut off so you won’t have memories. Unfortunately, due to my mental health issues, anxiety, paranoia and low self-worth I often find myself wondering if I’ve made up the abuse, purely because I can’t remember certain aspects of my trauma!” — Jordan G.

8. “I’m being watched.”

“I often feel like I’m more or less constantly being watched and criticized. It’s a heavy kind of anxiety, like always being on a stage, waiting for the next person to lash out at you for nothing. I feel like I’m one of the luckier ones though because I can usually hold some piece of myself aloof to it. I’m a dreamer. I sing — I drift off into music a lot — and I’ve managed to keep myself at least halfway to fully capable of finding something better to do with my attention, most of the time.” — Chris C.

“I have to cover the front camera on my phone as I’m convinced I’ve been hacked and people are watching me.” — Dawn D.

9. “My mental illness is going to mess up my career.”

“My paranoia would have to be the consistent thought that my mental illness is going to mess up my career to where I can no longer do what I love. I’m on a long list of meds and it’s nerve-racking thinking, ‘Did I take all the meds I need in order to get through the day as a normal person?’” — Rachil F.

“I won’t be able to pursue my dreams because of my mental illnesses.” — Christina A.

10. “They’re upset with me.”

“I have GAD and my paranoid thought is that someone is always upset with me or able to read that I am anxious. It really inhibits my work (I’m a server) and makes me a nervous mess all the time. I’m always afraid I’ll mess up.” — Megan B.

“The biggest paranoid thought I have is that people are mad at me. I’m constantly thinking everyone hates me or I did something to upset someone. I then apologize to people for no reason.” — Emily B.

11. “They only care because they have to.”

“People only care because they are obligated to care. It affects me in that I work extra hard and I’m very aware of my actions toward the people that I love.” — Joanna L.

12. “Everyone hates me.”

“I always believe anyone and everyone dislikes me for whatever reason. My depressed mind really tries to justify the thought with anything it can, no matter how tiny or illogical. Everyone dislikes me and does not wish me well. I know it isn’t true, but it’s a struggle.” — Adeena A.

“Everyone hates me and can’t stand being around me. This is what I really believe, no matter how much people try to tell me otherwise. They’re too nice to tell me the truth.” — Lindsey R.

I have PTSD, anxiety and depression. But it’s the anxiety that affects me the most. I don’t have a lot of friends and funny enough one of the thoughts I had today was, ‘I wonder if I’m too different and that’s why I can’t make friends.’ I’ve just moved to a new area because of the PTSD and memories but I don’t want to talk about that. My most disruptive thought is, ‘Everyone doesn’t really like me because I’m too difficult to get on with because I’m quiet and when I do speak out it’s going to come out stupid, so just be quiet.’ Thus I don’t make new friends because I keep myself to myself. I’m very alone.” — Lydia R.

13. “Everyone has an ulterior motive.”

“All my friends are out to get me and have motives. I think everyone’s always upset with me and are just using me for personal gain.” — Jade H.

“I never accept kindness from strangers at face value, despite always attempting to be kind to strangers. I always think they’re trying to trick me and once they’ve won me over, I’ll be met with a Carrie-style treachery.” — Risa R.

14. “Everything I do is wrong.”

“My core belief I’ve always had about myself due to C-PTSD, BPD, depression and anxiety: I’ve always done something wrong or am going to. I’m always going to be in trouble for something I’ve done or said. I’m 49 years old and still can’t get over this daily fear.” — Ln M.

15. “I’m feeling paranoid… this must mean I am cycling.”

“Other than the normal ‘everyone hates me,’ ‘life would be better for them without me’ or ‘everyone is talking about me or betraying me,’ my number one reoccurring paranoid thought is about my bipolar cycles. Even when I’m ‘normal,’ I worry about the cycles coming back. Then I worry if I’m having paranoid anxiety like that, it means I’m already cycling and it’s exhausting.” — Sage P.

16. “They’re talking about me behind my back.”

“I’m bipolar II and also have major depressive disorder, anxiety and paranoia. I’m always constantly thinking my family is talking about me behind my back. It’s really hard at get-togethers when you feel out of place.” — Ashly L.

17. “They’re laughing at me.”

“Whenever a group of people starts laughing, I always think they’re secretly making fun of me.” — Ani M.

“I feel like people are talking about me, or laughing at me — especially when in public. When it happens it feels like they all can read my thoughts. I feel them closing in on me and it is suffocating.” — Elaine H.

18. “Others will find out about my mental illnesses.”

“Paranoid that I’ll be ‘found out,’ that they’ll be able to tell I have BPD and avoidant personality disorder.” — Danielle H.

19. “They’re judging the way I look.”

“My paranoid thought is that someone is judging my body size. I have an eating disorder and I always think that.” — Sage B.

“Paranoid that people are still looking at me and judging me because of what I look like. I’ve always struggled with weight, and having depression and anxiety doesn’t help at all.” — Kyle M.

20. “I’m going to get fired.”

“I’m gonna get fired (or demoted) for some minuscule mistake.” — Annette M.

21. “I’m going to die.”

“My paranoid thoughts are always that someone [is] going to murder me in public. I have a hard time leaving my house.” — Ree B.

“I’m not sure what I had, but as a teen, I had paranoid thoughts about being poisoned and developing various illnesses. If my dad batch-cooked a meal, I’d let him eat first in case he slipped something in it. Completely illogical because he never would, but it controlled my life for years.” — Erin S.

“I’m dying. All my little symptoms and I honestly can’t tell which ones are real and which ones are my anxiety. I avoid going to the doctor because I don’t want to look like a fool. I worry that eventually, I will see the doctor, they will do tests and it will be too late; I will have cancer throughout my body. I will die and leave my children  a thought I can’t bear.” — Linda B.

22. “The apocalypse is going to happen.”

“Convinced that apocalypse of various forms is going to happen today, a variation on theme from a plague to nuclear war to an asteroid strike, etc. It’s exhausting.” — Charlotte A.

If you experience “paranoid” thoughts because of your mental illness, it’s OK and you don’t have to go through this alone. We want you to know you can always turn to The Mighty community by posting a Thought or Question with the hashtag #CheckInWithMe. You will be met with nothing but support.

Originally published: July 18, 2019
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