Yes, Pandemic Paranoia Is Real

The pandemic, it seemed, hasn’t only brought illness but worry and fear, resulting in medical conditions such as paranoia. As Covid-19 began to spread around the world, it has become more common to find people with paranoia.

“The pandemic has brought on great uncertainty and stress,” said Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a New York City-based forensic psychiatrist and violence expert.

The John Hopkins Psychiatry Guide defines paranoia as “a response to perceived threats that is heavily influenced by anxiety and fear, existing along a continuum of normal, reality-based experience to delusional beliefs.”

The sympotoms of paranoia can vary from very tenuous to completely overwhemling and can exist with or without mental conditions, says Lee and major medical associations. Even people without diagnosable mental health disorders are capable of having paranoid thoughts or feelings.

“Given the stress and uncertainty and the misinformation that is being provided by news outlets and different sources, it is difficult for people to feel a sense of calm, increasing people’s anxiety, which can lead to paranoid thoughts,” said Adam Borland, a Cleveland-based clinical psychologist who has seen an uptick in patients who are experiencing paranoid thoughts and feelings since Covid-19 became widespread.

The pandemic, requiring social isolation and unrest has resulted in extreme behaviors and worries, including paranoia. Covid-19 has also brought an uncertain economic environment, where many people worry about losing their job or whether they were in the verge of losing their livelihood. Additionally, the misinformation about the pandemic and other issues around the world has caused people to constantly suspect the information they receive.

Identifying paranoia is the first step to alleviating it, from self-applied to seeking professional medical help, depending on the seriousity of the symptoms and how much effect it is having on your daily life, Borland said.

The good news is that it is possible to fight off paranoia on your own, at least the kind that is not medically diagnosable or connected to other mental health issues.

“Human beings are resilient and capable of handling great adversities, if we are in them together and have consistent guidance as well as psychological and social support,” Lee said.

Acknowledging the paranoid thoughts and then working to create healthy daily routines are effective ways to treat paranoia, according to Borland. Setting small, attainable goals for your sleep, diet and social interaction are all important factors to fight back paranoia.

Image Source: YaleNews – Illustration by Michael S. Helfenbein