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One of the factors that complicates the experience of paranoia is that in many cases, there is evidence to support the feeling. Depending on your situation, you might actually be in danger, people might be listening in on your telephone conversations and text messages, someone might be planning to rob you or hurt you.

What happens for a lot of people dealing with paranoia is that they have a traumatic experience, like getting assaulted and mugged or being raped, and their positive feelings about the world are shattered. Feminist therapists call this just world trauma, and it means that where before you considered the world to be a fair place, you now have incontrovertible evidence to make you question that assumption. Your certainty has been replaced by doubt.

For many dealing with paranoia the original, quite justified evidence for it leads them to start seeing bad intentions where there really are none. Some one looks at them askance and anxiety skyrockets, they wonder if others are out to get them, and in general they start to close up, turning away from people and the world, considering strangers to be dangerous and untrustworthy. They have suffered through a very bad experience and now can’t help but feel guarded and paranoid about the intentions of others.

One way to break through and find some relief is to realize that taking specific instances and using them to make global judgments is a natural human behavior and seems to be evolutionarily hardwired, but the conclusions we come to are not always accurate. We almost always make judgments about people and situations based on insufficient evidence. If you can trace back general feelings of paranoia to a specific instance, then you might be able to overcome these feelings by realizing that the vast majority of data points in your life contradict it. You may have come across 100,000 strangers, yet you have only had a really bad experience with one of them. It’s sort of like feeling paranoia before getting on a commercial airliner. Of course there is a chance that the plane will go down, a fact we are all aware of and the one that leads to paranoia in the first place, but the chance is extremely slim. Almost every plane will reach its destination without any problems.

A little bit of paranoia, especially in situations that are unknown to you, is probably a healthy thing because let’s face it, the world is not always a safe place and some do have bad intentions. But a traumatic experience can be used for growth too because it makes you more concerned about only surrounding yourself with trustworthy people. But you will never get to know these people, and your quality of life will be really bad, if you don’t let down your guard a little bit and give them a chance to prove themselves worthy of your trust.