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Helping Someone Who Is Paranoid

Sometimes people living with schizophrenia become paranoid. This means that they believe other people can’t be trusted or are trying to hurt them. You may be able to tell when someone is paranoid. The person may accuse others of trying to do them harm without any evidence or may look around fearfully. The person may talk about protection from attack.

There are ways to help if your loved one is feeling paranoid. They are:

  • Try not to argue or convince your loved one that what they are feeling is not real. It feels real to them and arguing may only make them more afraid.

  • Ask questions about your loved one’s fears and talk to your loved one if they want to listen to you. Use simple directions, if needed. Tell your loved one that no harm will come to them and that you can help. For example, say "Let’s sit down and talk about it."

  • Give your loved one enough personal space so that they do not feel trapped or surrounded. Stay with your loved one but at a distance that is comfortable for both of you, more than an arm's reach away.

  • Temporarily move your loved one away from the cause of the fear or from noise and activity, if possible. Ask your loved one to tell you what is causing the fear. Make a direct statement that you are not afraid.

  • Focus your loved one on what is real.

  • Tell your loved one everything you are going to do before you do it. For example, "I'm going take out my cell phone."

To help with situations that may cause paranoia

Try the following to help your loved one:

  • Ask how you can make the environment more comforting and less scary.

  • Talk about your loved one's fears when they are not feeling paranoid and make a plan for handling these fears when they occur.

Help your loved one make a list of fears. At the end, consider asking them to write, "These things are not going to hurt me. They will go away if I get help." Suggest that your loved one come up with comebacks to their worries at a time when they are feeling less paranoid. If they are hesitant, ask a member of the treatment team to work on this together with your loved one.  

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 3/1/2019
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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