Why am I so paranoid that someone is watching me?

Why am I so paranoid that someone is watching me?

In this article, we are going to answer the following question: Why am I so paranoid that someone is watching me? We will give you the scientific explanation for why you can “feel” somebody is looking at you. We will also talk briefly about paranoid personality disorder, which also may be the reason why you feel you are watched all the time.

Why am I so paranoid that someone is watching me?

If you are often wondering why sometimes you feel that someone is watching you: this is the psychological explanation:

If you have that feeling of being watched, chances are your brain has picked up signals that escape your most direct field of vision.

Most of us have the impression that they are being watched at some point in our lives, whether it be an unwanted look (like that of a stranger in the subway) or a desired one (like that of the person you like at a party). 

If this is your case, you will know that the sensations that accompany this phenomenon have something paranormal, as if, even without looking, you could physically notice the eyes of others in you. Indeed, there is a scientific explanation that, fortunately, or unfortunately, has little or nothing to do with the sixth sense, but rather with our egocentric nature and needs that humans have long since left behind.

People who have paranoia also worry and ask other questions, related to the same feeling that Why am i paranoid that someone is in the house?

Why am I so paranoid that someone is watching me?

‘The feeling of being watched’

One of the first people to study this disturbing perception called the psychic staring effect, or scopesaesthesia, was the psychologist Edward Titchener. The Briton, who later adopted American citizenship, wrote an article titled ‘The Sensation of Being Watched‘, which was published by the journal Science in 1898 exactly 122 years ago. 

The main reason for this phenomenon, suggests the psychologist, is that “we are all more or less nervous about what is happening behind our backs.” In some way, he was the first to point out that this sensation does not come from observation itself or from abilities like telekinesis, but from our belief, from ourselves.

Although his findings now seem like common sense, Titchener’s article provided a fundamental basis for the modern description of phenomena such as attribution error (the false belief that we are the target of others’ actions), the ‘spotlight’ effect ( tendency to overestimate the extent to which the rest notice our behaviour or appearance), paranoid cognition or egocentrism.

Your eyes see more than you imagine

You may not know it, but our body detects things far beyond our conscious gaze. This explains why there are blind people who, although they cannot see in the traditional sense, their brain does receive information through the eyes. 

Specifically, a 2013 study found that even if the blind person was unaware of what was in front of them, the activity of their amygdala (the part of the brain that allows them to detect and respond to threats) was intensified when they were shown images with faces that they seemed to stare at him.

When we are not sure if we are being watched or not, we often mistakenly assume that we are the centre of all eyes.

Our brains work much harder than we realize, so if you are walking and you have that strange feeling of being watched, chances are you have picked up signals that escape your most direct field of vision. 

In effect, we spend an inordinate amount of energy wondering if people are watching us, so much so that there is a theory that explains that we have an entire neurological network dedicated to this activity. 

In fact, Oxford researcher Harriet Dempsey-Jones explains in ‘The Conversation‘ that “not only our brains are specialized in attracting attention and revealing the direction of the eyes, but also the eyes.”

In this regard, it ensures that human eyes are different than those of any other species thanks to its communicative capacity and, specifically, to the white area around our pupils and irises, known as the sclera. 

In a species whose main strength is peer-to-peer communication, gaze has evolved into a powerful tool to indicate interest, danger, lust, and even more complex emotions like love.

Why am I so paranoid that someone is watching me?

Sometimes we are wrong

As powerful as the gaze is, it does not mean that we always do it well. A study published in the journal ‘Current Biology’ concluded that when we are unsure which way a person’s gaze is directed – such as when the eyes in front of us are hidden behind sunglasses – we often mistakenly assume that we are the centre to which all eyes are directed.

Which, somehow, means that the feeling of being seen can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you think someone is watching you behind your back and you turn around, movement can make that person really look at you. It is also possible that your subconscious noticed that the person was looking at you before turning their backs and that your memory alerted you to the fact minutes later.

When you think someone is watching you behind your back and you turn around, movement can make that person really look at you.

Human beings are selfish, we think that everything revolves around us, but now that we no longer have to face violent threats like our ancestors. We are sensitive to the gaze, say the researchers, because that sensitivity can be a survival tool. 

A direct look can mean dominance or threat, something you don’t want to ignore.” In this regard, Colin Clifford, a cognitive scientist at the University of New South Wales, explains that “assuming the other person is looking at you may simply be the safest strategy.

Staring may mean anything from an intention to approach and communicate with us to a threat to our own well-being. Be that as it may, we are prone to think the worst, that all eyes are on us. But, remember: in many cases, it doesn’t matter what it really is, but what your mind creates.

Why am I so paranoid that someone is watching me?

Do you feel that someone is watching you all the time?

The second part of this article is about paranoia, specifically about Paranoid Personality Disorder. If from time to time you feel that someone is looking at you, we have already established that is fine, it has to do with our survival instincts mostly. However, if you feel that someone is watching you all the time, that you are followed, that somebody is complying against and wants to hurt you – we may speak of a psychological disorder.

The paranoid personality disorder is part of the group of personality disorders called eccentric along with schizoid and schizotypal personality.

People with paranoid personality disorder are characterized by suspicion and distrust of other people, the belief that others aim to use him, harm him in some way, or deceive the person in question.

The person with a paranoid personality disorder has difficulty trusting others and seeing other people worthy of trust and loyalty. Suspicion refers to people in general. The interpretation of actions, of environmental events, is done according to these inflexible, constant and continuous patterns of thinking.

People with paranoid personality disorder are vigilant and constantly observing the environment, looking for warning signs and signs to confirm the idea that they are threatened in one form or another. 

The attention and memory of these people with paranoid personality traits are selectively focused on the stimuli associated with the threat. Once detected, these signals from the environment are perceived and interpreted in a proper, erroneous manner. The memory stores this information associated with suspicion, distrust, threat and injury to oneself. 

Why am I so paranoid that someone is watching me?

FAQ on Why am I so paranoid that someone is watching me?

What does it mean if you feel like someone is always watching you?

If you feel like someone is always watching you it could be a sign that you are going through a paranoia episode. People with paranoid personality disorder are characterized by suspicion and distrust of other people, the belief that others aim to use him, harm him in some way, or deceive the person in question.

What is it called when you have a fear of someone watching you?

When you have a fear of someone watching you or extreme anxiety when stared at by others – we call this phobia Scopophobia, scoptophobia, or ophthalmophobia.

Why have I been so paranoid lately?

It is possible that you have been feeling more paranoid lately because you are going through a more stressful, even traumatic situation. You may be upset, under high-stress or suffering from anxiety. Paranoia is a symptom of some mental health problems.

Is being paranoid normal?

Generally speaking, being paranoid is something we all have experienced at one time in our lives. Either because we were under high-stress, dealing with trust and commitment issues. However, if you are experiencing an unrealistic or exaggerated belief that other people mean you harm on a daily basis, it is a sign that something more is going on. 

Does paranoia go away?

Paranoia can go away once the stressful situation you are going through will pass. However, paranoia is a symptom of some mental health problems. If you are experiencing an unrealistic or exaggerated belief that other people mean you harm on a daily basis, you should consult a mental health professional.

What triggers paranoia?

There are many situations that can trigger paranoia. They are usually associated with past traumas. For example, a person who was once cheated on may become paranoiac in his new relationship when he’s new partner does not answer the phone. 

Conclusions

In this article, we answered the following question: Why am I so paranoid that someone is watching me? We gave you the scientific explanation for why you can “feel” somebody is looking at you. We also talked briefly about paranoid personality disorder, which also may be the reason why you feel you are watched all the time.

You may not know it, but our body detects things far beyond our conscious gaze. This explains why there are blind people who, although they cannot see in the traditional sense, their brain does receive information through the eyes. 

Keep in mind that, when you think someone is watching you behind your back and you turn around, your movement can make that person really look at you. Sometimes we are wrong, which is fine.

If you have more questions, comments or recommendations about the subject of this article, please let us know!

Further reading

The State Of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity – a book for anyone who has ever loved, by Esther Perel

Six Steps to Self-Confidence: Build confidence. Express yourself. Have fun., by Danny Greeves  

The Self Confidence Workbook: A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem, by Barbara Markway 

Understanding Paranoia: A Guide for Professionals, Families, and Sufferers, by Martin Kantor MD 

References

Ajina, S., & Bridge, H. (2016). Blindsight and Unconscious Vision: What They Teach Us about the Human Visual System. The Neuroscientist: a review journal bringing neurobiology, neurology and psychiatry, 23(5), 529–541. doi.org/10.1177/1073858416673817

Mareschal, I., Calder, A. J., & Clifford, C. W. (2013). Humans have an expectation that gaze is directed toward them. Current biology: CB, 23(8), 717–721. doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2013.03.030

Psychologytoday.com -Do You Feel Like You’re Always Being Watched?

Why am I so paranoid that someone is watching me?

Nadejda Romanciuc

Nadejda Romanciuc holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a diploma in Addiction studies. She is part of the Romanian Association of Integrative Psychotherapy as a psychotherapist under supervision. She's practicing online counselling for over two years and is a strong advocate for mental health.