Your question: Why do I always feel scared and paranoid?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. If you are reading this, you are probably going through a bad time. Everyday life fills us with pressures and worries and sometimes you can feel overwhelmed. Fear is a natural emotion related to the perception of real or imagined danger, and you cannot avoid it, but you can control it. Fear is related to paranoia in the sense that both are related to the perception of danger, but it should be noted that they are not the same.

Fear is an emotion and paranoia is a mental state. Fear can be more general, evoking physical and psychological sensations related to a frightening style. Paranoia is more specific, focusing on the fact that something or someone wants to harm you at any moment, so you must remain in a state of hypervigilance to get hurt.

Both aspects are normal in life, and do not pose a clinical problem unless they are too severe and recurrent. So I would like to start by telling you that your emotions and actions have an origin. They may be irrational in the sense that they have no logic to others, but in your subjective perception you have reason to believe all the messages your fear and paranoia send you.

How does it feel to be afraid and paranoid?

Suddenly feeling scared is common in anxiety, as anxiety dysregulates your body and emotions in response to the feeling that there is a threat or danger. In anxiety, people feel scared and terrified in response to stress and the abrupt emotional changes it generates. In addition to this, anxiety causes you to think negative thoughts about yourself, such as that you are insufficient or useless, which inevitably generates fear and anger.

Sometimes it is difficult to name the emotions you feel, so you mention words you have heard and believe have to do with the problem you are experiencing. However, it is important to distinguish things in order to address them appropriately. There are key differences between fear and paranoia, you may experience only one of them, both or neither, and knowing this will allow you to better understand your emotional experience as well as where to direct coping strategies (1).


  • Occurs when a thing, person or event appears that you find frightening.
  • It generates physical reactions in your body such as tachycardia, sweating and muscular tension.
  • It makes you fear for your personal safety.
  • It is transient and specific to the frightening situation.


  • You are always on the defensive.
  • You feel offended by any comment.
  • You do not tolerate criticism of any kind.
  • You react impulsively to anything you perceive as an attack.
  • You feel that people talk bad about you behind your back.
  • You feel that you cannot trust anyone because “people are treacherous”.
  • You are always expecting something bad to happen to you or your loved ones.
  • You become overly controlling and meticulous about your personal safety.
  • You believe that the world is a frightening and dangerous place.
  • May be related to hallucinations and delusions.

Why is this happening to you?

There are different causes for paranoia and fear, which explain why the sufferer is in a constant state of emotional reactivity and hypervigilance.

Traumatic experience

A traumatic experience such as a robbery, assault, accident or experience of violence of any kind can make you more susceptible to being paranoid or fearful, constantly fearing the possibility of what happened to you happening again.


Studies suggest that there is some genetic predisposition to be paranoid and fearful if your parents or grandparents experienced mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and psychotic disorders (2).

Substance use

Consuming addictive stimulant substances keeps your brain stimulated and on the defensive, as it dysregulates brain activity. From amphetamines to nicotine and caffeine, these chemicals are linked to feelings of hypervigilance and constant fear that someone could hurt you.


Anxiety is strongly related to fear and paranoia. It expresses itself through irrational thoughts that arouse distressing emotions in you. Anxiety creates catastrophic scenarios that trigger fear and paranoia. It can make you believe, for example, that someone will break into your house at night, that people chatting at work are actually criticizing you, or that your friends and loved ones are secretly angry with you. All of this is unfounded, with no basis or logic to support the idea, but anxiety passes these thoughts off as real, setting you into a state of fear and paranoia.

What can you do to stop feeling scared and paranoid?

There are strategies you can implement to combat fear and paranoia, however it is always advisable to seek professional help to better understand the origin of your symptoms and to consider a more focused therapy. In some cases, paranoia requires a medical diagnosis and medication that helps to reduce the symptoms and have an enjoyable life.

Question your thoughts

Intrusive thoughts (3) are generated by anxiety and are these irrational and unavoidable thoughts that you have, which generate worry, fear and paranoia. It can take time to recognize your intrusive thoughts, but with practice you will learn to identify them by writing them down in a notebook.

These thoughts are dysfunctional and illogical, so you must constantly test them for veracity. For example, if your thought is “my boss is going to fire me” you should ask yourself questions to refute that idea: Have I been scolded by my boss recently? Has anyone criticized my work performance? These questions seek to question the intrusive thoughts, and decrease the paranoia and fear related to them.

Relaxation and breathing

Jacobson’s relaxation technique may be useful for you, as it works with the whole body and focuses on decreasing the unpleasant sensations associated with anger, anxiety, fear and paranoia. This technique is done lying down, in a quiet environment and with your eyes closed. It consists in that from your feet to your head, you focus your attention on a part of your body, making slow movements, tensing and releasing the tension.

For example in your feet, you make slow circular movements, tense them and then release the tension. Then you do the same with your legs, and so on until you reach your head. It will take as long as you feel necessary, but it lasts approximately 10 to 20 minutes. It is a slow but effective exercise, that with time you will learn to control it perfectly and you will notice an improvement in the control of anxiety (4).

Write down your emotions and thoughts

Writing about what you fear is positive for expressing and draining the agony you experience with fear and paranoia. No matter how illogical you feel your words are, it is valuable to write because it externalizes the anguish that consumes you inside and makes you realize what your fears and dysfunctional ideas are and then dedicate yourself to addressing them.

In my experience…

The feeling of fear and paranoia can be very overwhelming, as it wears on your mind through anxious and repetitive thoughts related to the sense of danger. Although fear is useful to protect you from potential threats, it can also consume your life when it is overblown and exaggerated.

Your main job is to conclude your feelings and understand them as part of a problem that demands action. It is not your fault that you are going through this, but you do have the responsibility and the ability to take action to cope with it and improve your quality of life.

Remember that you have the ability to improve your psychological state, even if during moments of anxiety or depression you feel hopeless. We can always make small changes that will pay off in the long run. The fact that you are contacting me to seek professional attention in psychological counseling is already a step, and I recognize and applaud you for that. You are already doing something and wanting to change always leads you in the right direction.

I invite you to seek professional help when you feel that even applying these suggestions, your situation does not improve. Cognitive behavioral therapy is very effective in treating different forms of anxiety and will give you more accurate tools to manage your emotions

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!