A video is making rounds on the internet. It’s a CCTV footage of a guy mopping the floor. The guy hears something and moves out of the frame. Five seconds later, a scary girl pops into the picture with a horrible screaming in the background. The video uses the classic ‘scary girl who screams’ technique. It is not frightening per se but it does make you jump. There is so much out there that can frighten us–lizards, darkness, germs, heights, strangers, the list goes on. Such fear originates in something real, it can be explained and hence, is justified.
But fear takes its worst form when it arises out of nothing, a delusion. In this case, it is called paranoia.
Paranoia is often used interchangeably with worry, but the two are not the same. Paranoia is a medical condition wherein those suffering from it either have a false sense of grandeur causing them to be suspicious of others or experience recurring delusions of others trying to harm them. The exact causes of paranoia are unknown but medical practitioners often cite factors like heredity, head injuries, bad past experiences or substance abuse.
Unlike pessimists who see the world in a negative light, those with paranoia imagine the worst-case scenario and constantly feel afraid, angry and betrayed.