This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Thanks to events of the past few years, we can all spot paranoia fairly well on the internet. Few topics have been discussed as much as the dangers of conspiracy theories, misinformation, and alternative facts.
Paranoia has always existed in humanity, but the internet may have worsened the problem. Read on to learn more about paranoia and how internet usage can make it worse.
What Is Paranoia?
People living with paranoia constantly feel they are threatened or in danger, even if there is no evidence that this is the case. They may believe that someone is following them or is trying to hurt or sabotage them. Paranoia makes it difficult for affected individuals to connect with others or participate in any part of life that involves other people.
Paranoia is not a disorder itself but a common symptom of many other conditions. It is most closely tied to anxiety, paranoid personality disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder. However, paranoid thoughts not associated with these disorders are also more likely to occur in conjunction with:
- Substance use
- Memory loss
- Sleeping disorders or lack of sleep
- Chronic stress
The symptoms of paranoia aren’t always immediately apparent. A person experiencing paranoid thoughts may not vocalize them or make them clear in any way. However, they will exhibit many other behaviors to show that they are afraid or don’t trust the people around them. Someone who is frequently paranoid may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Hostility and aggression
- Offended easily
- Always believes they’re right
- Difficulty relaxing
- Unable to compromise or forgive
- Cannot accept criticism
- Analyzing people’s behaviors for hidden meanings
Everyone experiences paranoid thoughts every once in a while, but those with clinical paranoia experience these thoughts consistently. If untreated, these paranoid thoughts can harm the affected individual or those around them.
Mild cases can usually be treated with lifestyle changes, such as increased sleep or a balanced diet. Severe cases (especially those tied to more serious mental health disorders) may be treated with therapy or medication prescribed by a psychiatrist.
If you are interested in learning more about paranoia, you can find more articles and information at BetterHelp.
How Internet Usage Worsens Paranoia
The internet is the perfect place for paranoid thoughts to spread. From social media to privacy concerns to conspiracy theories, there are numerous ways people with paranoia can worsen their condition by using the internet.
Social Media And The Echo Chamber Effect
Social media has helped connect the world like no other tool before. People worldwide can connect with others who have the same thoughts, ideas, and perspectives as themselves.
However, this can be a problem with people who experience paranoia. They can easily connect with people who have the same paranoid thoughts, only fueling their fear and delusions. Many paranoid people can get together online to share “evidence” of their delusions, fueling their belief that they are correct and that the rest of the world is wrong or in denial.
This phenomenon has led to the “echo chamber effect.” In an echo chamber, if you speak, your voice will echo, and you will hear it come back. In other words, you will not hear anyone else’s voice. Online, an echo chamber refers to the fact that if someone discusses their paranoid thoughts, others will respond in agreement. In other words, the individual will only experience similar ideas of their own and no dissenting voices of reason or contrast.
Being in an isolated echo chamber only fuels paranoid thoughts and delusions. Without anyone else to provide evidence against their beliefs or help them see reason, the paranoid individual will only dig deeper and deeper into their delusions.
Conspiracy Theories And Misinformation
Conspiracy theories have been on the rise in recent years. When people don’t understand something occurring in their government or country, they often make theories about the situation. In most cases, these theories are unfounded and have no evidence.
These theories have always been around, but the internet has helped them spread like wildfire. A conspiracy theory that was once only believed by a few people can gain thousands of believers in the span of a few days.
Furthermore, the speed at which misinformation moves on the internet only worsens this trend. Misinformation is solely created to bring “evidence” to conspiracy theories, and very few people realize that the information is incorrect.
Cyber Paranoia And Privacy Concerns
Technology itself has been a source of fear and paranoia for many people over the past few decades. The incredible speed of technological process combined with understandable privacy concerns have made many people skeptical of technology’s use and hold on the populace. To this day, some people refuse to use certain technology for fear that the government will have some control over them.
Paranoia has always existed in humanity. Though everyone experiences paranoid thoughts every once in a while, clinical paranoia can be harmful and dangerous.
Unfortunately, technology and internet usage have only worsened conditions of paranoia. Issues like echo chambers, conspiracy theories, and fear of technology have only fueled paranoia and made it far more difficult for affected individuals to seek treatment.
As of right now, there isn’t much that is being done about this trend. However, since paranoia has been an important issue in recent years, there is hope that social media companies and other authorities will take action to stymie its spread.