Depression can create debilitating thoughts.
When we think of “paranoia” and mental illness, our minds might conjure up images from the film “A Beautiful Mind,” a movie based loosely on the life of John Nash (played by Russell Crowe), a mathematician with schizophrenia.
This isn’t a bad example to have come to mind — after all, paranoia is a common feature in psychotic disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But what about those pesky “paranoid” thoughts you can get in the throes of depression?
According to Mental Health America, paranoia is characterized by intense, anxious feelings typically related to persecution, threat or conspiracy. In this case, we’re not talking about the capital “P” paranoia symptom mentioned above — we’re talking about persistent “paranoid” thoughts you can get when depression tinges your every thought. You know, thoughts like:
My friends are talking about how depressed I am.
Everyone hates me.
People just want to use me.
Though these “paranoid” thoughts might not fit the diagnostic definition of paranoia, they can be debilitating in their own right. Our partners at The Mighty wanted to know what “paranoid” thoughts people with depression experience, so they asked their community. Below you can read what they shared with us.
Here are the “paranoid” thoughts our community said they experience when they are feeling depressed:
1. “Everyone hates me.”
“I’m pretty firmly convinced that everyone in my life, including my husband and kids, secretly hates me… No matter how much others assure me this isn’t true, I can’t make myself believe it, so I just don’t talk about it anymore because I don’t want to be even more irritating and unlikable by being needy.” — Murphy M.
“I think everyone either hates me or thinks I’m a freak because very few people have anything to do with me. It makes me feel like I am an outcast.” — Helen H.
2. “My partner would be happier without me.”
“[I fear] my husband will one day wake up and realize my mental illnesses are too much of a burden and he doesn’t want to deal with it (or me) anymore. And that he’ll realize he could have an easier life and an easier relationship with someone else that doesn’t carry all the baggage and weight that comes with mental illness, and that he’d be so much happier without me and my problems. Sometimes I even wonder if he’d be happier without me.” — Stephanie S.
3. “I’ll never be good enough.”
“That I am never enough. That nothing I do is good enough. I spend hours going over what I should have said, where I failed, where I didn’t put in ‘enough’ (because I am exhausted all the time), how I should be doing more. I pray I don’t get ‘found out’ and lose what I have. I want to do more, move up, pursue what I love, etc. but I get an opportunity and want to hide under the covers. I want to be more than this — and I question if I will ever be ‘normal’ enough to do what I consider to be basic functions of human life. I just feel like I fail — that at my age I should be more but I can’t muster the gumption to ‘get there.’” — Amanda L.
“Sometimes, I think I will never, ever be good enough, no matter how hard I try. There are no perfect people and there is no one perfect person, but I feel like a total failure and I am a discouraged perfectionist. No matter how hard I try to see myself as a competent person, the idea of not ever being able to consider myself, good enough or capable enough or competent enough seems to stay with me.” — Kathleen K.
4. “I’m a burden.”
“‘You are burdensome.’ This paranoid thought not only keeps me from reaching out for support when I need it, but it also drives me to go out of my way to ease other people’s burdens. Even when they don’t belong to me. I am often so afraid that my struggles will make me a burden to those I love and they’ll ultimately leave me. It’s a very lonely, draining existence when the depression is particularly heavy.” — Kara D.
“That my illness makes me a burden to my loved ones… This feeling is made worse when my mental health deteriorates, making it harder for me to tell them when things are going badly because I don’t want to be a burden. In severe cases, the lack of my ability to reach out for help from those closest to me escalates how quickly my illness gets worse and the end result is me being in crisis and feeling like even more of a burden anyway. It’s a dangerous and damaging cycle that feeds into my fear of abandonment.” — Katie P.
5. “People are only nice to me when they want something from me.”
“No matter who I try to befriend, they really are just being polite when I am near and don’t want anything to do with me unless they want something from me.” — Tamii M.
6. “No one wants to be around me because I’m not the same person I was before I got depressed.”
“That I’ve lost my personality and people find me dull. I feel disconnected from people and the world and worry no one wants to be around me because I’m not the same person.” — Kim A.
7. “Depression takes away my ability to love other people.”
“A paranoid thought I have with my depression is that I will ‘run out’ of love. Love for my family, friends, education, work, and — most importantly — myself. If I don’t have love, I have absolutely nothing. Three years ago I had no love in my life of any sort and my depression had a deadly grip on me, and that’s where this paranoia comes from.” — Sam B.
8. “No one will notice I’m struggling when I need it the most.”
“I fear that despite being open about my depression, my family and friends might think I’m OK when I’m drowning. I’m scared that one day, depression might be too much for me and nobody will notice.” — Val L.
9. “There’s something wrong with me.”
“The classic, ‘There is something inherently wrong with me’ or ‘I am innately unlikable’ for whatever reason. That people inevitably will dislike me at some point and that most people don’t like me (even if I have absolutely no proof of this). Some days these thoughts can be absolutely [debilitating], making me completely miserable and sad. I know they seem ‘dumb,’ but they really affect me.” — Maria K.
10. “I can’t ever make the ‘right’ decision.”
“My paranoia is a firm belief that I have been cursed since a child with the inability to make a correct decision about anything — so whatever I do will be the wrong thing with a bad outcome. The bad events throughout my life constantly confirm this belief making my battle with depression seem hopeless.” — Sabrina C.
11. “My kids will be taken away from me because of my mental illness.”
“I have an overwhelming thought that my kids will be taken from me because of my mental illnesses. My mental illnesses do not affect me being a wonderful mother to them, they have and will always have their needs met and then some, but my husband’s family definitely looks at me in a certain light. It would break my heart and destroy my world [if my kids were taken away from me]. I live for my kids. They are my absolute everything.” — Madeline H.
12. “No one wants to be seen with me in public.”
“I have a hard time going anywhere because I feel like if, for instance, go to the mall by myself, I feel like people will be looking at me saying, ‘Well, of course, she’s here by herself. I mean, no one would ever want to be seen with her in public.’ Things like that…” — Jen L.
When you’re struggling with “classic” depression symptoms like feelings of worthlessness, thoughts of suicide and fatigue, it’s not altogether surprising that your thoughts would be affected. If you find yourself ruminating on “paranoid” thoughts, reach out to a trusted mental health professional. You deserve the support you need.