Depression and Paranoia

Can Depression Cause Paranoia or Vice Versa?

Depression is a common mental health disorder that is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. While depression can refer to a variety of symptoms and daily living disruptions, there are several clinical subtypes of depression. Each subtype can exhibit different symptoms and affect the patient in a multitude of adverse ways. One of the symptoms that is present in a few of the depression subtypes is paranoia. This symptom can happen during psychotic depression or in postpartum psychosis. People who suffer from comorbid anxiety and depression are more likely to experience paranoia thoughts as well.

What is paranoia?

Paranoia is a symptom that refers to intense, overwhelming thoughts of anxiety or fear regarding threats, persecution, or a conspiracy. Paranoia can occur in other mental health conditions, not just depression and anxiety. People with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia can often exhibit signs of paranoia. Although people with depression and anxiety can become paranoid, paranoia is most common in psychotic disorders. In some cases, a person can experience delusions stemming from paranoia.

Delusions happen when a person’s paranoid thoughts become so fixed and deeply entrenched in their belief system that nothing can convince them of the truth. They will dismiss contrary evidence and may even become hostile to those who present them with contrary evidence. When a person suffers from paranoia and delusions, but they do not have any other symptoms of a mental health condition, they may be diagnosed with delusional disorder.

Paranoia and depression do not usually occur together. But if they do happen simultaneously, it can be a sign that a person has a severe mental health condition. Paranoia and depression together can be indicative of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or psychotic depression.

Depression and Paranoia

What are the signs of paranoia and depression?

Depression can affect people differently, depending on their personality traits, and even their age. For example, teens with depression are more likely to feel irrationally angry and lash out at people. Adults with depression are more likely to feel sad and lethargic. Some of the most common symptoms of depression include:

  • Changes in eating habits
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Feeling fatigued and lethargic despite getting a good night’s sleep
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Irritability
  • Becoming socially withdrawn
  • Losing interest in usually enjoyable activities
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Failing to engage in self-care, go to work, school, or fulfill their responsibilities
  • Feeling excessively guilty or becoming self-loathing
  • Abusing drugs and alcohol to cope with symptoms
  • Suicidal thoughts and gestures

The signs of paranoia can include the following behaviors and feelings:

  • Being suspicious of other people.
  • Thinking that others are plotting against you
  • Becoming isolated and withdrawn socially
  • Feeling detached or hostile toward other people
  • Having low self-esteem

Several of the symptoms present in paranoia can overlap with depression symptoms. For example, people who are depressed will typically become isolated and withdrawn socially. Paranoid symptoms can worsen this part of depression. Low self-esteem is also common in depressive disorders and can become worse if a person starts to develop paranoid thoughts and feelings.

What are the risk factors for depression with paranoid symptoms?

Mental health disorders are complex and vary significantly for each person. There is no known, single cause of mental health disorders, but there are certain risk factors. Having a close relative with a mental health disorder can increase a person’s chances of becoming mentally ill. When it comes to paranoia, the following risk factors for paranoid thoughts are often present in the patient:

  • Having confusing, or conflicting feelings that a person cannot easily explain
  • Having certain temperament traits, such as worrying about what others think
  • People who come to conclusions quickly, or who believe things strongly and do not readily change their minds
  • Being socially isolated
  • Experiencing past trauma or toxic stress

Also, certain health conditions can increase a person’s chances of experiencing paranoia with depression. Abusing drugs or alcohol can make a person suspicious and distrustful, as can a lack of sleep. People with depression will often exhibit insomnia and trouble sleeping during an episode, which can trigger paranoid thoughts. Drugs that are most likely to trigger paranoid, suspicious thoughts include:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • LSD
  • Amphetamines

Studies on paranoia have found that people who have felt vulnerable, isolated, or toxically stressed in the past can have low self-esteem and become easily paranoid. Victims of bullying or violent crime are also more likely to experience paranoid thoughts and suspicions that can worsen or trigger depression symptoms. Trauma during childhood can also make a person believe negative things about themselves and to think that the world is an unsafe place, which can all increase the risk of someone becoming paranoid and depressed as an adult. People who are already anxious, depressed, or who have low self-esteem are more likely to become upset by paranoid and suspicious thoughts. They are also more likely to interpret events negatively, which can worsen paranoid feelings.

What are the treatment options for people with depression and paranoia?

Left untreated, paranoia and depression can be debilitating, with each disorder worsening the symptoms of the other. Patients who isolate themselves and suffer from low self-esteem can quickly become stuck in a negative feedback loop that is difficult to break without outside therapeutic intervention. Fortunately, people with paranoia and depression can find relief from their symptoms with help from a qualified therapist, and a combination of medications for anxiety and depression.

Antidepressants can alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms, while antipsychotics can break the cycle of suspicious, Paranoid thoughts and help patients take back control of their lives.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is often extremely beneficial for patients with paranoia and depression symptoms. The key to effective treatment for paranoia is for the patient to build a trusting, collaborative relationship with their therapist. Therapy for paranoia and depression is based on the patient’s ability to improve their social skills and learn how to decrease the damage that fearful, and suspicious thoughts have on their ability to interact with others and function in society. Using deep brain stimulation techniques can help with depression and as a side effect, may improve paranoia when the depression symptoms have been alleviated.

If you or a loved one are struggling with paranoia and depression symptoms, it’s crucial to reach out for help from a qualified team of mental health professionals. The doctors and counselors at Pulse TMS are standing by to answer your questions about fast and effective depression treatment options. Please contact Pulse TMS today to explore your options.