Family and friends

How can friends and family help

This section is for friends or relatives who are would like to help someone they know with paranoid thoughts.

If you have a relative or friend who is experiencing paranoia it can be alarming and upsetting. You might feel unsure of how to offer support, particularly if you don’t agree with the thoughts that they are expressing.

Feeling this way is understandable and, although it might seem scary at first, there are ways you can offer support.

Be aware of feelings

Even if you don’t agree that your relative or friend is under threat or at risk, try to understand how they are feeling. Don’t be dismissive – the feelings that they have are real even if the thing they fear is unfounded. Focus on the level of distress or alarm that they are experiencing and offer reassurance and comfort.

Respect privacy and boundaries

It is important to remember that your friend or relative has a right to their own boundaries. They might choose to tell you only a small amount of detail about their thoughts or they might disclose many of their fears. The amount that they tell you might change depending on how they are feeling. Accept the boundaries that they feel comfortable with, and be aware that they might feel embarrassed about things they have said when they are unwell.

Consider if there is a basis for their fears

Many paranoid thoughts will have developed from a real situation. Explore with your friend or family member whether there is basis for their fears. This can help both of you to understand how fears have developed and can also be helpful to see where ideas might seem improbable (see the ‘Causes’ tab).

Be honest

If you are honest with your friend or family member about how you feel it will help to establish trust over time. Your point of view might be reassuring to the person, reinforcing the possibility that what they fear may not actually be happening. It is possible to recognise their alarm and acknowledge their feelings without agreeing with the reason they feel this way.

Get support for yourself

It is important to look after yourself as well. It can be distressing to see someone you care about behaving differently than usual and putting themselves at risk. You might find counselling or a support group can help, giving you the opportunity to talk about what the relationship is like for you, the feelings you have about the person and what you can do to look after yourself.

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