Paranoia Phobias And More: What’s The Difference?

The word “paranoia” is often used as slang. Although this is typically done with no ill intention, it does lead to a misunderstanding of the term “paranoia” and what it means to experience paranoia.

So, what’s the difference between paranoia and phobias? How are the two addressed differently? Here, we’ll go over the definitions of the terms “paranoia” and “phobia” to dispel misinformation and clarify the differences between the two.

About Paranoia

The APA dictionary definition of paranoia is “a paranoid state.” A paranoid state refers to “a condition characterized by delusions of persecution or grandiosity.” Paranoia is a symptom of various mental health conditions, and in some cases, it may occur as a result of another health problem. Paranoia itself is not a condition, but rather, a symptom.

As for the difference between paranoia and phobias, paranoia does involve intense feelings of fear or anxiety, but it’s often related to unrealistic conspiracies, beliefs, and perceived threats.

While someone with a phobia might fear heights, dogs, spiders, flying, medical procedures, the dentist, or something else, someone with paranoia may experience delusions of control (the belief that an outside source is controlling them), delusions of persecution (the belief that someone or something is out to get them), delusions or grandeur (the belief that someone has special abilities, powers, or status), and so on.

Paranoia can occur for a number of different reasons. Drug* use or mental health conditions such as Schizophrenia, where the paranoia will be accompanied by delusions, hallucinations, or both, are two possible reasons someone may face paranoia, though these are not the only causes of paranoia.

Sleep deprivation and other mental health conditions (personality disorders, mood disorders, etc.) are two other possible reasons someone may face paranoia. The source of a person’s paranoia matters when it comes to how it is treated. After someone is given the proper diagnosis, the appropriate treatment will be more clear.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use or a substance use disorder, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

About Phobias

The APA dictionary definition of “phobia” is “a persistent and irrational fear of a specific situation, object, or activity (e.g., heights, dogs, water, blood, driving, flying), which is consequently either strenuously avoided or endured with marked distress.” Phobias surround real-life circumstances, occurrences, or objects.

People with phobias are generally aware that their Phobia is disproportionate and can see that it’s impacting their life negatively. Someone with a phobia that causes clinically significant distress or impacts their ability to function and engage in activities may have a Specific Phobia.

Specific Phobia is a common mental health condition seen under the category of anxiety disorders. Statistics indicate that about 9.1% of adults in the United States alone live with Specific Phobia in any given year.

Specific Phobia is a highly treatable anxiety disorder, and therapy is the leading treatment for the condition. For example, CBT or cognitive-behavioral therapy combined with exposure therapy is often used to treat Specific Phobia.

The Bottom Line

Though the two differ substantially, paranoia and phobias can both be helped by treatment. To receive an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, it’s crucial to see a medical or mental health provider who can help. If you or someone you know is in need of immediate support as a result of their symptoms, go to your nearest emergency room.

Find A Therapist

Paranoia Phobias and other similar concerns are only one reason why someone may seek out mental health care. People also seek mental health support for concerns such as life stressors, relationship issues, feelings of depression, family life, and more. There are a number of different ways to find a therapist or counselor.

You can ask your doctor for a referral, contact your insurance provider to see who they cover, search the web, or sign up for a reputable online therapy company with licensed providers like BetterHelp.

Regardless of how you find a therapist or counselor, you deserve to find quality care and thrive. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support and get started today.

Guest author

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with

With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.