Why does paranoia occur

Are they laughing at you in the seats on the train in front of you? Did that strange guy in the supermarket from the frozen food department follow you to the sausage counter? Don't the colleagues in the office always stop whispering when you enter the room because they are concocting a plot against you?

Maybe there is something to it. After all, we can never know what anyone else is really thinking. You are probably just imagining it. And you might even be slightly paranoid. The feeling of being followed occurs considerably more often than previously thought.

When you think of paranoia, you usually think of one of the symptoms of schizophrenic psychosis - and it's not that common. But as Daniel Freeman from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College in London reports, almost every fourth citizen of the British capital, for example, has paranoid thoughts.

Of course, the range of these thoughts is wide. Most people who feel persecuted do not think of a secret service that implanted a chip in their brains, or of extraterrestrial forces. They're just looking for an explanation for what they don't understand - an explanation that doesn't have to be accurate, just satisfactory.

And very few people suffer from delusions so dangerous that they use force to defend themselves against an imagined danger.

Feelings of rejection, hurt or hurt are more common because of misinterpreting experiences with fellow human beings. And the number of people who feel this way is apparently growing. At least studies in Great Britain or the USA indicate this.

Paranoid thoughts, which are not assessed as pathological, harbor - depending on the examination - between a few percent and half of the population. And as Dennis Combs from the University of Texas at Tyler explained to the AP news agency, the number of those affected among US students has risen from five to 15 percent in recent years.

In his book "Paranoia: The 21st Century Fear", which was recently published with his brother Jason, Daniel Freeman even speaks of the fact that we have entered an "age of paranoia". The British come to his conclusion based on studies on subway passengers, among other things.

Discomfort on the subway

For example, Daniel Freeman had equipped 200 completely normal study participants with special glasses that they put in a car on the London Underground. The journey lasted four minutes, while the virtual passengers stood around reading the newspaper and looking at the test person every now and then.

And although the artificial passengers really did not pose a threat, 40 percent of the test participants reported uncomfortable feelings. "There was a man who stared at me all the time," reported one test person. "I think he wanted to start an argument with me."

Apparently, people who tend to be anxious or who have low self-confidence were particularly affected. According to Freeman, the slightly delusional ideas are not pathological or questionable.

Freeman estimates that about a quarter of London Underground passengers actually have paranoid thoughts in real life. The feelings of being threatened by fellow human beings are intensified, according to him, by the narrowness and the lack of escape opportunities in the tube.