I had already been looking at some older posts about paranoia for other reasons when I saw Mike Guenther's approval of my posts on mental health issues, so I browsed through the list and thought this one might serve as a good introduction. Paranoia, Another Thought from earlier this year. I started in writing on the topic in 2006, and even categorised myself as a "psychblogger" then. I have not seen that term in a decade, so I think it just never caught on. I have written many times on this over the years and will put up at least one more, one that includes many internal links and references so you can have something close to one-stop shopping on my thoughts about this. I think I will touch on the related topic of Conspiracy theories as well.
Quick summary on paranoia: The paranoid mind-set occurs first, the targets are flexible and come later.
Less quick summary on conspiracies: Conspiracies are attempted all the time. It is not crazy to believe that people are trying to do these things. But secrecy and cooperation are hard among the ultra-suspicious, and most conspiracies fall apart quickly. It is good to ask yourself how many people would have to be in on the secrets, and how much they would have to get along.
Chesterton noted "The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason," going on to describe that such a one has lost proportion, and humor, and faith, just for starters. Or, more fully in the same work:
I mean that if you or I were dealing with a mind that was growing morbid, we should be chiefly concerned not so much to give it arguments as to give it air, to convince it that there was something cleaner and cooler outside the suffocation of a single argument. Suppose, for instance, it were the first case that I took as typical; suppose it were the case of a man who accused everybody of conspiring against him. If we could express our deepest feelings of protest and appeal against this obsession, I suppose we should say something like this: "Oh, I admit that you have your case and have it by heart, and that many things do fit into other things as you say. I admit that your explanation explains a great deal; but what a great deal it leaves out! Are there no other stories in the world except yours; and are all men busy with your business? (GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter II: The Maniac.)