Ask the Psychologist Issue #3: Symptoms of Being Confined at Home

People have been asking me if they are over-reacting to this world epidemic of COVID-19 and becoming overly paranoid.  So what is a definition of paranoia; Paranoia is the irrational and persistent feeling that people are out to get you. The three main types of paranoia include paranoid personality disorder, delusional (formerly paranoid) disorder and paranoid schizophrenia.

Symptoms of being confined to your home and isolated from work and your community and general paranoia, can be exactly the same. I have often told my interns that, just because you think you are paranoid, doesn’t mean people aren’t following you. In other words, “WHEN IN DOUBT, DON’T OVERREACT”

What we think we know is occurring in our country now, is based on the information supplied by the media, which can be very confusing and leave extensive DOUBT ***.

NORMAL responses by individuals, based on confusing life threatening information and social isolation, can appear to be the same behaviors that occur when one is diagnosed as so called paranoia. 

Normal psychological responses from people in general (Can be seen as a normal reaction to an abnormal situation), to the current restrictions imposed by the government to the pandemic, can be as follows ( which can have similar symptoms that describe someone who is diagnosed as paranoid):

– believing that others (government, people in power, etc.) have hidden motives which can harm them

– doubting the loyalty of our elected representatives and so called health care experts

– being hypersensitive to others criticism, when we express our concerns.

– having trouble getting others to see our viewpoint

– being quick to become angry and hostile when others negate our thoughts

– becoming detached or socially isolated by the governments stay home policies

– being argumentative and defensive that we are being deprived of our basic human need to be free 

– having trouble relaxing 

The above normal responses, quite commonly occur when human beings have difficulty meeting their Higher Human Psychological Needs (Common in all human beings. ),  I.E, , 1. Love and Belonging (Family and friends) 2. Self Worth and Achievement (work, school, etc.), 3. Freedom (Do and go where you want) and 4. Fun ( Learning new information, general pleasures, etc.). The lower Basic Human Needs are food, clothing and shelter. If a person, who is being restricted to a certain point, can focus on meeting these basic and higher needs each day, in a healthy manner, life becomes easier to deal with. Example of general things to do can be, call friends and family (Involvement/belonging) , go to youtube and do the exercise programs-telework (Self worth/Achievement), play games with others in the home or on the computer (Fun), create meals, gardening, home repairs/cleaning (Freedom), etc.. 

Since being knowledgable about COVID-19 and how to deal with it is of the utmost importance, then it is important to know the following to eliminate the confusion to a degree.

From the CDC:

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

This list is not all possible symptoms. Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

When to Seek Emergency Medical Attention

Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.

***This is one example of what creates confusion for people in general, as I described above, when articles like the following, pop-up on social media, questioning our faith in people that we have trusted in the past.


Bart P. Billings,Ph.D.
COL SCNG-SC, Military Medical Directorate (Ret.)
Licensed Clinical Psychologist CA PSY 7656
Licensed Marriage, Family Therapist CA LMFT 4888

—Director/Founder International Military & Civilian Combat Stress Conference
—Initial Enlisted Ranks and Retired as Medical Service Corps Officer with a total of 34 years in US Army
—Recipient of the 2014 Human Rights Award from Citizens Commission on Human Rights International & The University Of Scranton “Frank O’Hara Award” in 2016. (“Invisible Scars” & “Unhealthy Eating …” Books Website) (Combat Stress Conference website)
—Cell 760 500-5040
—Ph  760 438-2788


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