Paranoia: A Journey Into Extreme Mistrust and Anxiety

By Daniel Freeman



What is paranoia? What makes us mistrustful? How can this be overcome?

Daniel Freeman, Professor of Psychology at Oxford, has spent thirty years at the vanguard of paranoia research and treatment. This remarkable and moving book tells the story of that journey.

For decades, conventional wisdom held that paranoia was only experienced by people with severe mental health problems and little could be done to rectify its disastrous effects. Paranoia gives us a front row seat as Freeman turns the traditional view on its head.

He develops life-changing treatments for clinical paranoia – often using state-of-the-art technology like virtual reality. He reveals that suspicion is rife in society, with paranoia widespread, conspiracy theories rampant and emotion all too often trumping evidence. He discovers the causes of mistrust, including the role of genes, trauma, lack of sleep, worry, low self-confidence, cannabis use and hearing voices, and delves into the murky world of Covid-19 conspiracy theories. Lighting up the narrative throughout are the rarely heard voices of people whose lives have been almost wrecked by paranoia – and then in many cases transformed by Freeman’s groundbreaking treatments.

This is also a practical book. Freeman shows how we can measure our own levels of mistrust. He explains how we can remedy things if those levels are higher than we’d like, because although mistrust can seem engrained, things can change for the better. Ultimately, it can be overcome. Compelling and compassionate, this is a gripping tale from the front line of suspicion – an impassioned plea for the urgent rebuilding of trust between us all.

Format: ebook
Release Date: 01 Feb 2024
Pages: None
ISBN: 978-0-00-847260-3
Professor Daniel Freeman is the world’s leading researcher of paranoia. He holds the Chair of Psychology at the University of Oxford and is a Professorial Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. Daniel is a consultant clinical psychologist in Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, a National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Senior Investigator, and leads the Oxford Cognitive Approaches to Psychosis (O-CAP) research group. A Fellow of the British Academy, he presented the BBC Radio 4 series A History of Delusions.

'Paranoia reads rather like early Oliver Sacks… Freeman does a lot of citing of his own case studies and surveys, which are fascinating; offers a little bit of the history of the treatment of certain kinds of mental illness, which is shocking; and reveals how and why the Covid-19 pandemic has proved to be absolutely devastating to our sense of trust, which is highly disturbing' -

Spectator -

'Anyone who’s been a hack as long as me (sixty-five years and counting) reckons we can spot paranoia when we see it. But we need Daniel Freeman to tell us how to recognise the real thing. He doesn’t only write from experience. He knows how to deal with it. A truly important book’ -


‘Daniel Freeman’s remarkable new book offers a front row seat for his groundbreaking research and recounts a compelling, and endearingly personal, account of supporting those affected by the experience of extreme mistrust. It is a superb achievement: intimate yet expansive, and a true testament to the transformational power of empathy and understanding in the face of fear’ -


‘An eye-opening exploration of mistrust from the leading psychologist of paranoia. Daniel Freeman provides a compelling account of paranoia, conspiracy thinking and the crisis of trust now corroding our societies. His superb new book is authoritative and illuminating’ -


‘This book busts many assumptions about the nature of psychiatric disease and psychological distress, and their relationship to all of us. A fascinating journey through the scientific method to understand new ways of conceptualising our mental health, and techniques to improve it’ -