When things that should be harmless, or on the viewer's side, turn nasty, stripping away all sense of safety.
How can a viewer sleep easy in their bed, when they've seen how toys can come alive when all is dark and wreak unspeakable vengeance? What trust can they have that anyone will protect them, when they've just seen some cheerful kid's program where a kid just like them was bloodily slaughtered by his own possessed mother as she sang a sweet lullaby?
Paranoia, by definition, requires a level of suspicion and distrust. A monster chasing after you in broad daylight is probably not Paranoia Fuel, but a shape-shifting murderer targeting you who may be hiding among your friends or family or the clothes in your closet most likely is. A good rule of thumb is if a show or commercial makes you double check the people or objects around you (or triple check, or quadruple check, or...), then it fits here.
Other paranoia-inducing concepts include:
- The Chessmaster: Things happening in your life or around you, whether big or small, could be a result of someone manipulating the events, whether using you, someone you know, or never even met as an Unwitting Pawn.
- Invasion of privacy (from Big Brother Is Watching to literal Telepathy): One of the most pervasive forms of Paranoia Fuel, since we basically know they can use our secrets against us (Black Mail, Room 101, etc).
- Hypochondria Fuel: playing on fear of diseases, parasites, medical Body Horror and the fragility of human biology in general. Do you know how easy it is to infect you on the microscopic level without you yourself noticing? Or how easy it is for one genetic disorder that can make you go And I Must Scream to suddenly go horribly wrong inside you?
- Slipping a Mickey/Tampering with Food and Drink: Do you know how easy it is to poison you? Goes hand in hand with Hypochondria Fuel above.
- Attack of the Killer Whatever/Everything Trying to Kill You/May Contain Evil: betrayal by everyday items.
- Malevolent Toys: a subtrope of the above, specifically for toys.
- Chest Monster: That chest could contain (or even be) a malevolent creature ready to kill you.
- Artifact of Death: That beautiful ring you just found? Has a part of a radioactive source as its stone. That big metal thing your shovel hit while digging up your backyard? Is a World War II-era land mine or other explosive device.
- Gaslighting is when someone tries to deliberately provoke a feeling of this upon you by altering your everyday environment without your knowledge, often with the intent of sending you crazy.
- Fate Worse than Death or And I Must Scream: You can suffer one of them anytime, anywhere.
- Good Luck Sleeping: things that attack specifically while you're sleeping.
- They Could Be Anyone: Anybody could be out to get you, even your friends and/or family.
- Grand Theft Me: Your enemy could've swapped bodies with someone you know, and are now pretending to be the person to dig up dirt on you!
- Master of Disguise/Shapeshifter: Your enemy could be disguised as someone you know (and may have killed the real person), and is taking their place to be able to hurt you.
- Invisible Jerkass: They're everywhere, and could come at you without you realizing it.
- Sinister Conspiracy: There is a... well, sinister conspiracy at work in the world, and they have it in for you. Sometimes goes hand-in-hand with "They Could Be Anyone" above: Anyone, even someone you trust, could conceivably be part of this conspiracy.
- Mind Manipulation: Especially if they control your loved ones, or worse, controlled you, made you do humiliating things, and then subjected you to Laser-Guided Amnesia.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Sure that sound could have just been the neighbor's cat, but then again...
- Through the Eyes of Madness: The very nature of the story is that you can't be entirely sure of what the truth is...
- Justified Paranoia: Then again, once you've had absolute proof that something's out to get you, you have every valid reason to seek security.
- Static on a television, and its heir, the Blue Screen of Death.
- Television Is Trying to Kill Us
- Scarily Specific Story: When someone tries to make another person paranoid by making the characters and/or setting of a Ghost Story similar to the listeners or what's happening now.
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: When fiction starts threatening the audience.
Fear of the dark is related, but falls under Primal Fears.
Not directly related to the game Paranoia. Or, at least, that's what they want you to think. See also The Paranoiac, for whom everything is Paranoia Fuel (and whose paranoia tends to be a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy by virtue of making them evil jerks who anybody with any sense will want to slaughter ASAP lest the paranoiac slaughter them), and Improperly Paranoid, which is when paranoia drives a person to do something stupid and/or reprehensible without necessarily being a recurring occurrence.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Religion & Mythology
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Web Original
- Western Animation
... Sleep tight.