Conspiracy theorists have their own version of every situation. Often, conspiracy theorists say that governments have a role to play in unfortunate incidents. For example, in the 9-11 attack, they made a very detailed narrative of how the US government may have rigged the situation to their advantage. Conspiracy theorists are arguing that an unfortunate event is an “inside job.” Their side of the story borders on typical storylines of science fiction movies and tv series.
In a new study, I find that mere exposure to a popular conspiracy theory can make you less pro-social—and less likely to accept established scientific principles. — Sander van der Linden Ph.D.
Where is the borderline between a healthy subscription to conspiracy theories and having a mental disorder? Here are some factors to consider.
Why Are Conspiracy Theories Appealing?
A majority of Americans subscribe to a conspiracy theory. An even higher number of Americans have been exposed to conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories are appealing to many because they present some kind of secret knowledge. This information is not available for the public by public officials, often under the guise of confidential or classified information.
People who subscribe to conspiracy theories are usually those who are naturally suspicious of the government. Demographically, less educated people are more inclined to believe in conspiracy theories than highly educated ones.
…research has found evidence that certain personality traits such as Machiavellianism, openness to experience, narcissism, and low agreeability seem especially high in conspiracy believers. They also show lower levels of analytical thinking and a tendency to see “patterns” in often unrelated events. — Romeo Vitelli Ph.D.
Some psychologists are putting forward that people who believe in conspiracy theories don’t accept the events simply happening by themselves. Specifically, conspiracy theorists deeply believe that events are caused by maligned intentions of the government and its instrumentalities. In their minds, someone has to cause that event.
There is a dark factor in believing conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories can lead people to think that the government cannot be trusted. Moreover, conspiracy theories lead to less public enthusiasm and participation in government activities.
When To Know The Difference
It is easy to know the difference between a possible mental disorder and a healthy subscription to conspiracy theories.
Some of the most telling signs include:
- When your partner is deeply attached to his/her beliefs even though presented with dissenting information
- Possesses a manic distrust of the government and its institutions
- Every situation has a corresponding conspiracy theory, even the most mundane
- Finding patterns in every case also though it is too far-fetched
When your partner is manifesting a majority of these signs, it could be that your partner already has a mental disorder.
There is always more that needs to be done to help people struggling with mental illness. Raising awareness about how it impacts friends and family is an important part of that movement. — John Smith Ph.D.
What You Should Do
Having a partner with this set of beliefs can be frustrating. However, maintain a positive disposition and look at the brighter side. There is still hope.
One possible intervention is through counseling. A trained psychiatrist can help your partner separate reality from fiction. A psychiatrist can also dig deep into your partner’s history. His/ her intense distrust might be stemming from personal issues encountered in childhood. Undergoing counseling might even help your partner to form healthier interpersonal relationships with other people.
Conspiracy theories can be enjoyed as they are – as theories. Until fully verified, it is unhealthy to pour out one’s entire energy to the cause. If your partner is heavily invested in conspiracy theories, he/ she might be suffering from mental disorders that need attention. Without intervention, it might bring disastrous results to your relationship.