Summary: Research has long revealed an association between belief in conspiracy theories and mental health disorders. A new study reports followers of the radical QAnon group are significantly more likely to suffer from mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, than the general population.
Source: The Conversation
QAnon is often viewed as a group associated with conspiracy, terrorism and radical action, such as the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. But radical extremism and terror may not be the real concern from this group.
QAnon followers, who may number in the millions, appear to believe a baseless and debunked conspiracy theory claiming that a satanic cabal of pedophiles and cannibals controls world governments and the media. They also subscribe to many other outlandish and improbable ideas, such as that the Earth is flat, that the coronavirus is a biological weapon used to gain control over the world’s population, that Bill Gates is somehow trying to use coronavirus vaccinations to implant microchips into people and more.
I found that many QAnon followers revealed – in their own words on social media or in interviews – a wide range of mental health diagnoses, including bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and addiction.
In court records of QAnon followers arrested in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, 68% reported they had received mental health diagnoses. The conditions they revealed included post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, paranoid schizophrenia and Munchausen syndrome by proxy – a psychological disorder that causes one to invent or inflict health problems on a loved one, usually a child, in order to gain attention for themselves. By contrast, 19% of all Americans have a mental health diagnosis.
The isolation of the lockdowns, compounded by the anxiety related to COVID and the economic uncertainty, made a bad situation worse. Self-reported anxiety and depression quadrupled during the quarantine and now affects as much as 40% of the U.S. population.
It’s possible that people who embrace QAnon ideas may be inadvertently or indirectly expressing deeper psychological problems. This could be similar to when people exhibit self-harming behavior or psychosomatic complaints that are in fact signals of serious psychological issues.
It could be that QAnon is less a problem of terrorism and extremism than it is one of poor mental health.
Only a few dozen QAnon followers are accused of having done anything illegal or violent – which means that for millions of QAnon believers, their radicalization may be of their opinions, but not their actions.
In my view, the solution to this aspect of the QAnon problem is to address the mental health needs of all Americans – including those whose problems manifest as QAnon beliefs. Many of them – and many others who are not QAnon followers – could clearly benefit from counseling and therapy.
Funding: Sophia Moskalenko receives funding from Office of Naval Research (grant N000 14-21-275485). Any opinions, findings, or recommendations expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Office of Naval Research, the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense.
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Source: The Conversation Contact: Sophia Moskalenko – The Conversation Image: The image is in the public domain