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Why COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories Are Dangerous to Someone Experiencing Psychosis

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It’s 3 a.m. and I’m spinning thoughts in my head, weaving one conspiracy theory after another. They all seem like a blur now. They all lead me to distrust and fierce anger at what seems like a broken system.

My ability to see reality and what is not reality is compromised. It consumes my thoughts. I start to hear voices telling me not to trust this person or that person, that they are a part of the conspiracy. Everything I see now is a piece of what I believe to be true. I can’t look at another human being and not question who they are working for, or what is their agenda.

The voices reassure me of my paranoia. I’m confined to my house because it is unsafe out there, in the world. I don’t know who is out to get me or who is watching. I don’t know who is taking notes of everything I am doing. I am convinced that “they” can hear my thoughts. I close my blinds and make sure every window is covered. I can’t shake the feeling I’m being watched; every move being monitored.

A family member calls to check in on me and I can’t answer the phone because I believe it to be tapped. I’m in my own prison. I am constantly diving deeper into the rabbit hole of the conspiracies that have become reality to me. Website after website, I begin to put the pieces together.

The government hid this. The media is lying about that. This person is pulling all the strings. I’ve been up for days trying to crack the theories. Posting on online forums. Finding people caught in the same delusion as I am in.

I feel a sense of spiritual enlightenment from all the information I have gained. I feel on a different level than the “average” person. They are still a cog in the machine, running the deceiving and evil system.

I am in too far. I can’t reason anymore.

This is what it is like even tippy-toeing around a conspiracy theory as someone with psychosis. My writing it short and choppy because all my thoughts are fragmented. In our current circumstance — facing the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system — it is easy to get sucked into all the conspiracy theories surrounding the start of the virus, the way the CDC is handling to the virus, and the role the media plays in this pandemic. With the number of people posting videos explaining their theories on social media, and the huge amount of shares the videos get, this is dangerous for someone with psychosis.

Now, don’t misunderstand me; I am not saying everyone who believes in conspiracy theories has psychosis. There are plenty of people who do not. What I am speaking of is someone who has delusions, hears voices, sees or feels things that are not there, and overall have lost touch with reality. These people are more prone to believing in conspiracy theories or starting their own.

Conspiracy theories are not new territory for me. This is something I struggle with during every major world event. There are plenty of theories to dive into when something major happens. I’ve believed conspiracy theories on mass graves being dug in my own town, believing my phone was tapped and I was on a secret watch list, to believing I knew when Jesus Christ was coming back to Earth. What is born out of mistrust for the government or some authority usually becomes an elaborate theory someone spins. There usually is a level or piece of truth within the conspiracy theory. This is especially dangerous because what seems like a well-meaning piece of information can quickly turn into a huge delusion.

I have often slapped on the tag “God spoke,” “God showed me,” or “I am spiritually enlightened” to justify my belief in a conspiracy theory. I sincerely believe I am divinely being told this information and others can’t see it because their eyes have not been opened. This is dangerous because I am using religion or spirituality to prop up an agenda. My psychosis leads others to follow and believe, especially in times like these where we are looking for answers. We feel robbed of our daily routine and we want someone to blame. Pointing a finger in the wrong direction can easily be done.

In this day and age, it is easy to post our thoughts on social media, YouTube or any online forum, and maybe those thoughts will gain traction and, soon, thousands of people agree with what you have to say. That only feeds into our delusions. We have a moral obligation to support our thoughts we share on these kinds of platforms with facts. We need to stop the spread of misinformation.

So, what are we supposed to do when we know we are prone to psychosis and believing conspiracy theories, and we are struggling to keep reality in check? We stick to the facts. If you can’t prove it, if it isn’t backed up with reasonable scientific data, then set it aside. There may be some truth to a conspiracy theory, so we acknowledge the truth and let the rest be hearsay.

Another crucial part of my recovery and current maintenance is taking my antipsychotic medication. I am able to reason better and identify facts. Don’t get me wrong — I am still tempted to “explore” a conspiracy theory, but once my psychosis is taken care of, the reasoning in my brain is restored back to a normal state.

To the individuals surrounding those who are deep into conspiracy theories and have psychosis, you may be frustrated. You have tried every way to convince the person they are deceived. You have pleaded for them to take their meds. You have watched them spiral down further and further. Resist the urge to get angry at them. You will probably not change their mind. Remember to love them. Don’t mock them; this will only play into their conspiracy theory. Have empathy for their distress in the current circumstances. All you can do is promote factual information during the opportunities you get.

Fear is what often drives us to conspiracy theories. When I dived into COVID-19 conspiracy theories, I didn’t want to admit I was fearful. But if you look a little deeper, you will find fear was causing me to believe in the theory. Whether it is the government, a certain individual, or even my rights being taken away, fear is what drove me. Once I let facts settle my worried mind, I was able to see truth versus hearsay.

Struggling with your mental health due to COVID-19? Check out the following articles from our community:

Photo by Bernardo Artus on Unsplash

Originally published: May 14, 2020
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