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Conspiracy Theory Addiction

Conspiracy theories are a popular topic of conversation and research shows that almost half of Americans believe in at least one conspiracy. Studies have also shown that conspiratorial thinking may increase anxiety, distrust, and feelings of losing control. These feelings can often lead to a cycle that results in conspiracy theory addiction.

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What is Conspiracy Theory Addiction?

A conspiracy theory can be defined as the belief that a secret, but influential organization or individual is responsible for a circumstance or event. People often think that these beliefs are rare or sometimes absurd, but research shows they may be more common than we thought. A study found that about 50% of Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories come in all forms, but most theories involve political and social events. Some examples include the belief that certain celebrities are immortal vampires, and controversial topics such as the belief that a small group of people are planning to overthrow the government. Often, one theory will have accompanying and sometimes contradictory conspiracy theories which can be dangerous if not challenged. On the other hand, it can be noted that some conspiracy theories have been proven to be true. With the increased popularity of conspiracies and exposure to information, it is possible to harm your mental health and relationships by developing a conspiracy theory addiction.

Conspiracy theory addiction is a behavioral addiction that can have a hidden impact on the way you perceive events and has been linked to having more negative attitudes. Rather than helping one cope with their negative feelings, the belief in conspiracy theories can create a cycle of distrust and disempowerment. As a person encounters different sources, it is important to be able to analyze the information and distinguish between false theories and real threats.

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People who strongly believe in conspiracy theories and become addicted may experience some of the following:

  • Feeling anxious or fearful for no particular reason.
  • Feeling a loss of control.
  • A need to make sense of complex topics or unrelated events, even with little or no topical knowledge.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Strong urge to make connections between a series of unrelated events or behaviors.
  • Belief in paranormal explanations for scientific phenomenon.
  • A sense of not belonging or isolation.
  • A great alienation, disengagement, or disaffection from society

If the presence of the previous feelings and behaviors significantly impact a person’s ability to function in their daily lives, they may have a conspiracy theory addiction.

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Why Do People Believe in Conspiracy Theories?

Conspiracy theories occur when people create links between one or more unrelated events, emerging from the need for the human brain to find “patterns”. New research also shows that people with certain personality traits such as low self-esteem are more likely to have a conspiracy theory addiction. Researchers have studied the different reasons why people believe in conspiracy theories and many of the explanations include the following factors:

  • A need for understanding and consistency.
  • A need for control.
  • A need to belong or feel special.
Need for Understanding

When a person experiences distress over uncertainty or witnesses a large-scale event, the mind will start to look for explanations that connect the dots. Those with lower analytical abilities and less tolerance for uncertainty are more likely to believe a conspiracy theory. This is because conspiracy theories can often provide explanations for events that seem confusing or frightening and believers can assume that they are being intentionally deceived. People are also naturally inclined to search for information that confirms their existing beliefs, this is known as a confirmation bias.

The ability to easily share and spread information over the internet has increased belief in certain conspiracy theories. Someone with a conspiracy theory addiction may seek out information to support something they already think is true, rather than seek out new information or challenge their beliefs. A need for understanding and consistency can lead to addictive behaviors such as spending excessive time on the internet and ignoring relationships and responsibilities.

Need for Control

Conspiracy theory addiction can also be caused by the need to feel safe and in control. When the human mind feels threatened, identifying what is causing the danger can be a way to cope with anxiety. One study found that people are more likely to believe in conspiracies if they are feeling anxious. Another study found that people who feel psychologically and/or socio-politically disempowered are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories. People who have a conspiracy theory addiction may be drawn to them as a way of making sense of the world and feeling more in control.

Researchers who have studied why people believe in conspiracy theories have found little evidence that believing in these theories actually help reduce anxiety or satisfy the need to feel in control. People who have a conspiracy theory addiction are less likely to engage in actions that could improve their autonomy and sense of control. The long-term effects of conspiracy theory addiction may leave people feeling more disempowered and anxious than before.

Need to Belong

Conspiracy theory addiction can also form as a defense mechanism, especially in those who feel alienation and disaffection from society. Typically, those with a strong belief in conspiracies have a distrust in authority, lower self-esteem, low levels of interpersonal trust, and feel that they are the “heroes” in the story, while those who are conspiring against them are the “enemy.” As modern society becomes more complex and information is more easily spread, some people feel left behind in trying to keep up. When a person feels disadvantaged, they will often find ways to boost their own self-perceptions.

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Risks

Conspiracy theory addiction can have long-term negative effects on an individual. Although belief in conspiracies are often motivated by the need to understand, be in control, and feel socially connected, these aren’t the results that are being gained. In fact, some studies have shown that believing in conspiracies can reinforce feelings of confusion, isolation, and loneliness. The cycle of addiction becomes destructive as negative feelings contribute to the belief in conspiracies, and the belief in conspiracies result in negative feelings. Conspiracy theory addiction not only causes a cycle of distrust, but it discourages people from participating in their social worlds. Someone who lacks a sense of control may stop viewing themselves as a valuable contributor to society.

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Overcoming Conspiracy Theory Addiction

An issue often faced when trying to disprove conspiracy theories is that people who believe in them also tend to suspect that others are involved in covering up the “truth.” People will often try to argue or ridicule those who believe in conspiracies but this behavior often results in deepening the person’s commitment to their beliefs. Although certain factors that contribute to belief cannot be easily or quickly changed, researchers have found that promoting messages of self-control and empowerment can reduce conspiratorial thinking.

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In one study, researchers found effectiveness in encouraging believers to pursue their goals using the “promotion-focused” approach. Those who are promotion-focused are less likely to believe in conspiracies and more likely to believe they have the power to control their future. Someone who has a conspiracy theory addiction may want to seek help from a counselor who can help them work towards personal goals and increasing a sense of personal empowerment. Creating an action-oriented mindset can help discourage belief in conspiracies and encourage self-responsibility and control.

Conspiracy theory addiction can cause long-term psychological and social harm to an individual. Therapy that centers on personal goals and strategies to achieve these goals can have a powerful impact on improving a sense of control and empowerment. If you’re interested in treatment for conspiracy theory addiction, call a dedicated treatment provider today.

Conspiracy theory addiction often causes long-term negative effects on a person's life. Focusing on personal goals and how to achieve them can help.

The cannabis connoisseur

Start to feel paranoid. Marvel at the sense that “everything is connected”

Start to feel paranoid. Marvel at the sense that “everything is connected”. Annoy your mates because only you see the connections. Eruditely quote some medieval Arab poetry, to explain away the urge to satisfy the munchies with a quick run down to the Spar for 10 bags of crisps: “Stoned people pounce on sweets as greedily as lover on the mouth of his beloved” (Ibn al Kharrat, 1375-1436).

Then throw in a grand conspiracy theory that marijuana has been outlawed because hemp, the plant from which it comes, could save the world – thereby cutting the profits of multinational food, paper, drug and fuel manufacturers. You have become that entertaining phenomenon: the pro-cannabis activist. One such campaigner is Patrick Matthews, author of Cannabis Culture: A Journey Through Disputed Territory (Bloomsbury, £12.99). “Smokers tend to have a know-it-all quality, which I’m perhaps especially prone to.” Originally a wine writer, Matthews won acclaim for his book, The Wild Bunch: Great Wines from Small Producers. He writes well when drinking wine. When smoking? Not quite. He claims that when he began to write Cannabis Culture, he was neutral about whether or not cannabis should be legalised.

Matthews lost his neutrality somewhere during field research in the Hotel Tidiguine in Ketama, a mountain village in Morocco synonymous with kif, Morocco’s main export crop. He saw, he inhaled (deeply, several times) and he succumbed. “A chief attraction of cannabis is that everyone can puff on a spliff and discover the joys of deconstruction and analysis,” he writes. “Governments don’t like this stuff,” we’re assured, “because they don’t like people thinking for themselves.” This is al asar – `the secrets’ – as described by medieval Turkish Sufis.”

Hash devastated the medieval Arab world by turning everyone into passive pot-heads with no ambition, Matthews admits. In the developing world today, hash culture has convinced some people that Bob Marley is God, which should be enough to put you off.

“It is reasonable to be worried by the way cannabis blurs the distinction between pattern-recognition and pattern-making,” writes Matthews. “But how much does it actually matter? No one should live their life under a burden of delusions, but a period without being stoned – which would seem a sensible idea in any case – should give time to undertake some quality control. At least pot rewards people for thinking, which is more than you can say for alcohol.”

Despite such balderdash, cannabis campaigners are winning some converts with the news that cannabis has medical uses. Cannabis seems to provide genuine relief to multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers, and a British House of Lords committee recommended that until cannabis-based drugs can be developed, MS sufferers should be allowed cannabis on prescription. Other conditions which cannabis may help include chronic pain, migraine, nausea induced by chemotherapy, glaucoma, depression, AIDS wasting syndrome and, surprisingly, asthma and emphysema.

In 1992, scientists discovered that THC, a cannabinoid and the key chemical in marijuana that communicates to brain cells, has a human equivalent. This they called anandamide, from “ananda” or “bliss” in Sanskrit, the language in which cannabis was first described as an aid to religious experience 3,000 years ago. Since then, new cannabinoids have been discovered. Eventually, synthetic cannabinoids may be developed as drugs to treat various conditions so that the patient has all the benefits of cannabis, without the unpleasant side-effects.

In other words, people who actually need cannabis to ease the symptoms of disease may be able to benefit, without turning into stoned pot-heads, which is good news.

The cannabis connoisseur Start to feel paranoid. Marvel at the sense that “everything is connected” Start to feel paranoid. Marvel at the sense that “everything is connected”. Annoy your mates