Internet delusions

question_key.jpgA report in the medical journal Psychopathology notes that psychotic delusions increasingly concern the internet, suggesting high-technology can fulfil the role of malign ‘magical’ forces often experienced in psychosis.

Traditionally, psychiatry has considered the content of delusions as irrelevant and only sees the ‘form’ of a belief as important in diagnosis and treatment. For example, how true it is, how strongly it is held, how it was formed and so on.

This paper analyzes four case-reports and notes that, contrary to the traditional view, the cases are examples where an internet-theme has particular clinical implications.

In one case, a patient began to have paranoid thoughts and used an internet search engine to investigate suspicions about an ingredient on a chewing gum packet.

Her searches led her to believe she had discovered a secret terrorist network, and was therefore being personally targeted by the authorities using phone taps and hidden cameras.

Presumably, by using a different search engine, she would have found different pages, and her delusion would have been centred on something else.

The authors also consider that a person’s understanding of technology may be a limiting factor in their ability to incorporate it into a delusional system. People with a poor understanding for example, may be more likely to attribute seemingly supernatural abilities to technology.

As Arthur C. Clarke famously noted “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

In delusions that feature spirits or other supernatural forces, there is no objective limit to the perceived ‘powers’ of the ‘spirits’, making such delusions sometimes difficult to refute.

In contrast, technology-related delusions can be more easily tested against reality, making for a good prognosis by using techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

The authors also note that cultural concerns can influence delusional beliefs, suggesting technology-related delusions will become more common as the use of high-technology grows.

Link to study abstract.
PDF of full text.

Disclaimer: This paper is from my own research group.

10 thoughts on “Internet delusions”

  1. Internet features in modern paranoid delusions

    A reader writes, “A report in the medical journal Psychopathology notes that psychotic delusions increasingly concern the internet, suggesting high-technology can fulfill the role of malign ‘magical’ forces often experienced in psychosis.” In one case,…

  2. Psychotic delusions concerning the Internet

    After a good friend of mine went berzerk with some not-well-understood mental illness things kept getting worse and worse until now I don’t see him and presumably he is a homeless.
    The first signs of his condition weren’t very clear, he was saying t…

  3. Internet delusions

    It used to be taken for granted among employees at TV and radio stations that every so often you’d get calls from schizophrenics complaining about the voices in their head. People with schizophrenia are prone to hallucinations, and in the Western world…

    1. Aspartame is my guess. It’s a pretty common ingredient in chewing gum and in diet soda, and because some studies have shown that it might cause cancer in rats (keyword is “might”; other studies have shown that it has no effect), it has some controversy attached to it. It’s not too big of a stretch to think that there might be websites out there attributing it to a terrorist/free mason/illuminati plot to bring down the free world.

      It’s an impossibly big stretch to think that any of those things are *true*, but remember that the woman involved in this was delusional.

    2. Aspartame. it quite literally eats away at our brains.
      i know its pretty sick. but basically this lead to her find out bout ILLUMINATI and NEW WORLD ORDER conspiracies and how many if not all of them are real ie 911 inside job, bankers killing JFK, fake moon landing 1969, govt UFOs etc ..

  4. I post on your blog once in a while since some of your posts reflect a lot of what I’ve seen/been through.

    I had quite a bit of harassment and psychological priming on the internet to create delusions out of illusions. Most of them didn’t work/backfired because I come from a totally different belief system than the harassers who I presume are neuropsychologists. For example, I never heard of rt wing conspiracy theories that the harassers were leading me to. But unlike some other hapless victim who may exist out there, I wouldn’t believe them regardless of my state of mind.

    With regard to search engine algorithms, since my internet was rerouted, they were changing the order of pages on Google. I can prove the net was rerouted – that was easy enough and I even have a case number, so this is more about illusions than delusions. Printscreens help show how this is done, but certainly there is something to be said for the power of the search engine algorithms.

    They also exploited the You Tube algorithm to harass me or to do some of the priming. This sounds outrageous of course, but I was able to use a couple of methods to prove that what was showing up was not random, and that there were too many instances of direct links to my email, ongoing events etc. to be coincidence or the result of some mental malfunction on my part.

    This is more than a foolish prank done by jerks. This was intentional, scripted, cruel and was linked to other aspects of harassment. It would be easier to think that some random hackers were messing with me, but it’s much worse than that. It is criminal involuntary human experimentation.

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