Psychosis keeps up with the times

Delusions in conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have tracked social concerns over the 20th century, according to a wonderful study just published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry.

Psychologists Brooke Cannon and Lorraine Kramer reviewed the patient records of a state psychiatric hospital in the US looking at each decade of the 20th Century in turn.

They recorded the content of the delusions for every patient with psychosis and while they didn’t find that the level of delusions changed, they did find that they tended to relate to the social concerns of the time.

…more patients after 1950 believe they are being spied upon is consistent with the development of related technology and the advent of the Cold War.

Delusional content tended to reflect the culture at the time, with focus on syphilis in the early 1900s, on Germans during World War II, on Communists during the Cold War, and on technology in recent years.

Indeed, delusions now are being reported relating to computers, the internet and computer games.

An earlier study that looked at hospital records from Slovenia found a similar pattern – with madness also reflecting developing social themes.

The researchers of this study noted that “After the spread of radio in the 1920s and television in the 1950s in Slovenia, there was an obvious increase in delusions of outside influence and control as well as delusions with technical themes.”

Link to PubMed entry for study on delusions in 20th Century US.
Link to PubMed entry for study on delusion in in 20th Century Slovenia.

13 thoughts on “Psychosis keeps up with the times”

  1. Is it just me, or does this seem so… duh, obvious?
    What did they expect to find, that a delusion is an autonomous and autistically-generated mental experience devoid of all objective input?

    1. It is relevant however that despite the subject matter there is a schism between self and it. A way of communication interminably between the states…the outsider brain.

      1. Something rattles in my own brain about this… something to do with phenomenology, is it?

        Can you give me some pointers to where I can find more info on what you are saying?

  2. The author of the linked “computer game delusions” article expresses his concern that “(…) in many of these games, points are scored for acting violently or even killing” and “if the game is transposed into the real world by a delusional state, the risk of subsequent violence is high—particularly if violence is not perceived to be illegal or morally wrong.”

    I’d like to point out that even though violence is indeed a common theme in games (as well as in literature and movies), getting “points” for it is not. In most games you act as a character within an interactive narrative and progress by solving the problems/situations provided by the game. E.g. you are the leader of an U.S. Special Forces unit in Iraq, trying to stop a terrorist plot or Batman, fighting crime. There are exceptions, yes, but in the grand majority of games you are the good guy and violence against the innocent is portrayed as wrong and often punished. Therefore, I don’t believe video games are more likely to result in violent delusions than any other medium.

  3. Maybe this proves that they aren’t delusions after all!!! Down with the nintendo wii, you will never control my motor skills!

  4. Someone should set up a Journal of Obvious Studies. A home for articles which strenuously confirm what every sane and literate person thinks is probably true.

    In the 50s, people who claimed to have been visited by space aliens often said the aliens were wearing radiation suits and came with warning about nuclear war. In the 60s there were peace-and-love aliens, but also anti-communist ones. In the 90s it was X-Files style paranoia…except for those proclaiming the imminent dawn of a new age.

  5. So, how did the researchers obtain consent to dig through the medical records of psychotic patients?

  6. Maybe add the internet’s contribution of pervasive “Narcissism” to the list…. as evidenced by the frequent “comments” nowadays of all the folks who’ve suddenly become “journalism experts”, and now feel compelled to complain simply because an article or piece of info. is deemed “too obvious” for them. BTW, this also known as “solipsistic thinking”… that something must be “true” simply because they think it’s so!

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