Blog | Thursday, November 13, 2008

Are we reinforcing your obsession with internal medicine?


Perhaps you've already noticed this, but the internet is bringing crazy people together in all new ways, a group of psychologists have found.

We recently covered the growth of patient-run medical web sites, where patients can compare notes on evidence and treatments for conditions like MS and AIDS. For the most part, docs seemed skeptical of the concept. But this NY Times article investigates online groups for patients with even more unusual issues. Specifically, people who believe they are being targeted for mind control have gathered on certain web sites to discuss their experiences.

This trend raises all sorts of interesting questions, like whether it's good that these people have found peer support or it's bad that they are getting reinforcement of their delusions. And at what point is their group large enough that you can't call their ideas delusional anymore? According to the APA, if a belief is held by a person's culture or subculture, it is not a delusion (the exception that prevents religion from being categorized as mental illness).

The experts say this mind-control thing is a contemporary version of belief in alien abductions, which by the way, Newsweek recently had a really interesting article about. Did you know that 90% of Americans believe in the paranormal?