Can mental illness be contagious? And, if so, how can such a contagious mental illness be spread?
The spread of an infectious and contagious disease usually requires a means or path of transmission called a vector. In the case of a viral or bacteria infection, a person has to come into physical contact with the virus or bacteria to contract the disease.
If various forms (or “strains”) of mental illness can be contagious, then what are the physical vector(s) in the transmission of the disease?
But, wait, let us question the premise that the vector must be physical.
Some consciousness researchers are coming to believe that the mind overlaps and/or transcends the physical brain.
If the mind is not protoplasmic brain based, then a non-physical vector cannot be scoffed at. To be sure, the brain can affect the mind and therefore there can be physical, bio-chemical changes in the brain that do affect one’s consciousness and at times in extreme ways. (The effects of viral and bacteria illnesses, fevers, allergic and toxic reactions, hallucinogenic drugs, severe loss of blood, etc. As an example, a person that contracts rabies from the bite of a rabid animal and then goes on to suffer the breakdown of his central nervous system and behaves as though he/she were crazy is the victim of a physical vector (the rabies virus in the saliva of the infected animal). As well, the hormones are quite powerful mind altering bio-chemicals.)
Without a physical vector, how do we – how would we – explain the irrational, even insane, behavior of individuals and groups?
There are some who would assert that either we have not found the physical vector(s) and may be able to in time with further study; or that genetic predisposition may account for the insanity of certain individuals. Such a genetic predisposition may be spread among the population so that a particular mental illness may be thought to be contagious when in fact it is not.
With humans, we observe group behaviors. People are susceptible to following and copying or mimicking the behaviors of those around them even when they may not be fully conscious of what they are doing or why they are doing it. Some may call such conforming, reflexive behaviors the “herd instinct” (hard-wired into our brains?). What might be the physical vectors here? As well, we have all heard of peer pressure.
When a crowd/mob becomes violent, it only takes one person to start the violence or destructive behavior, and others quickly join in. Later, afterwards, there are those who participated in such group violence who wonder why they did so as this behavior was out of character for these individuals so to speak.
Consider: A terribly violent ideology masquerading as a religion, namely Islam, has widespread appeal (and is attracting many converts in the West). It appears that violent emotions drive fanatic adherents to acts of horrific violence. Violent emotions may indeed be a form of insanity. Are murderous terrorists evil or merely insane?
Our conclusion, which is really just a working hypothesis, is that there are non-physical vectors in the spread of mental illnesses among the population. Such non-physical vectors by their very nature are very difficult to detect, measure (if these can be measured), quantify, and understand. The interrelationships among these non-physical vectors and human thought processes and human to human interactions are going to be difficult to study and to model – that is for certain.
Psychology, in the past 100 hundred years or so, has made advances in addressing and treating mental illness, but it is clear that psychology does not have all the answers and may not have even asked many of the right questions. (A word on current treatment of mental illness. It does seem that symptoms are treated rather than underlying causes. And, the symptoms are suppressed and/or controlled by too heavy a reliance on very powerful and harmful pharmaceutical drugs.)
Perhaps, the stresses and pressures on individuals from living in these times is making people mentally, emotionally, psychologically ill. Perhaps it is not so much that some mental illness is contagious, but more the case that numbers of individuals react similarly when exposed to the same stresses and pressures day in and day out in their lives.
other related thoughts
Mass delusion, apathy, and denial.
Media manipulation, brainwashing.
Many, perhaps most people will believe/accept what the government and the media feed to them. For example, many people accept without thinking the official story of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Yet, there are many problems with the official story that have not been sufficiently investigated and explained. About the only thing one can say with reasonable certainty is that we will not get the complete truth about that day in our lifetimes.
There is a terrible and lamentable shortage of independent, critical thinking in our society. This is partly the fault of our politically correct educational system here in the US which is not striving to develop critical thinking skills in the young. The educational system is indoctrinating the young in the predominant mind-set of today which espouses identity politics, feminism, and leftist “progressive” positions. The mass (“mainstream”) media reinforces what the young are exposed to in the classrooms.
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