Understanding Family & Group Psychosis

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Thinking RFID (Photo credit: @boetter)

Most people are uninformed about how psychotic disorders affect the brain. They can be very difficult for mental health professionals to understand, much less a family member or friend observing the behavior. For many families, it isn’t until something bizarre occurs (talking to oneself, thinking one can fly, seeing things not present, talking to imaginary people, etc.) that families and others understand the severity of a psychotic disorder.

The simplest definition of a psychotic disorder is a disturbance of thought processes characterized by abnormal cognition and perceptions. Psychotic disorders often include hallucinations (dealing with the 5 senses), delusions (a false belief held to be true despite evidence to the contrary), and thought disorder (an inability for an individual to generate logical thoughts).

The disorder not commonly discussed in mainstream media is known as Shared Psychotic Disorder. Think back to Jim Jones (the cult murder/suicide case) and  Charles Manson and their followers. These individuals had a strong influence over the thought processes, actions/behaviors, and attitudes of their followers. Shared Psychotic Disorder is basically a “clinically designed” label to classify a group of individuals who are strongly influenced, too the point of psychosis, by another individual who has a psychotic disorder.

For example, a father who has paranoid schizophrenia and believes the FBI is following he and his family, may begin to share his thoughts with his family on a daily basis and appear very logical, educated, and mentally sound. His family, because of the close emotional connection, may begin to believe the father’s paranoid thoughts and think much like their father.

Shared Psychotic Disorder is a very rare disorder or classification, but it is important that families understand this label in order to protect themselves or a loved one from psychotic-like “mind control.”

To read more about Shared Psychotic Disorder, visit WebMD.

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