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My sister is addicted to conspiracy theories

(74 Posts)
anita28 Sat 31-Oct-20 03:25:16

My sister is 60 and I'm very concerned for her. It appears that she has become addicted and obsessed with myriad conspiracy theories in the last 8-10 months.

Her partner contacts myself (and my hubby) regularly to keep us up to date and he says that life with her has become almost unbearable as she does nothing but research, often on two devices at once. Her personality seems to have changed from soft and gentle to hard and aggressive.

She won't 'talk' with me because she says she would only get angry in trying to 'make me see.' We used to have a close relationship and talked regularly about all sorts of things and I have said that I miss her and miss our lovely chats. I also have told her that I don't want to discuss those 'issues' as I don't know enough about them and have no interest in them. I keep reminding her that I love her and text and FB-message her regularly with nice neutral things.

She does work. Her partner is being very strong but just wants his former lovely lady back. Her adult daughter is also struggling with her mother's behaviours.

My own daughter who is in allied health has warned me that this is, or may easily become a mental health issue.

There are two brothers one of which she has also shunned. He is a very straightforward man who says it like he sees it and has not been very tactful. The other brother is a peacekeeper, listens to her for a short time and then tactfully changes the subject. She is under the impression he agrees with her but he just doesn't do enough research to learn more. This brother sees her occasionally as he lives closer. My straight-down-the-line brother lives in another state, as do I so we haven't been able to visit her during covid.

Thanks for reading this rather long-winded post and I appreciate any thoughts.

FannyCornforth Sat 31-Oct-20 03:42:16

Hello, Anita. How difficult for you.
I understand that this is becoming more and more common both in the UK and the US (I assume that you are in the US?)
I also understand that it is similar to the way that cults operate.
From what I've read, I don't think that there is much further that you can do other than to continue to keep in touch and discussion neutral things, as you say.
I'm sorry that I can't offer much help, I hope that someone will be along soon who is wiser than I.
Wishing you all the best flowersbrew

FannyCornforth Sat 31-Oct-20 03:44:21

PS you sound like a lovely sister, and she is lucky to have you.

OceanMama Sat 31-Oct-20 07:06:53

I think a full medical evaluation is in order. Yes, it could be mental health related, but there could also be physical causes to personality changes. It might be tough to get her co-operation though that is where I would start, if I could.

sodapop Sat 31-Oct-20 08:44:57

On the other hand your sister may just be very interested in alternative theories which don't match with mainstream thinking.
We have all had time on our hands to think and research things, just because someone thinks differently doesn't necessarily mean they are mentally ill.
I am offering an alternative viewpoint as obviously I don't know your sister anita28

PECS Sat 31-Oct-20 08:54:17

It does seem from what you say that your sister's behaviour and personality has altered enough to worry at least 3 people closest too her.
I have read about some groups that promote conspiracy theories & they do work like cults and emply contolling tactics & target more vulnerable people. It will be hard to persuade her to look at different perspectives if she is already hooked in. All you can do is try to keep the channels open between you and others who care about her.

OceanMama Sat 31-Oct-20 09:18:21

It's one thing to be interested in conspiracy theories. I find some of them fascinating. It's the change in personality that is ringing alarm bells for me.

vampirequeen Sat 31-Oct-20 09:47:52

I've always loved conspiracy theories (ancient aliens, JFK etc) but you have to take them with a pinch of salt. For most people they've always been a bit of fun but recently conspiracy theories have got more sinister and websites/believers more confrontational. If you're not sure just look at Q'Anon. It's scary. Now instead of theories they being talked about as factual e.g did you know that Washington and the Democrats are an evil force in league with Satan who are paedophiles and drink the blood of sacrificed children. I kid you not....people really believe this.

If your sister's personality has changed is it more that conspiracy theories? Has she developed a MH condition or a form of dementia? She really needs to see a doctor but I don't know how you'll persuade her to. Unless you run a conspiracy theory of your own which makes her want to prove than she's mentally stable.

EllanVannin Sat 31-Oct-20 10:11:47

I agree that it is a mental health issue. Any exaggerated obsession is.
Someone needs to have a word with her GP and get help for the poor woman before it takes over her life.

Isabel46 Sat 31-Oct-20 10:24:49

I would totally echo OceanMama’s post. I don’t think there is anything wrong with challenging the Mainstream Media and forming one’s own opinions after looking at the facts (just look at the McCann couple here!) but this shouldn’t affect one’s mental health hopefully. After all, some so-called conspiracy theories have turned out to be true. We should all keep an open mind!

NemosMum Sat 31-Oct-20 10:26:06

Sadly, it can be an early sign of certain types of dementia. You could suggest to her husband that they seek medical assessment. Alternatively, it could be a form of obsessive disorder. Neither will go away on their own and early diagnosis is preferable. Good luck!

varian Sat 31-Oct-20 10:26:51

I do wonder if the OP's sister happens to be a Trump supporter. If so, she may just possibly think again if he goes.

DC64 Sat 31-Oct-20 10:30:10

Would she go and see her doctor - it could be something like frontotemporal dementia - or it could just be the curse of 2020 and all the mental stresses and strains that it has brought to us all. Does she have an obsessive streak in her anyway or is this totally out of character. Whatever, you have to tread carefully, good luck x

Phloembundle Sat 31-Oct-20 10:30:21

My sister was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia in March. She is like your sister on a slightly lesser scale but is also very suspicious and paranoid at times.

FannyCornforth Sat 31-Oct-20 10:31:31

I think it's more to do with QAnon than dementia.

Newatthis Sat 31-Oct-20 10:32:32

Many people are having mental health issues at the moment and it doesn't help that we are being bombarded with conflicting information, some of which is difficult to understand. You are being a fantastic, understanding sister but please don't get bogged down yourself. It seems that she is obsessed therefore unlikely to listen to advice so just try to take a back seat if you can. Very difficult situation!

red1 Sat 31-Oct-20 10:46:42

I believe there are conspiracies, you only have to look at history! Governments can have the biggest conspiracies against the people, think about it?There can be a fine line between being aware of them and being obsessed by them.
there are so many theories which one is true? you can end even more confused.Maybe an anxiety problem is affecting your sister and she has got into it a little too much.Offer her your concern?

montymops Sat 31-Oct-20 10:58:53

I agree with a lot of what has been said. It seems that she has lost the ability to distinguish between fact and fiction, sense and nonsense, the rational and irrational- but what to do? Could be the start of dementia or the strange times we are living through- just as others have said. It may have to be allowed to get worse before you can actually do anything - very sad - I feel for you all.

Nitpick48 Sat 31-Oct-20 10:59:45

I was talking to my husband about this the other day (my daughter is a bit like this with the conspiracy theories) and I’ve come to realise it is a way to cope with what we can’t control, and what we have no frame of reference for. That is, a deadly virus sweeping the world and killing us. Far better to blame a conspiracy conspiracy because it’s safer. So if someone is rattling off about conspiracy theories I’ve learned not to try and rationalise with them, because being rational doesn’t help. I just smile and nod in sympathy then change the subject. You can’t argue with people who feel like this, they can cope with conspiracies, they can’t cope with deadly viruses. Anyone else think like me?

justwokeup Sat 31-Oct-20 11:09:44

Maybe she has a different health issue - an extreme thyroid condition can cause obsessive behaviour. Is she managing at work? Only her immediate family can encourage her to seek help and sadly it often comes to some kind of ultimatum before that happens. I think you can only keep in touch and be ready to listen if needed and you’re already doing that. What a horrible year, I am very sorry for your worry.

fluttERBY123 Sat 31-Oct-20 11:13:32

Snap! I have the same problem with my son. He just won't talk about everyday things and gets angry when we won't listen to his rants. One agony uncle I read said in a reply you might as well try to talk to an islamic extremist. He offered no solution really.

jennymolly Sat 31-Oct-20 11:13:43

I have a friend like this. Any new conspiracy theories that crop up she's onto them. I tend to glaze over if she starts and this stops her with me. She in my view has underlying mental health issues as she had a traumatic childhood and early adulthood. I haven't seen it heard from her since lockdown mainly from my side because I don't want to have to cope with her crackpot (in my view) theories.

Kamiso Sat 31-Oct-20 11:25:25

Conspiracy theories have started to dominate any number of forums. Some could be possible and others beyond rationality with the “facts” getting wilder and wilder as they gather pace. If you question the posts in any way it leads to a deluge of hostile replies so best to ignore but that then seems to confirm the “facts” in their minds.

She may be calmer once the US election is decided one way or another. There is so much uncertainty and that helps the wilder conspiracy theorists to thrive to the detriment of gentle people like your sister.

All you can do is to continue to support her and her partner. Has she seen her doctor yet? If it is Alzheimer’s there is medication that can delay the onset of some forms but it needs to start as soon as possible. If she doesn’t want to see the doctor perhaps a phone call might be a starting point to see what they suggest.

Alexa Sat 31-Oct-20 11:28:59

Conspiracy theories are interesting as narratives and also as political manoevres.

If you could discuss the nature of probability with your interesting sister you might find common ground. Probability is the means to reasonable beliefs.

Alexa Sat 31-Oct-20 11:32:28

PS also discuss the danger of being gullible together with who is the most likely to be trustworthy. And the value of scepticism.

Naturally it can be annoyingly frustrating when close friends or relatives cannot think outside the conventional box.