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My sister is addicted to conspiracy theories

(75 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.

emperorsin Sat 31-Oct-20 11:39:02

A Lot of people have fell for the Global warming conspiracy theory sadly like the poor gullible fools that believe in religion it is very hard to talk sense into them.

ElaineRI55 Sat 31-Oct-20 11:40:22

I am not a health professional or counsellor, but here is my take on this.
I think there are two separate strands here.
i) Anything which affects someone's ability to function in their everyday life is affecting their mental health. Your sister does seem to need support to deal with the changes in her behaviour and the effect it is having on her relationships.
ii) The truth or falsity of the conspiracy theories are a separate issue. There are many of us, I'm sure, who believe there is some truth in certain things branded as "conspiracy theories".

Just because her mental health has been affected by her obsession, does not mean that all of these conspiracy theories are false. Some of her anxiety may be based on real dangers in our modern so-called democracies.

If family members try to help your sister by telling her that these theories are all false, I doubt that will help - it doesn't sound as though that is what you are trying to do though.

She probably needs someone to talk to her in depth, acknowledge that there could be truth in at least some of the theories she believes, but point out that she needs to be able to cope with the anxiety these are causing so that she can live her life and not put close relationships in danger. On that basis, would she consider seeing a counsellor to help her take control of her anxieties and find strategies to help her cope. You may have examples of people you know who have been obsessed with things that may not be bad/wrong in themselves (sport, online games, working long hours) but have damaged their relationships etc. Pointing this out may help her see it's not necessarily that her views are wrong or that she is wrong to have any anxiety over them, but it is more that she needs to be able to live her life in spite of these things and not be overwhelmed by them. Maybe even acknowledge to her that there have always been injustices, cruelty and cover-ups of various sorts in the world, but she shouldn't let the people who do these things make her so angry/anxious that it spoils her life and that of her family. She can't solve it all, but could take constructive action: she can maybe sign petitions, contribute to charities that fight injustice, join a well-established group such as amnesty international or something along these lines. Alongside that, she could get professional support to keep things in proportion and cope with everyday life.

On a personal note - until I was in my forties, I probably thought western democracies on the whole had professional, experienced people with integrity in politics, civil service and security services and films/books about cover-ups and people being killed to keep secrets etc was mostly fantasy or at least exaggerated. I am now firmly of the belief that the truth is probably worse than many of these works of fiction. I don't believe every "theory" but do believe there is very good evidence for certain people being murdered to prevent them exposing the truth and for the existence and cover-up of paedophile rings involving very prominent people and so on. I think there is a very real threat to democracy in the UK and US - we are becoming more like dictatorships. I am very worried about the future- especially for my grandchildren. That being said, I am determined not to be overwhelmed by it and know that my faith in God and the love within my family help me to try to live each day with as much peace, joy, love and compassion as possible in spite of these worries.

FarNorth Sat 31-Oct-20 11:46:45

I think your sister's husband should talk about this with a medical professional.
Your sister's personality seems to have completely changed, which could be caused by a treatable condition, so that should at least be considered, imo.

quizqueen Sat 31-Oct-20 11:48:08

Maybe, just maybe, your sister is right and the rest of you are wrong!!!!

Here's my conspiracy theory, and I am completely sane, if Biden gets elected, he will have an unfortunate accident within a few months.

grandtanteJE65 Sat 31-Oct-20 12:11:41

Has your sister had or does she have any health issues?

Is there any history of Alzheimer's in your family, or any mental health issues?

It will probably be very difficult to get your sister to realise that anything is wrong. Her partner might well be the person best able to get her to the doctor.

Any family health issues will be relevant when consulting a doctor.

crazygranny Sat 31-Oct-20 12:15:04

Really sorry for your troubles with your sister. She does sound like a bad case of an illness afflicting many people presently. Having a president who actively encourages this cannot help. All I can suggest is searching online for 'deprogramming' advice.

petra Sat 31-Oct-20 12:15:30

I've been supporting an elderly neighbour for some time. It's obvious that she has the signs of early dementia.
I spend hours on the phone every week listening to utter rubbish. I do put her right and she says oh, ok but I know tomorrow I'll have another call repeating the same rubbish.
It's very tiring.

Secondwind Sat 31-Oct-20 12:22:59


I enjoy reading them myself, I have to say. The change in her behaviour is obviously a huge concern for you all. I wonder whether anything has been noted at her work? It’s possible that someone there might be in a position to refer her to or discuss things with Occupational Health. She may, of course, resist any referral, but there may be protocols to deal with that situation.
I do hope that things come to some sort of resolution for you all.

Kryptonite Sat 31-Oct-20 12:27:54

Thank you for this thread (I haven't read all the posts yet). Two of my brothers are exactly like this, and every time I see them they tell me about some new dread idea as though it's all true. I no longer get to argue against them; I will never win and they are the sort of people who are always 'right's, if you know what I mean. For example, they believe that when a vaccine for Covid becomes available, everyone will be injected with a chip so that the government can track and monitor us all this way! Both have major issues in their lives and I think this could be their way of getting angry, offloading and making sense of things. I listen, but try to let it go over by head. Can be very draining though, and can't help wondering sometimes if there is any truth in it, even if partially. That's how some of us get sucked in I suppose.

Tillybelle Sat 31-Oct-20 12:30:22

People who criticised Hitler's approach in the early days when he was their Chancellor before the war were called mentally defective and sent for mental evaluation. Many disappeared. Maybe they were simply highly intelligent and saw something the ignorant masses taken in by the propaganda and the many incentives did not see. Our main stream media is not reporting a great deal of big news items. Maybe they do not have time. But then we have had a lot of wrong numbers told us by the Govt experts and no apology. did you know about the numbers at lockdown last March?
A person still has the right to follow their own opinions and pursue their interests. There is a simple test for dementia if the family see she is extremely forgetful but the way she is researching hardly sounds like dementia, just a new driving interest. I'd leave her alone and let time sort everything out.

Things will surely prove her wrong eventually?

sodapop Sat 31-Oct-20 12:35:12

Seems like the men in white coats will be working overtime with all these people who don't toe the party line .

Tillybelle Sat 31-Oct-20 13:04:07

Kryptonite and lots of others...
I have been asked a lot about people who had relatives with ideas such as
they believe that when a vaccine for Covid becomes available, everyone will be injected with a chip so that the government can track and monitor us all this way!

The people contacting me thought their relative had developed a neurotic illness, paranoia etc. I'm retired and anyway never diagnose or suggest any illness so I was rather embarrassed about how to handle this. I decided it was best to find out if the person in question was otherwise in good health, eating, taking care of themselves and so on, then, if they were well, just ask the relatives of the 'Researcher' to try and stop worrying. Some people get an idea and follow it like a hobby, looking for accreditation for their idea and talking to others with the same ideas. We need to be humble and remember how many very erudite Doctors and Scientists have signed letters to the government and written saying that what we are officially told is not true. I did wonder if, during Covid, constantly looking things up had become a way for people to deal with the anxiety this situation has brought upon us. They may not be aware of it but it may be a channel for anxiety about the situation and its problems in the world.
Maybe it's best, during this time, to regard this as a kind of over-active intelligence (all the people had high intelligence), and respect the individual rights of the person concerned and not interfere. After all the horrible problems with the virus can't go on for ever and time will surely tell us how things are really going to work out.
I also came to the realisation that it is important, however difficult, to remember that we cannot actually prove most of what they say is wrong! Even regarding the contents of the vaccines! For example, after 'Vaccine-Gate' in Italy, I had to learn many years ago what goes into vaccines. It astonished me! Plus Bill Gates has already had ID chips, in collaboration with Mastercard, which can be read by space satellite, injected into people in West Africa. So it is not impossible. Your relative may be very scared of this possibility for the world.

So try to be patient and respect your relative's right to follow their ideas. Try not to have arguments, maybe agree to differ? If your relative seems unwell in physical ways or has very noticeable memory lapses, of course try and get medical help. And good luck!

Kryptonite Sat 31-Oct-20 13:18:26

Quizqueen my brother told me this very thing a few days ago!!!

Kryptonite Sat 31-Oct-20 13:19:17

ElaineR155 very well said.

Tillybelle Sat 31-Oct-20 13:21:39

I could not go without thanking you!
You said.
I am very worried about the future*- *especially for my grandchildren. That being said, I am determined not to be overwhelmed by it and know that my faith in God and the love within my family help me to try to live each day with as much peace, joy, love and compassion as possible in spite of these worries.
How I agree!
You say this after so many very compassionate words to help the OP with concern for her Sister.
With people like you in the world, I see the future will be good. There will be times of trouble as there have always been, but like you, I put my trust in God.
"If God be for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8;31

Kryptonite Sat 31-Oct-20 13:39:18

Thank you Tillybelle. My brothers are both intelligent, highly articulate people and both with major family issues. Physically fit and healthy. Also chauvinistic and rather homophobic. I hadn't heard about the Bill Gates thing. Shall I tell them!! No, they probably know already, but I don't really want to find out. They also have quite a bit of time on their hands to do the research. Interestingly, both brothers are devout, traditional Catholics too. I wouldn't say they had mental health illness, though one has a son with severe mental illness. As you say, there's no arguing with them. Just pours fuel on the fire. I do however have compassion for them both.

CleoPanda Sat 31-Oct-20 13:41:23

Quote — “Plus Bill Gates has already had ID chips, in collaboration with Mastercard, which can be read by space satellite, injected into people in West Africa.”

Actually, as I understood, the ID chips are on the card, not injected into people. The vaccination record is stored digitally.

I guess this is how conspiracy theories start.

dorabelle100 Sat 31-Oct-20 14:02:45

i love conspiracy theories i 'm just off to google Q'Anon ......

albertina Sat 31-Oct-20 14:14:53

I wish I knew something to help you.

My younger daughter has the same problem and I can no longer deal with it. It has taken over her life and made her unbearable to be with.

Sandy Hook was the most awful one she insisted on being a conspiracy. Tiny children were massacred in a school in Sandy Hook USA and conspiracy idiots said it never happened.

M0nica Sat 31-Oct-20 14:59:36

The attraction of conspiracy theories is that they offer certainty in a very uncertain world.

There is that Chinese curse 'May you live in interesting times' and I do not think anyone could deny that that curse has come upon us. Most of us on GN were, I think born in the 1940s-60s grew up in times that were fairly smooth on most fronts, terrorism was small scale and local, we did not know about global warming, pandemics seemed to be in the past.

In recent years, so much has changed and is constantly changing and some people seek to return to a past that seemed so much simpler and unchanging- and conspiracy theories help them do that.

There is nothing you can do, just make it clear to her in a firm but kindly fashion that you are not interested in discussing these issues and move onto other subjects - and support her partner.

willa45 Sat 31-Oct-20 16:21:49

Someone once said, "Think globally, act locally". Trouble is that much of what is happening in the world today, doesn't even make sense. There is not even enough information to connect all the dots!

Faced with a world view of insurmountable frustration, is the reason that many people run into trouble. They resort to fantasies and false narratives (i.e. conspiracies), in order to justify and otherwise make sense of that which they can't explain, much less confront or solve.

Locally, we can stay informed by reading reputable news and avoiding sensational media bombardment. Recycling cardboard etc., conserving water and voting in the US election is as locally responsible as I am able to get.....those are all things that are within my scope.

Most of us also have neighbors, friends and loved ones....and we have ourselves. So, for the moment I prefer to direct my 'problem solving skills' on my health, my safety and the well being of the people I care about. It may seem selfish, but it's the only way I can stay sane.

Truddles Sat 31-Oct-20 16:24:12

emperorsin, please elucidate re: global warming conspiracy? This is not a conspiracy theory. My husband has been an environmental scientist for thirty years and is one of the world’s most respected and well-known in his field.I am not sure whether you are suggesting that global warming is a conspiracy, or if you had heard a theory about global warming. I can assure you, global warming is very real.

JaneRn Sat 31-Oct-20 16:46:32

I am totally devoted to conspiracy theories, for example:
Dr David Kelly did NOT commit suicide
Lee Harvey Oswald did NOT kill JFK at least on his own
Donald Trump did NOT have Covid19.

Your sister's obsession plus her personality change would seem to indicate that there is something else going on here. Perhaps we are all having personality changes with our unnatural lives. It must make life so difficult and sad for you and I so hope things will improve soon. She is lucky to have you.

Tillybelle Sat 31-Oct-20 17:57:58

Sorry I'm short on time.The articles of Bill Gates' placing under the skin digital records on people particularly in West Africa have been taken off the internet and changed to look as if they are merely saving the data to cards or other storage. But he is still involved with it. see
"Moreover, Gates is funding both an under-the-skin vaccine history device that can be read with infrared-equipped smartphones and a remote-controlled contraceptive microchip to go under women’s skin.'
Many Science papers have also been taken off the internet, some written a long time ago. I have noticed so many things different this year that were I to list them you would call me a conspiracy theorist but I am simply a retired person interested in science and statistics and health .
Sorry must go!

M0nica Sat 31-Oct-20 18:02:59

Why do conspiracy theorists beleive that anyone who doesn't agree with them has been brain washed by the media. Can they not see that the same criticism can be made of them?