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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.

varian Sat 31-Oct-20 18:07:54

The belief in the notion of a "global warming conspiracy" is on a par with believing that the Earth is flat.

Global warming is a fact, and the connection to human activity is accepted by all but a tiny bonkers minority.

Bluecat Sat 31-Oct-20 18:27:07

There is an astonishing number of people who believe in conspiracy theories now. On the FB page of my local newspaper,, for example, practically every other post cites a conspiracy. I'm sure there wouldn't be so many in normal times. During times of crisis, people look for someone to blame. In the past, it has been witches, Jews and Catholics.... Now it's Bill Gates, Big Pharma, Hillary Clinton and her circle of blood drinking Satanic paedophiles... Predictably, there's a tinge of antisemitism in these theories. George Soros/the Rothchilds are often referenced, usually as shadowy figures pulling the strings.

What these people need is a good dose of Occam's Razor, a philosophical principle which says that, if there's more than one explanation for something, the one that requires the least assumptions is the most likely to be true. In other words, the simplest answer is the most likely to be right. However, people deep in conspiracy theories are so busy disappearing down the rabbit hole that it becomes difficult to stop and say to yourself: is this true or is it, in fact, a load of rubbish?

I don't know whether this amounts to a mental illness. No disrespect to the religious amongst us, but most (all?) religions require believers to accept as fact all sorts of incredible stories. We don't call these people mentally ill unless the stories take over their lives.

It sounds as if this may be happening with your sister, given her personality changes. People have mentioned dementia, which is a possibility, but it could be the effect of immersing herself in stories which thrive on fear and a sense of powerlessness. Fear tips over into paranoia. It is extremely difficult to get anyone to seek help, particularly for mental health issues, if they don't recognise that they have a problem. You're also at a disadvantage if you live far away. All you can do, I think, is to continue to support your brother-in-law and try to keep your conversations with your sister as normal as possible.

welbeck Sat 31-Oct-20 18:28:15

there is a globe-trotting anti-vaxxer near here and if she happens to see me wearing a mask i am berated and ranted at.
last time it became quite off the trolley, to use a technical term.
i said nothing. except admire her dress. she went on and on. she is a highly qualified person. some of the analogies she was making were ridiculous and borderline offensive. it is a kind of cultish mindset.

Unigran4 Sat 31-Oct-20 18:40:41

When my aunt showed exactly the same signs as your sister, it took my uncle many months to persuade her to see a doctor. But during a routine check at the hospital it was discovered that she had had a series of TIAs (mini-strokes) which had altered her personality.

M0nica Sat 31-Oct-20 19:35:42

My response to those who do not accept global warming is: whether the cause is natural or man-made (to say that is implicitly accepting that it is happening) , surely we should still be do everything we can to mitigate it.

Research has been done into how many people are in in a secret and how long it takes for it to leak out. This link makes interesting reading

sazz1 Sat 31-Oct-20 19:39:05

I have a lovely friend who has become like this. Refuses to wear a mask, does what she likes and spends hours and hours on Facebook putting on any alternative view about the virus she can find. Many of her FB friends put horrible comments and berate her as an idiot to which she leaves nasty comments. Even her family have been horrible to her, and her to them.
In real life she's still lovely but I don't talk to her about religion, politics or the virus so we dont argue. Feel sorry that shes alienated so many people though

Aepgirl Sat 31-Oct-20 20:08:37

Has your sister joined any of theses ‘conspiracy’ groups, as it sounds to me as if she is being brainwashed.

I don’t have any experience of how to deal with this, but it sounds very worrying.

Kryptonite Sat 31-Oct-20 23:59:10

MOnica my brother has said exactly this to me. Apparently I've been brainwashed into thinking that men and women should be treated equally. He is blatantly misogynistic.

anita28 Sun 01-Nov-20 04:10:03

Wow, I am overwhelmed by the responses, thoughts, sharing, empathy and suggestions to my post. Thank you so very much. Just a few things that have sprung to mind as I read:

My main concern is that my sister's life has lost its balance and joy, according to her partner and her siblings. There are many contradictions in her FB posts and comments. And, yes, her behaviour is very cult-like and I know quite a bit about cults as hubby and I used to live in the same village as a cult, helping a couple of people 'escape' and hearing all about their life inside a cult.

Getting her to a doctor would necessitate her acknowledging that there is a problem requiring medical/professional help and I know that she is nowhere near that point. She is physically healthy and has always eaten a very healthy diet.

There is a history of Alzheimer's in my Dad's family but we attribute that mostly to them having been in Europe during the second world war. It has not been early-onset Alzheimer's with Dad and his siblings, so finger's crossed for this next generation.

I live in Australia by the way and yes, it will be interesting to see how the outcome of the US election affects my sister.

I really would love to respond to so many of your replies but I'm very new to this group and this is my first post so I'm still feeling my way around.

Thanks again lovely ladies.

Scrumptious Sun 01-Nov-20 06:42:52

Hello, have a look at
The BBC’s Specialist Disinformation Reporter Marianna Spring on proactively countering conspiracies, You tube & podcasts
might give you some good advice and tips to help your sister so many people in the same dangerous situation

Hawera1 Sun 01-Nov-20 07:11:51

I think Facebook and could be playing a part. I have a friend who is like this. She believes everything she reads and these sites attract nutters. Especially during covid they have been very active telling us about conspiracies and saying covid doesn't even's ok to.question the norm but when it becomes an obsession its a problem.

Cossy Sun 01-Nov-20 10:28:37

Any obsession with sometimes which requires someone to constantly research isn’t healthy and can cause considerable anxieties as those affected spend most their waking hours thinking and talking about them and worry because their loved ones don’t agree and may even feel their loved ones at at risk. It’s not healthy and she needs help, this goes far beyond showing an interest in others beliefs and views

varian Sun 01-Nov-20 10:57:21

Those who use the word "research" to describe spending hours each day browsing the internet for conspiracy theories do not understand the meaning of the word.

FarNorth Sun 01-Nov-20 14:00:23

I was surprised to find out that's what research seems to mean these days.

anita28 Thu 05-Nov-20 08:45:47

Thank you very much Scrumptious. I followed up on your suggestion and found it very interesting and helpful.

anita28 Thu 05-Nov-20 08:49:53

I totally agree Cossy. I'm all for critical thinking, questioning, researching and learning but when it rules your life and relationships there's something wrong.

anita28 Thu 05-Nov-20 08:59:19

Sazzl. You obviously understand the situation very well. I'm sure that if I lived closer and was able to see my sister we could have a better relationship. I don't comment on, or acknowledge those FB posts of a controversial nature which irritates her, and she says I don't "support her." Any other posts I do make a nice comment or 'like, love or laugh.' I am forever hopeful this situation will pass and reading everyones' comments here has been so helpful.

OnwardandUpward Wed 22-Sep-21 19:22:46

Hi Anita, I'm a bit late to the party but I wish I'd found your post before. I've been struggling with this with one of my kids who is in their twenties. He's currently not speaking to me at all because he got so paranoid about the covid vaccine that he threatened me that if I had it he would not speak to me. Unfortunately I'd already had it. He believes a lot of Conspiracy theories. The latest one was about the moon landings, but I haven't heard from him since May.

My husband has a friend who has been getting deeper and deeper into conspiracy theories to the point that most of the time he's banned from Facebook for posting "misinformation". It seems quite common these days, but is very divisive, sadly.

Katie59 Wed 22-Sep-21 19:56:14

I hope it’s not dementure based because a lot of conspiracy theory people are young, many of us are cynical, because of the way we are manipulated day in day out. Obsessive behavior involving a large variety of topics is common enough.

lemsip Wed 22-Sep-21 22:21:54

......*thread from OCT 2020!*

MerylStreep Wed 22-Sep-21 22:28:45

Anita has left the building. Look at the date of the op.

FannyCornforth Thu 23-Sep-21 06:26:29


Hello, it might be a good idea to start a new thread about your son; your husband’s friend and the problems that you are having about the vaccine.

I’m sure that there are many others facing the same thing.
I hope that you get some advice and support

OnwardandUpward Thu 23-Sep-21 10:27:28

Thanks. I did post about it before on a different thread, but didn't get a lot of engagement. I wish I'd seen this thread back then. I don't think it's dementia for anyone asking, but a lot of younger people are being recruited by these people and informed of "the truth", which they are then required to share....That's why they coerce and threaten - or stay away from those who will not accept what they talk of.

Hetty58 Thu 23-Sep-21 12:48:33

I have a friend who is similar. She's always been overly suspicious of conventional thinking, the government - and the medical profession - so is an ideal victim for all the conspiracy theorists and quackery out there. Unfortunately, she's poorly educated too.

She does 'research', yet fails to even question the sources, the motives - or the logic behind what she reads. If it's on the internet, she actually trusts and believes it. She thinks we've all been brainwashed and she knows better. It's all very sad.