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Help, my Friend is Addicted to QAnon!


Many of us have loved ones who become entangled in conspiracy theories and wind up losing themselves in a web of incredible stories. And just like with those in our lives who struggle with addiction, we sometimes want to shake some sense into them and say, "Stop it! You are being unreasonable!" If you didn't know better, you might say they were addicted.

Conspiracy theories or extremist movements can become addictive to some people. Regardless of the drug or behavior involved, those who are experiencing the worldview that comes with addiction often act in predictable ways. In preparation for this episode (S2 E5), I made a list of addiction-related characteristics which fit anyone addicted to gambling, sex or crack...or the rowdy crowd that stormed the DC Capitol building 1.6.21.

Characteristics of all Addictions:

1. It takes all kinds: rich, poor, (un)educated, dem or republican, Christians and non.

2. It gets worse during lockdowns, &/or when social connections are reduced.

3. Even when engagement causes us negative consequences, we don't stop.

4. It is only addictive if people find it at the right time in their life (when it is useful).

5. When the supply is cut off, people get creative and dangerous. They don't stop using.

6. Users will obtain it from unreliable and unlabeled (or uncited) sources

7. Users can't be dissuaded with logic or reasonable arguments.

8. It spreads from one area of a user's life to all areas, even those where it causes problems.

9. Set & Setting: when you are out of your home, a normal dose has extreme effects.

10. Relatedly, you might do out-of-character (dangerous) things under the influence.

11. It becomes conflated with immorality in the minds of those who oppose it.

12. You want to share it with others & surround yourself with (just) other addicted people.

QAnon has become an addiction to many, just like any evidence-free system of logic which paints one as the center of the universe can become addictive. Thinking about QAnon as an addictive behavior, and those who get stuck in it as addicted people, gives us a way to better understand both QAnon and addiction. It is a learning disorder characterized by failure to change one's behavior despite negative consequences.


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