Addiction and the Family: Conspiracy theories

August 30th 2022

10 years ago, or even less, if a party in a Family Law case suggested the government had created a fake virus, or were trying to use vaccines to control us, you might look to confirm a diagnosis of psychosis. Now, in a post-pandemic world, we need to take a broader view.

The time has come to start treating an adherence to conspiracy theories as an addiction. As the NHS says, “it’s possible to be addicted to just about anything…”. If you remind yourself that “addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking, or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you” then conspiracy theories fit.

We are seeing relationships break down where a party asserts Covid is fake, which is the most popular conspiracy theory at present, they may act in a way that puts their relationship under real pressure. Such a world view is likely to be fed by the internet and endlessly listening to podcasts by conspiracy influencers.

How much does it matter when we have No Fault Divorce? There may be financial impact, as with other addictions, it can be costly to espouse conspiracy theories. David Icke is thought to be worth $10 million from book sales and the like, but it is in relation to the impact on relationships with children that this addiction needs confronting.

If one parent is unable to support child visits at a contact centre because they are unable or unwilling to comply with Covid safety procedures, that may or may not be genuine or deliberate obstruction, although the issue is too narrow to amount to addiction alone. If a parent allows conspiracy theories to take over their lives, it may impact their ability to parent.

As with other addictions, the subject may be in denial; what will it take to get an addict to accept there is a problem? There are no easy answers, and cases will differ widely but it is an emerging issue. In the USA, they are ahead of us in recognising and treating conspiracy theories as an addiction; where they go, we may well follow.