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New Study Shows That People Who Believe QAnon Are 49% More Mentally Ill Than The Rest Of Us

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QAnon Capitol Insurrection

It’s been almost two months since QAnon supporters and other right-wing extremists stormed the Capitol on January 6, but we’re still learning more and more about the fringe group.

QAnon is known for terrorism, radical action, and conspiracy theories. Now it looks like there's another defining feature that melds together the members of this group — mental illness. 

New data suggests that members of QAnon report having mental health diagnoses at significantly higher rates than the general population. 

Could appropriate mental health supports be the answer to ending extreme militantism? 

What is QAnon?

At its core, QAnon is a conspiracy theory that claims that former President Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping pedophiles in left-wing government, business, and the media.

The group has its origins in 2017 when an anonymous contributor to the message board 4chan began dropping unfounded theories about government activity, claiming to possess a level of U.S. security approval known as "Q clearance." 

Since then, various iterations and manifestations of the group have appeared in offshoots espousing a wide span of often contradictory theories. 

Even the most forgiving critics of QAnon have been able to see that these baseless claims are created in the minds of people with psychological problems, but now new research has assembled the data to prove this. 

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QAnon members are more likely to have mental illnesses

Dr. Sophie Moskalenko stumbled across this revelation while doing research for her upcoming book, Pastels and Pedophiles: Inside the Mind of QAnon.

In court records obtained after the Capitol attacks, 68% of QAnon supporter who commited crimes before and after the attack reported having a diagnosed mental illness. 

By contrast, just 19% of the general population in the U.S. has a diagnosed mental illness. 

The reported disorders included bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, and Munchausen syndrome by proxy — this is a psychological disorder that causes a caregiver to make up or inflict an illness or injury on to someone else, often a child. 

Moskalenko has authored several books on radicalization and terrorism. She says that even other extremists don’t display the same levels of mental illness she's observed in QAnon supporters. 

RELATED: Why Empaths & HSPs Process The Insurrection At The U.S. Capitol Differently

How psychological disorders lead to conspiracy theories

Research that predates the Capitol attack shows these disorders have crucial links to the popularisation of conspiracy theories. 

People struggling with depression, emotional detachment, and those dealing with narcissism are more likely to believe in and advance conspiracy theories. 

People who lack empathy and exhibit suspicious anti-social behavior are also much more likely to subscribe to conspiracy theories. 

The numbers of QAnon supporters who report having mental illnesses further support these revalations and also demonstrates the true extent of how radical groups accumulate members by targetting those who are already mentally vulnerable. 

Of the QAnon insurrectionists with criminal records, 44% experienced serious psychological trauma prior to becoming radicalized. These traumas included physical or sexual abuse of themselves or their children.

Trauma like this can exacerbate or even cause mental illness, which, in turn, makes questioning or doubting conspiracy theories increasingly difficult. 

What these figures mean for the future of QAnon

One of the big mysteries about QAnon is how has a group that offers very little evidence or facts garnered such a dedicated following.

By revealing some of the reasons why some have leaned into QAnon, the data offer vital information about what resources could help discourage people from joining the group in the future.

If we can provide crucial mental health support prior to radicalization, perhaps prospective members would not be so easily socialized into these conspiracy groups. 

The purpose of this research should not be to shame QAnon supporters with mental illnesses, or anyone with mental illness for that matter, but rather to offer a solution to this and other problems through extending access to mental health care.

The U.S. is experiencing a mental health crisis where cases are increasing but support services are not. This could be inextricably linked to the popularisation of conspiracy groups like QAnon. 

By addressing the needs of those struggling with mental illness, could we heal some of the divisions between right and left-wing politics? 

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment.