'Mind Control' Experiences on the Internet: Implications for the Psychiatric Diagnosis of Delusions

Psychopathology. 2006;39(2):87-91. doi: 10.1159/000090598. Epub 2006 Jan 2.

Abstract

Background: The DSM criteria for a delusion indicate that it should not include any beliefs held by a person's 'culture or subculture'. The internet has many examples of people reporting 'mind control experiences' (MCEs) on self-published web pages, many of which suggest a community based around such beliefs and experiences. It was hypothesized that some of these reports are likely to reflect delusional beliefs and the hyperlinks between web reports were likely to show evidence of social structure, demonstrating the 'culture or subculture' exemption to be increasingly redundant in light of new technology.

Sampling and methods: Texts from web sites reporting MCEs (n = 10), experience of cancer (n = 10), depression (n = 10) and being stalked (n = 10) were identified, and were blind-rated by three independent psychiatrists for the presence of delusions. Hyperlinks from web sites reporting MCEs were used to create a network structure; this was compared with a size-matched, randomly generated network and known social networks from the literature using social network analysis.

Conclusions: The sampled web-published accounts of MCEs are highly likely to be influenced by delusional beliefs. Social network analysis suggests there is significant evidence of an online community based around these beliefs. The fact that individuals can form a community based on the content of a potentially delusional belief presents a paradox for the DSM diagnostic criteria for a delusion, and suggests the need to revise and revisit the original operational definition in the light of these new technological developments.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Culture*
  • Delusions / diagnosis*
  • Delusions / psychology
  • Hallucinations / diagnosis
  • Hallucinations / psychology
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Social Conformity*
  • Social Identification*
  • Social Support*