The QAnon Conspiracy Theory and the Assessment of Its Believers

J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2022 Mar;50(1):124-135. doi: 10.29158/JAAPL.210053-21. Epub 2022 Jan 25.


Pizzagate and its progeny QAnon are two conspiracy theories with a growing number of believers worldwide. QAnon has entered mainstream conservative politics, with followers identifying themselves with posters and t-shirts at rallies for former President Trump beginning in 2018. With growing numbers of QAnon theorists the world over, psychiatrists will begin to encounter such individuals with increasing frequency. Because some individuals are motivated to engage in criminal behavior on the basis of their beliefs, forensic psychiatrists may also encounter QAnon more commonly in the future. It is therefore important that psychiatrists understand the QAnon conspiracy theory, as well as how it is consistent with and different from other conspiracy theories. Particularly noteworthy is the rapid and global spread of QAnon via social media. Clinically, it is important for psychiatrists to be able to differentiate QAnon beliefs from other types of beliefs, including delusions and other delusion-like beliefs. For forensic psychiatrists, understanding the role that conspiracy theories may play in individuals' legal proceedings is particularly important.

Keywords: QAnon; conspiracy theory; delusion; delusion-like beliefs; forensic evaluation.

MeSH terms

  • Criminal Behavior
  • Humans
  • Politics
  • Psychiatry*
  • Social Media*
  • Software