Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Belief That Mental Illness Can Be Contagious Contributes To Isolation

That is the title of this article I am writing about. "Many illnesses are contagious. You'd do well to avoid your neighbor's sneeze, for example, and to wash your hands after tending to your sick child. But what about mental illness? The idea that anxiety, autism or major depression could be transmitted through contact may sound crazy — and it probably is. There's a lot we don't know about the origins of mental illness, but the mechanisms identified so far point in other directions. Nonetheless, we do know that people's emotions can be affected by the emotions of those around them — a phenomenon known as "emotional contagion" — and that specific symptoms of mental disorders, such as binge eating, can sometimes spread among peers. We also know that many people hold scientifically unfounded views about transmission. For instance, some people believe that organ transplant recipients can acquire the personal characteristics of their donors, a view for which there's no serious scientific support. So, could it be that some people believe psychiatric disorders can be contagious? And, if so, does this belief have consequences for their willingness to interact with people diagnosed with those disorders?" Well what people believe.  I have worked for over six years and no one has caught schizophrenia from me.  I know some people can catch colds from someone else in the family or school or work but not a mental illness.
The article goes on to say: "A recent paper by Jessecae Marsh and Lindzi Shanks, published in the journal Memory & Cognition, suggests the answers are "yes" and "yes." Many of their participants agreed that mental disorders can be communicated from one person to another, and individuals' views about the communicability of a disorder strongly predicted their willingness to interact with a person having that disorder. In their first study, Marsh and Shanks presented 45 undergraduate participants with 12 different mental disorders that ranged from alcohol abuse and ADD to schizophrenia and generalized anxiety disorder. For each one, participants were asked to rate how likely they thought it would be for someone to catch the disorder through close contact with a person who had it, with ratings on a scale from 0 percent probability to 100 percent probability. Ratings varied strongly across disorders, with the highest average estimated transmission rates for alcohol abuse (56.0%), anorexia (35.7%), major depressive disorder (32.2%), and hypochondria (30.6%). The disorders with the lowest estimated transmission rates were Tourette's disorder (4.2%), autism (5.3%), schizophrenia (7.4%), and bipolar disorder (11.2%). Participants answered a variety of additional questions, including how willing they would be to interact with someone with each disorder. For example, they rated their agreement with statements like, "I would be willing to work with a person with anorexia," or "I think someone with schizophrenia is dangerous." The study's central result was this: People's willingness to interact with someone with a given disorder was best predicted by their belief as about the communicability of that disorder, with other beliefs — about, for instance, the disorder's psychological basis and the extent to which an individual can control the symptoms she displays — playing a much smaller role. A second experiment helped establish that this predictive relationship was actually causal: It was indeed beliefs about communicability that caused different attitudes towards personal interaction. " I believe this when I was looking for an apartment me and my sister went to look at one when I told the landlady that I had a mental illness she stopped talking to me and started talking to my sister.  Like I was not there.  Of course she did not give me the apartment but played it off that there was another reason.  It is illegal to discriminate against people with disability.
The article ends: "But how, exactly, did people think the transmission of mental illness from one person to another actually occurred? A follow-up study with 122 undergraduates probed more deeply into people's beliefs about the mechanisms involved. Diseases like chicken pox and the flu were overwhelmingly thought to be transmitted through physical contact on a relatively short timescale (e.g., being sneezed on or touching the same object). But the most common mechanisms of transmission for mental illness involved social interactions and were generally believed to operate on a much longer timescale — closer to years than to minutes. Not surprisingly, though, the responses participants provided were pretty light on specifics. For instance, one participant explained that generalized anxiety disorder can be transmitted because "the person's anxiety will rub off." For alcohol abuse, a participant explained: "If you hang out with someone that drinks all the time, you will soon be drinking a lot as well." People who suffer from mental illness face a variety of challenges, often including stigma and social isolation. The findings from these new studies help identify one factor that may contribute to both: people's beliefs about the transmission of mental illness from one person to another. The thing is, these beliefs about transmission are almost certainly false. This may seem disheartening, but it also makes room for a sliver of hope: the hope that a small bit of education could go a long way."Some how we have to get rid of stigma and these beliefs. They only see what is on TV and they do not interact with people that have mental illness to find out we our not contagious and really would not wish this disease on anyone.

1 comment:

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