Can one catch a mental illness like anxiety and depression the same way he or she catches a cold? It’s something many people believe to be true, according to recent study. In the study, participants reported thinking that after a social interaction with someone who lives with anxiety disorder, alcohol abuse, anorexia and even schizophrenia, the condition could be transferred to you.
However, the answer, according to experts, is capital NO as mental illness is not contagious. But then things may get a little more different. It is true that we can pick up the emotions and habits of people we spend time with. So if your best friend is suffering from anxiety disorder and he or she happens to be in a constant state of stress and worry, you could start feeling similar emotions. Also, if a family member is suffering from depression, you might notice mood changes in yourself after visiting them.
Meanwhile, you need to know that emotions are contagious because we are social beings that respond to our environment. Emotional contagion is feeling or expressing a similar emotion to those around you because their feelings make you to believe you should have those same emotional reactions. Actually, we watch others for how to respond and emotional contagion is an extreme form of that.
But feeling similar anxious emotions to those that your friend displays doesn’t mean you have the same anxiety disorder they have. That’s because mental illnesses can’t be transmitted from one person to another like the flu. The sole reason for this is that psychiatric and psychological dysfunction is not caused by an ineffective agent such as social interaction or closeness, and therefore one cannot catch it from an ill person.
Mental illness is so much more complicated than simply getting a headache or cold because someone sneezed on you, or feeling stressed because your best friend’s anxiety disorder is flaring up. Mental illness is thought to be caused by an array of genetic or biological and environmental factors. It has been found to partially stem from inherited traits, as mental illness is more common in individuals whose blood relatives also have a mental illness. Environmental factors such as trauma, abuse as a child, or even exposure to negative conditions or toxins before birth may also be linked to mental illness.
So if you’re worried about developing a mental illness, you would be better off looking into your family history than stressing about who you spend time with. The idea that social interactions can increase the risk of being diagnosed with mental illness probably stems from the fact that emotions can easily spread from person to person. But in reality, emotions are short-lived or transient and do not represent significant mental illnesses that require treatment.
Finally, if something serious is going on with you or if you noticed someone else is influencing your mental health, talking to a therapist can help you get to the root of any mental health issues you are dealing with.