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While there is nothing but anecdotal evidence and speculation from untrained people to support the theory, there are some that believe people can develop mental illness due to prolonged exposure to the insane. This is strictly speculation and there are no studies to back it up, but there are some experts that claim it might actually be possible, given the right combination of factors.
mental health, counseling, stress, stress and anxiety
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Some say that the more you are exposed to something, the more likely you are to pick it up. The same has been anecdotally proven to be true for mental health conditions and outright insanity. The longer you are thrust into an environment where mental health is compromised, the higher the chances are that you’ll end up emulating their behavior. Some hardcore psychologists can sometimes deliberately attempt to appear insane just to get an inside look at how things are on the “other side,” but those people have questionable mental health anyway. It is interesting that there are very few studies being conducted to see whether or not prolonged exposure to insanity can lead a perfectly sane person to go down that same road.
There is a piece of old advice that says playing along with the delusions of the insane is more effective than fighting it when it comes to preserving one’s mental health. The trick, supposedly, is being able to keep their perception of reality from becoming yours. However, this only holds true for those who have psychological or anxiety disorders that are obvious. This would be difficult to apply to someone who has a mental health problem that has turned the damage inwards, rather than outwards. This bit of advice likely stems from the misconception that insane people are easy to spot, primarily due to their behavior and the way they carry themselves.
Another common piece of advice is to engage in frequent and effective methods of stress relief, preferably as often as possible. It is no secret that constantly dealing with one mental health patient is stressful and difficult, so it makes sense that having to deal with a large number of them can put the stress levels near the breaking point for some people. The build-up of stress and anxiety, combined with continuous exposure to the various forms of mental health disorders, can sometimes result in clinical insanity. Granted, this is coming from prolonged exposure and a lack of measures taken to alleviate the problem, but it is a possibility. A very unlikely and rare possibility, but a possibility nonetheless.
There are currently no studies as to whether or not prolonged exposure to insane people can have any real effects on a person’s mental health. Currently, the best on offer is anecdotal evidence and the background story of comic book villain Harley Quinn. Of course, the character’s transformation from professional psychiatrist to the psychotic girlfriend of an equally psychotic criminal is a fictional story. There have been no reports of instances like that occurring, though it is generally accepted knowledge that most people’s psychiatrists often end up going to counseling themselves.
For the time being, there is no concrete medical data that points to a connection between sanity and prolonged exposure to the insane. There are no reports of insane asylums regularly cycling their psychiatrists and staff between themselves to minimize exposure to specific individuals behind asylum walls. The statistics don’t show a lot of former psychologists becoming mental health patients themselves, either. It is probable that there simply aren’t enough anecdotes and stories to justify a full study on the matter. Still, if “catching” mental illness from the insane is a possibility, that does pose an interesting mental health risk to asylum staff members.