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Are Psychological Disorders Contagious?

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Psychological disorders are claimed to be contagious. A recent cross-sectional study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine proposed the risk factors associated with the burden of family caregivers of patients with psychological disorders. The abstract of the study established a correlation between psychologically ill patients and ultimately, the increased risk of caregivers developing a psychological disorder. Souza (2017) implemented The Zarit Burden Interview (ZBI) which is used to measure caregiver burden and psychiatric morbidity and consists of 22 items rated on a 5-point Likert scale. The scale ranges from 0 (never) to 4 (nearly always) with the summation of scores ranging between 0–88. 9. Higher scores indicate greater burden and a ZBI score of 17 or more considered as high burden.

Ho (2019), acknowledged the emotional contagion theory in stating, “emotional contagion is feeling or expressing a similar emotion to those around you because their feelings cue you to believe you should have those same emotional reactions. We watch others for how to respond and emotional contagion is an extreme form of that.” However, Ho explains that psychological and psychiatric dysfunction is not classified as a pathogen, and therefore cannot be transmitted by direct contact from an infectious person, as “mental illness is thought to be caused by an array of genetic or biological and environmental factors.”

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Environmental factors such as, exposure to negative conditions (e.g. neglect, abusive, burden or stressful situations) or toxins as well as inheritance factors may also be linked to mental illness (Petersen, 2014). Caregivers are responsible for the home care of relatives with mental-health disorders and assume the responsibility for the medical, emotional, physical and financial care of the sick family member (BMC psychiatry, 2017). Thus, caregivers who provide constant care for family member/s who suffer from psychological disorders without formal knowledge, preparation or support from health professionals will often experience the negative effects of caregiving, such as burden and stress.

In this context, family caregivers often experience changes in their life and as a result this places them at a potential risk for caregiver burden and a consequent decrease in mental as well as physical health status. Poor coping mechanisms in carers have been associated with the perceived burden experienced by the carer. For the purpose of this investigation, the ZBI score will be used to narrow the focus of this study and analyse the likelihood of an increase in a family caregiver of a psychologically ill patient, developing a psychological disorder (such as caregiver burden).

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Are Psychological Disorders Contagious? (2021, September 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from
“Are Psychological Disorders Contagious?” Edubirdie, 17 Sept. 2021,
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Are Psychological Disorders Contagious? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 17 [cited 2022 Dec 8]. Available from:
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