Folie à deux is a psychiatric syndrome in which symptoms of a delusional belief are transmitted from one individual to another.
It is very interesting phenomena and there seems to be little research available about mental disorder called Folie à deux (Those are french terms, in english ‘a madness shared by two’ or ‘shared psychosis’) The same syndrome shared by more than two people may be also called ‘folie à plusieurs (madness of many).
The cause of the syndrome is not known and it is generally poorly understood.
The phenomena can be related to many events some less harmless than the others, for example UFO sightings, but also cult culture and many very serious crimes.
I am not an expert and the issue is poorly researched and explained. One reason for that is obviously that it is believed that disorder is very rare.
I am not going to focus on UFO sightings, but rather on criminal cases and criminal behaviour.
First, I would say the mental disorder may be more common than generally believed. While scientific community almost ignores the disorder, it is possible that this is the cause of atrocities that killed millions.
Actually the whole nation may be affected by it. Did Germans drank Hitler’s kool-aid when they believed he is a great leader and doing the right thing. That wars and holocaust were justified because their leader said so? Hitler was obviously paranoid schizophrenic and it is particularly dangerous if country’s leader is a mentally ill person.
In the history of crime perhaps the most publicized cases about ‘madness shared by two’ are ‘The Papin Sisters’ case link (via crimemagazine) and more recently the case of two identical Swedish twins sisters Sabina ja Ursula Eriksson. (link v Wiki)
In both cases it is assumed that the sisters had psychosis they shared. Madess of two can develop between two people that have unusually close relationship. For example 15 year old boy’s case, his mother was considered the dominant psychotic individual. The son was the passive recipient. It is common in such cases one person is more dominant and the another one is more like associate.
The parent-child relationship, also spousal and sibling relationships, is very common in folie à deux. There are numerous cases where heinous crimes are committed by man and wife/girlfriend is more passive accomplice. Of course it doesn’t mean that all those cases are cases of shared psychosis.
In United States expression ‘They have been drinking Kool-Aid’ is well known. For example in Casey Anthony case many suggested that Cindy and George ‘drank Casey’s kool-aid’, which means her parents believed something that is not true, they were delusional.
“Drinking the Kool-Aid” refers to the 1978 Jonestown Massacre; the phrase suggests that one has mindlessly adopted the dogma of a group or leader without fully understanding the ramifications or implications.
More than 30 years ago in Jonestown the members of the cult led by Jim Jones committed mass suicide by drinking deadly coctail of syanide, drugs and Kool-Aid (some believe it was Flavor Aid, both are soft drinks). More than 900 people died. One witness said: ‘There was no panic or emotional outburst and people looked like they were in a trance’ link v wiki
Photo mass suicide in Jonestown
It can be also concluded that some spree-killers may copy crimes committed by person they idolize. For example in Finland Pekka Auvinen killed 8 people in 2007 and wounded 12 more in shooting spree that occurred in Jokela High Scool where Auvinen studied. It is known he idolized Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who commtted similar crime in 1999 at Columbine High Scool in United States. Auvinen believed some people are superior than others and declared that ‘humanity is over-rated’. In Finland Matti Saari shot and fatally injured ten people at Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences in Kauhajoki in 2008. It is believed he was influenced by Auvinen.
Norway’s Anders Breivik allegedly idolized ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski. He copied them both – bombing carried out by more or less trained terrorist-style that included planning for years and killing sprees carried out by so-called ordinary schoolboys. Breivik’s motive for unleashing his vendetta was allegedly political.
There are many similar events, shooting sprees most commonly occurring in United States, but also spreading to other countries. In Brazil gunman killed 12 children at a school in Rio de Janeiro this year. In Netherlands Tristan van der Vlis shot dead 6 people in shopping mall in April this year. The list goes on and on.
It seems likely that one highly-publicized event triggers many similar attacks.
If those are cases of ‘shared psychosis’ it is not clear, but apparently one perpetrator seem to be influenced by another.
Some researches say that people who develop that kind of psychosis are often isolated and they may have stress issues. Likely the disorder can be related to some sort of trauma or traumatic events.
However this doesn’t explain why some individuals are more vulnerable to develop the disorder than the others.
Hopefully in the future there will be more studies about the phenomena.