by Dr. Michael Crupain, MD, MPH
The book Infectious Madness, by award-winning author Harriet Washington, promises to explain to readers “The Surprising Science of How We ‘Catch’ Mental Illness.” On today’s show, we discussed the provocative idea put forth in this title with Ms. Washington and psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz.
Here’s a major spoiler—but don’t stop reading because this is important: Mental illness is not contagious, at least not in the traditional sense. You can’t catch things like schizophrenia, OCD, or bipolar disorder from someone who has it the way you can catch the flu or other infectious disease.
So what is Harriet talking about when she says you can catch a mental disease?