Is Solipsism a Mental Disorder?

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In this blog, we will answer the question “Is Solipsism a Mental Disorder?”, we also be covering what solipsism is, the problem of solipsism, solipsism in depersonalization disorder, ‘solipsism syndrome’ which has been a subject of discussion during recent times and finally overcoming solipsism which has not risen out of the philosophical concept, but due to mental health issues. 

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Is Solipsism a Mental Disorder?

Well, Solipsism is not a clinical and official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual but it is a philosophical concept that has been with humans for a long time and people believe in it, and it is also associated with depersonalization disorder which is a mental disorder. 

Let us understand what is solipsism and explore its issues in the further section. 

What is solipsism?

Solipsism is primarily a philosophical concept where a person possesses an extreme form of subjective idealism that rejects the idea of the human mind having any valid ground for believing in the existence of anything but itself. 

The problem of Solipsism 

The solipsism problem prevents or tries to nullify efforts to explain consciousness. Scientists and philosophers have been proposing countless contradictory hypotheses about how consciousness arises and what it is. 

Panpsychism contends that all living organisms and also inanimate matter, even a single proton can possess consciousness. Hard-core materialists insist that not even human beings are as conscious as they think they are.

The problem of solipsism stops us from checking, verifying, and falsifying these claims and similar claims. 

A person cannot be certain that someone is conscious. It claims that we cannot verify anything unless we have something which neuroscientist Christ of Koch calls a consciousness meter; a device that will be able to measure consciousness – theories surrounding consciousness will remain in the realm of pure speculation. 

Solipsism is sometimes expressed as the view that “I am the only mind which exists,” or “My mental states are the only mental states.” For the solipsist, it is not only that he believes that his thoughts, experiences, and emotions, as an accidental fact, are the only thoughts, experiences, and emotions. 

Rather, the solipsist cannot attach any meaning to the assumption that there can be thoughts, experiences, and feelings other than his own. In short, a true believer of solipsism understands the word “pain,” which is what it means to “feel pain.” 

Accordingly, they cannot conceive of how to apply this word in any sense other than this egocentric view. 

What is Depersonalization disorder?

Depersonalization disorder is an illness that plagues a person’s mind, causing them to lose grasp on reality. Those who undergo depersonalization claim that they feel as if they are viewing reality from a third-person perspective and they feel as if their surroundings have ceased to exist. 

Depersonalization and Solipsism

One of the more unique anomalies that occur with depersonalization is solipsism. Solipsism is a very tempting philosophical and spiritual concept, according to which a person believes that his thoughts and consciousness are the only true things in existence. 

Many astronauts who spend a lot of time in space experience solipsism and this is recognized even by NASA. A person with a syndrome of solipsism, similar to depersonalization, has difficulty accepting the reality in which they live and determining that their thoughts are the only true part of existence.

The victims believe that the fact that they cannot connect to the thoughts of others is sufficient proof that they are the only living beings because they cannot have different perspectives on different situations.

Many psychologists and scientists have written complete and reasoned novels exposing these beliefs. In a popular article written by Duke’s Physical Faculty entitled “Why Solipsism is Crap,” it is argued that the Solipsists are simple narcissists who are too afraid to understand the life they have been given. 

Although the concept itself seems very confusing, it is not possible to prove that the reality in which every person lives is not just a mental projection coming from a source of energy that the human mind is too naive to conceptualize. 

Solipsism syndrome 

Some environments favor the development of solipsism syndrome. This state of mind is easily generated in an environment where everything is artificial, everything is like a theater stage, where every wish can be fulfilled at the touch of a button, and there is nothing beyond the individual’s control beyond the theater stage.

The anthropological definition of solipsism is the idea that one’s mind always exists. From a solipsistic standpoint, one only believes that one’s heart and oneself are certain. This is part of the theory of self-existence or the view of self. Solipsism as a belief is to recognize the world as one who believes in the world.

People experiencing solipsism syndrome feel that the reality is not ‘real’ or there is no reality, in the sense of being external to their own minds. The syndrome is characterized by feelings of indifference to the outside world, loneliness, and detachment. 

Currently, Solipsism syndrome is not recognized as a psychiatric illness by the American Psychological Association, though it shares similarities with depersonalization disorder.

Solipsism syndrome is different from solipsism, which is a philosophical concept or stands which says that nothing exists or can be known to exist outside of a person’s own mind rather than a psychological state. 

Being a Follower of this philosophy does not necessarily mean that they suffer from solipsism syndrome. Similarly, not all people who might be suffering from solipsism syndrome follow or take a stand with the philosophical concept of solipsism. 

Periods of extended isolation may make people liable to solipsism syndrome. In particular, as mentioned before the syndrome has been identified as a challenge for astronauts and cosmonauts on long-term missions who stay in isolation, and due to these concerns, the design of artificial habitats has been put into place.  

NASA: Space Settlements: A Design study

Several strategies to relieve the tendency toward the solipsism syndrome in artificial environments such as in man-made habitats in the outer space or oceans are discussed in NASA’s “Space Settlements: A Design Study” which proposes designs  and methods for Space colonization: 

  • There must be something that grows. Interaction and its processes generate new patterns which cannot be deduced from the information found in the old state. It is important for a person to feel like they are able to contribute personally to something that needs nurturing and care. 
  • To be able to see that reality often goes in a direction different from general expectation, and finally that what each person takes raises may possess necessary wisdom, and the belief that the care they show may help someone grow into something beyond their individual control.
  •  From this viewpoint, it is important to be able to personally raise children, and grow trees and vegetables with personal care and not just by mechanical means. It is also desirable to experience and witness plants and animals grow, which is facilitated by a long sight. 
  • It is also important to have something which can be considered as “something beyond the horizon” which gives us the means to have curiosity to understand the depths of the world. 

Overcoming solipsism as it can hamper one’s life

Psychology and neuroscience or anything that has to be with human behavior might probably be the greatest rejector of the philosophical concept of solipsism. 

These subjects are dedicated to the workings of higher order living organisms and a concept that refuses to acknowledge other people’s inner worlds even exist is probably not a best thing for the subject experts to consider. 

Researchers also strive to understand what these inner worlds are like. Mind perception is considered foundational – one of our most important tasks as social creatures is to understand the inner worlds of other people. 

It has been a common and widespread thought that to better understand others, we have to let ourselves take the backseat once in a while.

Findings suggest that the ability to understand others is much more cognitive than we may have imagined: mentalization (ability to understand one’s own as well as others’ mental state) is predicated on the ability to control or invalidate our own egocentricity when required. 

The capacity to understand the human mind even if we do not agree with it, is something which has been with us for a long time. 

Conclusion

We answered the question “Is Solipsism a Mental Disorder?” and also explored what solipsism is, problem of solipsism, what depersonalization disorder is, what solipsism syndrome is, and how to overcome solipsism. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs): Is Solipsism a Mental Disorder?

What is solipsism a symptom of?

Solipsism can be a symptom of isolation, depersonalization disorder and also schizophrenia. 

What is an example of solipsism?

Solipsism is an idea where it is kind of assumed that nothing else matters except yourself or nothing is real except your own consciousness. For example, not believing that others can feel pain like you are feeling. 

What is the difference between solipsism and narcissism?

Though many theorists believe that the philosophical concept of solipsism has arisen from a narcissistic point of view. In objective terms solipsism is a concept where it is believed that the self is all that exists or that can be proven to exist while narcissism is excessive love and admiration for oneself among other things. 

Can you disprove solipsism?

As of now, solipsism cannot be disproved but at the same time it also cannot be proven. 

Who created Panpsychism? 

Panpsychism is a point of view that all things have a mind or a mind-like quality. The word was coined by the Italian philosopher Francesco Patrizi in the 16th century, and it is derived from the Greek words ‘pan’ which means all and ‘psyche’ which means soul or mind. 

What is the difference between solipsism and nihilism? 

Solipsism is a philosophical concept like mentioned before, the belief that nothing is real except yourself to put in bluntly. Nihilism on the other hand is considered as a rather pessimistic point of view, where one believes that nothing can be ever known or communicated and that everything around us is baseless. 

References 

Clara S. Humpston (2018) The paradoxical self: Awareness, solipsism and first-rank symptoms in schizophrenia, Philosophical Psychology, 31:2, 210-231, DOI: 10.1080/09515089.2017.1410877 

Parnas, J., & Sass, L. A. (2001). Self, solipsism, and schizophrenic delusions. Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, 8(2), 101–120.10.1353/ppp.2001.0014 

Soutschek, C. Ruff, C. Strombach, T., Kalenscher, T., Tobler., P. N. (2016) Brain stimulation reveals the crucial role of overcoming self-centeredness in self-control. Science Advances, 2016; 2 (10): e1600992 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600992 

Zhou, H., Majka, L., & Epley, N. (2017). Inferring perspective versus getting perspective: Underestimating the value of being in another’s shoes. Psychological Science. 

https://www.bionity.com/en/encyclopedia/Solipsism_syndrome.html
https://uw.manifoldapp.org/read/depersonalization-disorder/section/98e4ca4d-6ba5-4d82-8e03-c3ffbbf93b14

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