A glamorous business woman says conspiracy theories left her considering suicide at rock bottom.
Melissa Rein Lively, 35, says she was sucked in and groomed online by the 'cult' QAnon, which cost her '20 years off her life'.
The CEO of a public relations agency went viral last year with a video she filmed of herself trashing a shop display of face masks for Covid-19.
She says the incident came after falling down a rabbit hole of baseless claims and accusations pushed out by QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory movement, MailOnline reports.
One of the group's beliefs is that Donald Trump was taking down a powerful network of Satanic, cannibalistic paedophiles who make up a 'deep state'.
Melissa, from Arizona, US, told the investigative podcast Finding Q: "I absolutely call it a cult in every single way. It destroyed me completely, collapsed my world view and landed me in a psychiatric evaluation facility.
"For me, being a successful person in my life, I never thought I would be in a situation like that and it was rock bottom."
The outbreak of coronavirus is when Melissa's indoctrination hit fever pitch as her initial terrified reaction to the deadly disease swiftly turned into scepticism.
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Strict lockdown measures caused Melissa to feel "lonely" at home where she stumbled upon a QAnon post which opened the floodgates for more conspiracist content.
She said: "When they call it a rabbit hole, it starts up at the top, near the surface with very innocuous information and as you click and click and click the algorithm does it's thing.
"Over time it becomes more and more extreme and the confirmation bias you're experiencing changes the way you think and grooms you to believe a separate set of beliefs that you had before."
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Melissa realises that asking questions online about the safety of vaccinations was her entry point for QAnon theories.
The PR boss says she gradually lost touch of reality, admitting: "You stop looking at things from a critical, 'is this true, is this true?' especially in times of a crisis.
"You start looking at everything from the perspective of 'What else are they lying about?'."
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Looking back on her viral Instagram video, Melissa said: "It was absolutely rock bottom and I needed help, there was no way I was going to come out of that situation on my own.
"I am certain this has probably taken 20 years of my life. The level of stress, the level of utter humiliation, obviously the enormous financial cost, the mental and physical toll this had on me personally, at one point in this experience I considered suicide."
An intervention staged by her husband eventually persuaded her to seek professional help from which she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and spent weeks in therapy.
For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
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