STOP Romanticizing Mental Illness!

romanticizing mental illness

Now-a-days mental illness is romanticized in movies, television shows, and on social media. It makes people believe that to recover from mental illness you need to find a partner that will save you. Somehow “stop the stigma” turned into “romanticize mental illness”, and this need to stop. It has gotten to the point where mental health problems have become desirable. In all honestly, mental disorders destroy lives. It is not tragically beautiful to be mentally ill. There is a fine line between having a partner that can help you along the way than someone who will save you. The reason many young people have become confused is because of all the online content. I constantly see pictures of people mainly women, crying or self-harming with a romantic quote.

Here are some examples of what I have seen:

romanticizing mental illness

Not only that, but I have overheard conversations from people literally competing between each other on who has it worse. It’s as if they are glorifying their mental health problems. It saddens me to say, but even suicide is starting to be seen as a graceful way out. The further this notion is hyped; the more people will see it as a valid possibility. Mental illness is not a badge of honor and self-diagnosing just adds to the prejudice and discrimination.

romanticizing mental illnessA big contributing factor is that people are using mental illness as adjectives. For example, “I’m so depressed because I couldn’t go to the movies yesterday”. Instead of saying, “I felt sad because I couldn’t go to the movies yesterday”. Using mental disorders as an explanation for everyday hardships takes away the validity of those who actually have it. Just because you are organized doesn’t mean you have OCD. If you skip breakfast doesn’t mean your anorexic. If you feel moody doesn’t mean you bipolar. If you voluntarily go to sleep late doesn’t mean you have insomnia. By doing so means you know little about mental disorders.

romanticizing mental illnessMental illness is not appealing, charming, delightful, or stunning. The truth is its sorrow, pain, hopelessness, emptiness, low self-esteem, and suffering. It’s wanting to die. It’s forgetting what happiness is. Being mentally ill makes you live life like a zombie, emotionless and at times too much emotions. There is nothing fascinating about it.

romanticizing mental illnessAs a society we need to stop romanticizing mental illness because this will feed into the stigma. It’s covering up the fact that there is a problem and by doing so we are encouraging it. By allowing this we validate self-destructive behaviors. We teach people that tragedy is beautiful. This mostly affects teenagers, they tend to use mental illness like an aesthetic and even though it may seem like a “healthy” outlet for them to express their emotions. It’s just teaching them the wrong message, adding to the confusion. Romanticizing mental illness lets us create fantasies in our mind, not allowing us the face the problem straight forward. It teaches us to not seek help or look for treatment. Do you agree with this article? What are other examples of “romanticizing mental illness” have you seen? Let me know in the comment section below.

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Did you know Psych2Go has a book about Mental Illness Recovery? 

depressionCheck it out here: Mental Illness Recovery Book, “Something I truly enjoyed about this book is the simplicity and the variety of stories which are all focusing in one subject; mental illness. It’s amazing to see how this book connects each story to one another and to the reader. It provides a direct insight of living with mental illness and tips on how to overcome some disorders. If you feel lost, or if you want to help a friend or family member then this is the book for you.” -Carelyn

Checkout Psych2Go’s Latest video on depression:

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  1. You make some very valid points. I can say, in my practice which is almost all with co-occurring clients/patients from 5-76 years of age (in a npo MH agency in an underserved community), I cannot recall either the client/patient, those in the family constellation, or supportive others find anything ‘romantic’ about their MH or SA issues. When it’s used as descriptors I will use the episode as a chance to educate. Thanks for your article.

  2. I’ve seen it used to stay relevant and entitled. Or making it an excuse as to why “im so interesting because I been through things” and there fore they advertise there so called woes in there creativity and use it as a way to be noticed why trying to be “unoticable” people think it makes them special I have a mental illness and im a writer and artist im afraid of the next thing I create and dont show my work in fear of other people be harmed by it and because im annoyed at those zombies that steal…to stay “entitled and relevent” and define themselves by the works of actual people who are therapeutically creative for there personal reasons that stem from there actual mental illness. #dementors

  3. Upon sharing true experiences, I have had friends and family compete with me to make their lives seem worse. For example, when I was in high school, I was hospitalized for mental illness including Severe clinical depression and PTSD and my step father told me he understood because he occasionally gets depressed. The media also romantacizes eating disorders as a glamerous thing that is in reality life threatening.

  4. I’ve seen it where people talk about it as if they are bragging about it. It’s like, “oh yeah I had a panic attack last night haha”. Like, are you proud of that or something? I don’t understand it. It honestly bothers me so much because I have been through a lot to try to recover, and I feel like romanticizing mental illness discourages recovery. It’s one thing to break the stigma by talking about it, it’s another to romanticize it by bragging about something that shouldn’t be bragged about.

  5. These persons are cruel, disgusting, disturbing, absorbed, inhumane, dangerously arrogant, and horrifyingly ignorant.

  6. After reading this article, i felt guilty becuase i used to say i have anxiety and depression even though i haven’t ask an expert yet. I use your vids on your YouTube channel when I’m doing self-diagnosis though i think it’s still not valid. I tend to tell my friends i have anxiety because of the fact that i worry a lot, over think things a lot and i also use anxiety as an excuse when i can’t think clearly because of the negative thoughts that’s bugging me. Again, i feel guilty so my apologies.

    1. You don’t have to have a mental disorder to have anxiety. There’s a difference between having normal occasional anxiety like when facing a big test or presentation and having a disorder where you can barely function because of anxiety. Anxiety can come in different ways such as negative thoughts. But again there’s a difference between anxiety and the disorder. You don’t need to feel guilty if you actually we’re stressed and worried from time to time.

  7. Can we shelf the whole blaming movies/misuse of the term “depressed”/it’s all society’s fault conversation for a minute? I’ve heard those complaints for years. What I’ve noticed a lot of on social media, and what’s never really discussed, is the romanticization of being a helpless victim.

    With social media, each individual can basically design their own little world, depending on who they follow. This is concerning for a few reasons, which I’ll leave for a later date, but one pertinent to this discussion is the fact that, almost unintentionally, your Tumblr dashboard can become a swirling vortex of self-pity and victim complex-enabling.

    This self-pity takes several forms:

    1.) THE MISERY PORNOGRAPHER These are the blogs that constantly feature graphic photos of slashed wrists, bruised-up girls, hanging bodies, etc; and posts reading “I hate the world and want to die” and the like. This is especially troubling because it goes beyond romanticization to straight-up fetishization of mental illness.

    2.) THE WHINER I’m all for blogs that honestly discuss what it’s like to have a mental illness, an addiction, etc. There’s a lot of misunderstanding out there, and it’s important for people who have depression, schizophrenia, autism, and other “invisible disorders” to be able to share their experiences without being prejudged.

    But there’s a fine line between honest discussion and throwing yourself a pity party. If your post can be summarized as “society doesn’t feel sorry enough for me,” or includes the phrases “neurotypical person,” “get it through your thick skulls,” or “if this were a (insert injury or physical illness),” you might be whining. This is problematic because it disempowers and minimizes adults with mental illnesses.

    3.) THE OVERGROWN TODDLER Speaking about disempowering adults, no adult should ever describe themselves as “fragile” or present lists of instructions for “caring” for them. Everyone’s got triggers, and it’s completely acceptable to ask your friends to avoid particular discussion topics, images, or experiences while you’re around, especially if you have an anxiety disorder.

    But when others are watching their mouth around you as though you were a five-year-old, carefully avoiding words or phrases that might put a bad thought in your head, it’s time to find a different coping strategy. Life is full of situations that are uncomfortable and scary, and demanding your friends and family keep you in a happy little bubble isn’t going to make you any better at dealing with them.

    4.) THE VICTIM CATALOGUE So you don’t have an actual mental illness? You want all the fun of being a persecuted minority, without the risk of being deported, dehumanized, or shot? We’ve got just the thing for you!

    On Tumblr, introversion has gone from one-eighth of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test to the defining feature of a previously-undiscovered class of special unicorns better described as narcissists. Now, “Old Soul” and “Empath” are being peddled as blog description bling for privileged teen-agers who want to be Different and feel superior.

    5.) THE SELF-ABSORBED This isn’t a separate type so much as any of the four previous types, wielded with so little regard for anyone else on the planet it’s almost comical.

    Please don’t reblog a haha-poor-me comic about your struggles with “bad thoughts” the day before a major hurricane is scheduled to strike Florida. I don’t need a cutesy list of “introvert problems” right after reading an article about ISIS killing 300 people at an Egyptian mosque. There’s no shame in saying “my problems are real, BUT I’m lucky in a million different ways and other people have it so much worse.”

    Sorry for the long reply! This is something that has bothered me for ages.

    TL;DR: stop romanticizing helplessness. There’s zero power in being a victim.

  8. Hi, I’m a ninth grader in high school and I found this when looking for sources for my research paper. I am writing about the romanticization of mental illness and why so many teenagers have depression. Personally, I have anxiety and depression. I go through bad days, good days and okay days. There will be a week where I will leave the classroom multiple times because of a sudden attack where I feel like I’m drowning in noise. And there will be days where I won’t have an attack or feel like I’m going ten mph and the rest of the world is going sixty. My world may not be like yours, I probably don’t feel the same as most people with anxiety or depression do. I had friends who would use depression or bipolar as an adjective. I’m also pansexual, and in the closet to my family. I have heard friends, who were boys, call each other fruity or gay because of something that they did that seemed feminine. I also happen to be mixed, so there are even more reasons to dislike me. Why am I stating all of this? And in the comment section of a blog post about the romanticization of mental illness? Because I have things to say. And there aren’t many places to say them. You make many valid points and the first time I heard about the romanticization of mental illness is when one of my friends sent me a post via direct message on Instagram about an artist who drew their original characters, both of which had mental illnesses and they were going to fall in love because both of them were “broken” and needed saving or something like that. That’s when I got this eye-opening experience that something needed to be done. Because those with mental illnesses don’t need to be saved, we are not broken, we just need treatment and support. Not to be shown in the wrong way and that our illnesses should be desired…that is all I have to say.

  9. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, seeing mental illness romanticized online absolutely disgusts me. Thank you very much for writing this article – it’s so important that people stop making very real problems an aesthetic or vibe, if you will.

    Panic attacks are not cute. Intrusive thoughts are not sweet. Suicidal thoughts are not what shows like 13 Reasons Why makes them out to be. Depression is not being emo. Anxiety is not just being shy. Mental illnesses are real problems and they needed to be treated that way.

  10. If I remember correctly, teens tend to melodramatize life, I suppose, to lend importance to their lives and to get attention. The Internet gives so many young people a venue for the normal angst and frustrations of growing up but many seem to believe they are unique in their frustrations. I notice so many blogs on Tumblr where young people are going on about hurting or killing themselves and sometimes it frustrates me to think they might be encouraging others to hurt themselves. And some carry this game into adulthood where it can create real problems for them, like difficulty getting and keeping a job. Once you stigmatize yourself, it is difficult to remove that reputation of being mentally ill, even though you might not be. Yes, the stigma is still there, and people will label you unkindly and make your life more difficult than it has to be. People, please don’t spend so much time on these self-indulgent blogs that you forget how much happiness there can be in the world.

  11. Hi I am doing a research project and was hoping to possibly talk to you and maybe find some places to look for more information