The Dangers of Identifying Excessively with Your Mental Disorder

Let’s say you have OCD. OK, that’s a lousy illness, but are you OCD? Is OCD you? No. You are John Jones or Mary Smith, who happens to have OCD, but who also has all sorts of other attributes and things going on with them. The OCD is part of who you are, but hopefully it’s not the most important part, and there are many other parts of you that hopefully are just as important as the OCD if not more so.

I think there is a real problem with identifying with your illness too. In fact, it may even be better to deny that you have it as you go around town doing your business or even socializing. Of course you know you have it, but you sort of pretend that you don’t.

I find that when I go out into the world thinking, “I have OCD,” I end up focusing on symptoms. Since the symptoms are mental (thoughts), you are focused on the OCD and the OCD thoughts. Well what this does is it tends to bring the thoughts out. Other people seem to be able to go around with these thoughts in their head and be ok. Once I have these thoughts going on, everything tends to go downhill pretty fast. Principally, most people decide that they don’t want to talk to me. If they start up while I am socializing, a lot of people will try to just shut down the conversation and walk away.I just can’t seem to be around people while thinking this stuff. It seems like they pick on that something is wrong with me, they find it disturbing or even frightening, and they don’t like it.

Anyway, what seems to work better is to lie to myself and say, “I am completely normal. I am the most normal person on Earth. I don’t have OCD or any of that crap. There’s nothing even 1% weird about me.” Now that’s not true, but so what? It’s a nice little lie and when I go out into society thinking I’m as normal as a human being gets, I tend to act a lot better and get a lot fewer OCD symptoms. In other words, the OCD sort of goes away. And there’s no harm in telling yourself while lies anyway. If you go out into the world thinking you’re a little bit nuts, guess what? You tend to act sort of nuts. If you go out into the world thinking you are completely normal, guess what? You act a whole lot better and more normal. Behavior is often a self fulfilling prophesy.

So I am worried that this trend of identifying with your mental illness as some sort of badge. It is going to lock people into their illnesses and symptoms to the point where they start displaying symptoms just to show how special of a snowflake they really are. I’m gender nonbinary, so I’m going to act weird and genderqueer so people can’t figure out if I’m a man or a woman and this will show my specialness. I’m depressed, narcissistic and histrionic, so I am going to act out all these symptoms as a display of identity in order to show more of my special unique snowflakyness.

There is also a hypchondriacal attitude here. Just a lot of folks love to revel in their often imaginary physical illnesses, there are quite a few mentally ill people who really get into having a mental disorders. Quite a few Borderlines adopt the borderline label tot he point where they are wearing it like a badge. Unfortunately, they don’t act any better. They just as crazy as ever if not worse because now with this badge on, they have a reason and a right to act crazy. They’re ratifying and legitimizing their pathology. A lot so-called Multiple Personality Disorders nowadays also seem to be fabricated. These are often women with a Borderline diagnosis.

They get used to be nonfunctional, disabled and going to therapy and group meetings all the time. They go to meetings and go on and on about their “alters” and whatnot. A lot of them are probably just making up a lot of these fake multiple personalities for some reason. They will go into a child alter and suddenly start acting like a child, no matter where they are. I know a woman who used to carry around a coloring book and crayons in case her child alter came out. The child alter would come out when she was out to eat with others, whereupon she would whip out the book and start coloring in front of everyone while talking like a little girl.

This is part of the problem with identifying too strongly in “I’m crazy” as one of your identities. You wallow in your disorder and allow the disorder to become your identity. It is as if you walk around with a badge saying mentally ill on it. What I have noticed is that people who do this do not seem to get better. They get worse or at least stay the same. Wallowing in your disorder and making it part of your identity is not a way to reduce symptoms. If anything, it probably makes them worse or at least more chronic.


Filed under Anxiety Disorders, Mental Illness, OCD, Personality Disorders, Psychology, Psychopathology

2 responses to “The Dangers of Identifying Excessively with Your Mental Disorder

  1. Pingback: Cultural Left Self-Description Found on the Net | Beyond Highbrow - Robert Lindsay

  2. reid

    this is a major development in online communities in the last five years or so. in an effort to create destigmatized environments for people dealing with mental health issues, cultures have emerged that perversely incentivize displaying your diagnoses, or even applying self-diagnoses in order to belong. it’s not difficult to find examples of this at all — the best i can guess is that it’s young people who are alienated and vulnerable to begin with who embrace their mental health issues as signifiers that they belong to cultures with these norms, almost a distributed self-indoctrinating cult. it’s really a polar opposite swing in the other direction from earlier generations who would bottle up shame and denial about mental health issues.

    i have some ideas about the recent prolific emergence of obscure gender orientations and trans- identities that tie into this, but i don’t want to sound too cranky and i don’t think they’re too difficult for the reader to imagine.

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