The danger of the label ‘mental illness’


The other day I saw a tweet that popped up on my feed about ‘mental illness’ where someone had posted something along the lines of…

“Mental illness is not just depression, anxiety or feeling sad, it’s also…”

and then there was a whole list of things below. For example:

  • Fear of abandonment
  • Struggling to sleep
  • Feeling tired
  • etc

But, I have an invitation to reconsider that many of the things that people label ‘mental illness’ are not in fact ‘mental illnesses’.

Take the first one on this list, for example, the ‘fear of abandonment’. Now I’m not suggesting that people with a ‘fear of abandonment’ aren’t experiencing real suffering, but I am suggesting it’s NOT a ‘mental illness’.


Think about it this way

I had a guy that came to see me a few weeks ago with a fear of dogs and the reason that he said he was afraid, was because when he was young he’d been attacked by a dog. Since then, any time he saw a dog his brain would go into ‘fright, flight or freeze’ as his system was flooded with adrenaline. This was a typical dog phobia.

But would you say that he was ‘mentally ill’? Would you label his ‘fear of dogs’ as a ‘mental illness’?

I wouldn’t, and the reason why is this…

His brain is doing what it should do!

His brain is a survival mechanism which is good at identifying threat, and all that’s happening is, after being bitten by one, the sight, sound and feelings of ‘dog’ are being responded to as a threat. It’s a learned response.

However that’s NOT ‘mental illness’! There are no chemical imbalances, or pathological causes for this response.

So if someone says, I have a ‘fear of abandonment’, it’s the same thing. They are not necessarily suffering with a ‘mental illness’. They may simply have a learned response that being abandoned doesn’t feel good, and so their body responds to this unpleasantly. But again, a learned response demonstrating your brain’s perfectly reasonable protective mechanism doesn’t equate to ‘mentally illness or disease’.


Avoiding The ‘Mental Illness’ Frame

Increasingly, I see this ‘mental illness’ label being touted around all over the place, and whilst I’m not unsympathetic to the very real suffering someone might have with a ‘fear of abandonment’, I think we should avoid buying into the ‘mental illness’ frame unnecessarily.

If people are too free to label themselves as ill or diseased then it disempowers them. They thing that either nothing can be done or medication must be the ONLY solution.

Now hypnotherapy and rapid-changeWork can be very useful at helping people to change all sorts of unhelpful learned responses but if you are thinking… “but does hypnotherapy really work?” Then check out my blog that explains how it works and what it is.


#hypnotherapy #hypnosis #rapidchangeworks #fearofabondment #mentalillness

Would you like to explore how hypnotherapy and rapid change can help you to overcome an unhelpful learned response? If so, then schedule your FREE 15-min initial chat where we can explore how this can work for you.