This week I completed an assignment for my psychology class in which I was prompted to take a quiz to see if I had anxiety. I’m aware that I have anxiety already and I knew this test wouldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. However, it made me think: there are millions of quizzes that claim to tell you if you have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD. While these quizzes could possibly help to point someone toward help, I think they do more harm than good. These quizzes are kind of fun and partly because they’re fun, they’ve become popular. I see people who take a quick quiz and think it’s “quirky” or “cute” to tell their friends they have a mental illness. This minimizes the seriousness of these conditions and belittles the people who actually have mental illness.
Many people use mental health quizzes as a way to seem different, or use them as excuses to get out of things or to manipulate people. Because these quizzes lead to “fake” mental illness, it can be harder for people with real mental illness to be taken seriously. It means that people who go to a therapist, talk about what’s happened to them and why they feel the way they feel, and are then be diagnosed with a mental illnesses can be seen as faking it, as if they romanticize mental illnesses. Often, people who claim to have mental illness based on a website quiz don’t have to deal the negative aspects of a condition like anxiety or depression. They get to have the “cool” aspects of having a mental illness without any of the negative ones.
Now, many people confuse romanticizing mental illness with removing the stigma of mental illness. Removing the stigma means being more open to talking about the challenges of living with mental illness without shame. But we’ve opened the gate of people thinking that it’s okay to use mental illnesses as an adjectives to describe their personality. I wouldn’t walk up to someone and say “Hi, My names Alexis; I like to draw and read and I also have anxiety.” That isn’t how I’d describe myself because my anxiety isn’t something I chose and it’s not part of my personality. I see people talking about their supposed mental illness as though it’s some badge of honor, or some breezy way to explain why they’re distracted or irritable. No wonder I feel like I can’t talk about my anxiety without people immediately thinking I’m lying! Whether it’s in stores, Hollywood, or the internet everyone cool is almost expected to have some sort of mental illness.
I think the only way we can truly remove romanticizing mental illnesses from society is by talking about it — but not talking about mental illnesses like they’re something cool, or something that makes other people jealous. If we talk about mental illness, I want to talk about the horrible parts. How once I felt anxious for an entire sleepless night for no real reason. Nothing happened that night, but the entire night I laid in bed feeling like something horrible was about to happen to me.
I don’t want to hear about the beauty in my mental illnesses because I don’t see it. I’m hurting from it. I wish that the people who diagnose themselves with a 10-question, online quiz knew THAT part of mental illness too.