What is “Weaponizing Mental Health?”
Weaponizing mental healthÂ is a common “defense” for doing something immoral or unethical when struggling with mental health issues, such as addiction. Sometimes, people may try to avoid accountability by using a mental health issue to justify their behaviors.Â While mental health issues are real and may have adverse effects on oneâ€™s behavior and decision-making abilities, there is often a window of opportunity for individuals struggling with a mental health issue to intentionally or unintentionally use their diagnosis as a means to justify behavior that they, in fact, have much more control of than they may suggest.
This might be as simple as lying or as severe as hurting another individual (physically, emotionally, etc.). While mental health issues are serious, and working on recovering is a lifelong journey, it’s essential to recognize the differences between a healthy recovery and avoiding accountability.
Ways to Avoid Weaponizing Mental Health
Nearly one in five adults (52.9 million in 2020) in the United States have mental health issues. That includes various conditions varying in severity, ranging from mild to severe.Â
However, you are not a victim of your mental health. As you learn in your recovery from your mental health issues, accountability is essential to that recovery.
Shifting accountability for your actions to a mental health diagnosis may not always be the answer and will likely result in greater issues in your personal life, work life, and relationships with others. Here are some things you can actively work on to avoid weaponizing your mental health.
1. Recognizing Humans Are Fallible
Everyone makes mistakes. You can have the opportunity to learn and grow from every experience in your life, the good and the bad.
It’s natural to fear failure, but it’s essential to understand that all humans are fallible and will make a mistake sometime in their life.
Often struggling with mental health issues can exasperate these fears of failure. However, it is not always a justification for not taking accountability for deliberate actions and behavior that you have control over.
2. Adapting to Your Thoughts
It’s essential never to bypass your thoughts. You don’t need to turn negative thoughts into positive ones or chant any mantras (unless you find that it works for you).
Thoughts come and go, and you can’t always control them as they pass through your head. That said, you don’t have to act on every thought or feeling. Embrace your thoughts and feelings, and work to understand you have them. This will allow you to process your actions better and identify actionable behavior changes versus something that is actually influenced by a mental health issue.
The key to learning is to observe how these behaviors affect you. Even in your darkest moments, you have the capacity for new insights and to spark a glimmer of light.
3. Remembering the Feeling is Healing
When you allow yourself to feel, you allow yourself to heal from the things in your life that adversely affect you and your mental health. When thoughts and feelings send you into a downward spiral, it’s easy to want to distract yourself to avoid them.
However, these “band-aids” do not address the root of your feelings and why you want to “numb out” instead of facing the issue.
Remember, emotion is energy in motion. It’s okay to lean into that discomfort instead of trying to mask it or numb yourself from it.
4. Understanding That Humans Are Not One-Size-Fits-All
A key to recovery from mental health issues is understanding that no one is perfect â€” including yourself. Everyone is unique and perfectly imperfect. You don’t have to conform to anyone’s expectations or ideologies, and it’s essential to remember that no one needs to conform to yours.
When you walk your path as your most authentic self, you gain a unique opportunity to unshackle yourself from the stories and identities that have held you captive and create a new narrative. That way, you won’t feel you need to justify your actions by weaponizing your mental health.
Mental Health Recovery Takes a Community of Support
We cannot recover on our own! Whether you struggle with addiction or another mental health condition, you need to support of a community that can work with you on your journey of recovery. At Ethos, we offer a sober community designed to help people just like you find the tools to navigate life while managing your mental health.
Contact us today to speak to one of our knowledgeable experts to learn how Ethos can help you on your journey to mental health recovery.
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.