Mental illness is not your fault


Mental illness is not your fault

Mental illness is not your fault

If you have a mental health problem such as an anxiety disorder, depression, schizophrenia or bi-polar, it is not your fault. You are not to blame. There is plenty of literature around which quite clearly describe mental health problems as caused by factors such as biological, genetic and environmental factors. Mental illness is not your fault, by any means.

From my own point of view, I remember when I was first diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (being OCD, later to become severe), it was a huge relief to be told that it was not my fault. I felt quite relieved in that I knew that I was not responsible for being born with a predisposition to this disorder. Psychiatrists have also told me that my personal case of OCD is something I was literally born with (having clear and unquestionable memories as young as around 5). How can this be anyone’s fault? It’s not. Mental illness is not your fault.

There are theories that state that situational or circumstantial elements can lead to a disorder such as depression. Many argue though that in many or even all cases of a mental health disorder (such as depression), numerous elements may contribute to the cause. However, in disorders (whether it is OCD, depression, dementia, schizophrenia or practically any disorder or illness) there is quite proven medical evidence that there are biological or neurobiological contributions or causes in relation to mental illness. So, by no means is having or acquiring a disorder anybody’s fault, and certainly not yours if you are battling with a psychiatric problem. Sure, bad choices can lead to problems in life, but so often the causes of particular mental illness is by no means the doing of the person who is battling with a their illness/disorder.

Mental illness is not your fault

Mental illness is not your fault. Don’t battle things alone.

Genetic factors can strongly relate to any given person developing a mental disorder or illness. Are genetic factors anybody’s fault? Just as you were born with brown or blue eyes (or other, of course), or that you were born a baby girl or boy, so too did you have no choice as to genetic factors you received which can correlate with the chances of developing a mental health problem such as schizophrenia. There are odds of 1 in 100 that any person may have schizophrenia, and this becomes 1 in 10 where the person has a sibling or parent with schizophrenia, and close to 1 in 2 when one has an identical twin with schizophrenia (Myers, 2005). Some may argue justifiably that life-choices can lead to particular illnesses such as how using drugs may lead to problems, but there are also other factors involved where so often the development of a mental disorder or illness has nothing what-so-ever to do with any person’s choices.

According to the learning perspective, it explains particular disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder from principles of conditioning and observational learning (how anxiety is formed). Therefore, according to the learning perspective, factors such as fear can be learnt, but is this still anybody’s fault? A mental health diagnosis is not a sign of ‘personal weakness’. Unfortunately, still in today’s society, there are significant problems such as stigmatization, yet mental health problems completely surround us. Around twenty years ago, 450 million people in the world battled with psychological disorders according to the World Health Organization (WHO). On top of this, mental disorders accounted for 15.4% of the years of lost life due to death or disability, and this was only slightly below cardiovascular conditions, and it was actually slightly above cancer (Myers, 2005).

Mental health problems or disorders/illnesses are so often no ‘fault’ of the person, just as nobody (generally speaking, at least) would chose to develop a cardiovascular condition. Is anybody to blame for the development of a mental disorder? This may pose different opinions or points of view, however, there is clear evidence that factors such as genetics can influence mental health problems. Speaking along the lines of a particular disorder in OCD, it is now no longer doubted that it (OCD) is a distinct medical disorder. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) has proven this beyond doubt. MRI can depict brain structure in great detail, and in OCD, investigators have clearly observed anatomical irregularities in the brain (the ventricular system, frontal cortex, and basal ganglia) in a person with OCD (Osborne, 1998, p 179,180).

Again, one may justifiably argue that people can make life-choices which can lead to or contribute to particular disorders, but there is also overwhelming evidence that in many cases, life-choices have nothing to do with one developing a mental health problem. Personally, I have distinct memories as a four or five year old child of symptoms of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) in where I had battles with obsessions from such an early age. There is absolutely no way in the world that I learnt such things (for example, my counting compulsions which stemmed from obsessions); it was due to imbalances of serotonin (a neuro-transmitter) in my brain; that was not my fault, and chances are that if you or somebody you know has a mental health diagnosis, it is not your or their fault either!

Thank you for visiting Beyond My Label., and reading my article ‘Mental illness is not your fault’.


Osborne, I. (M.D.), 1998, Tormenting Thoughts And Secret Rituals, Pantheon Books, New York.

Myers David G., 2005, Exploring Psychology, Sixth Edition, Worth Publishers, New York.

Mental illness is not your fault

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