OPINION: Don’t Disregard Potential Attention Seeking Behavior As A Call For Help

Megan Hastings
Media Production Editor
Within the past few years, society has made many attempts to destigmatize mental illnesses through education and create more open discussions. As disorders, such as depression and anxiety, become less of a taboo, the family and friends of those suffering from mental disorders learn how to accommodate their needs. As the recognition has grown, so have claims that people are faking them. It is logical to question someone who might be exploiting disorders, but it can be detrimental to disregard potentially attention-seeking behavior as a genuine call for help.
I can see why people online would be defensive when it comes to faking mental illnesses. As someone who has friends and family dealing with depression, it is a very serious topic. Seeing another person fake a mental illness can be confusing and infuriating. Most assume that people who fake a mental illness are either making fun of it or don’t really know what it feels like to deal with the disorder they pretend to have. People are quick to assume that those who claim to have a disorder are narcissists if they don’t “validate” their illnesses. The topic of faking mental illness has sparked discussion online and in real life, mostly about how someone would “prove” their disorders, however, I think an important point to bring up is why someone would even fake an illness in the first place.
Romanticizing or glamorizing disorders like mental illness or addiction are a common trend in the age where media depicting such topics are readily available. Most popular TV shows or movies come under a lot of scrutiny for glorifying mental illness and creating fanbases of attention seekers, but the situation is not that simple. Although I am sure there are people who view mental illness as a way to garner attention and gain a sense of pity, I believe there is an underlying reason for it. If somebody feels their only option is to fake a serious, debilitating illness, then there must be some other serious situation going on in that person’s life. Munchausen syndrome is an extreme example of a situation in which outside circumstances can contribute to “faking” disorders. A healthy mind would not manipulate their friends and family into believing they’re suffering simply for no reason. People accused of faking depression or anxiety are more likely people who are still dealing with mental illnesses. Personality disorders and Factitious Disorder Syndromes are just a few valid psychological disorders that could explain why a person would fake an illness.
While there are good intentions behind criticizing someone who seemingly fakes mental illness, it can be harmful to forget that they may be a genuine cry for help. Before jumping to conclusions, people should be conscious of why anyone would fake a mental illness, and take “fake” mental health issues just as seriously as real ones.

Categories: Opinion

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