Can depression be weaponized?

In this article we will discuss how mental illnesses such as depression can be weaponized by people who are affected by the disorder, 

We will also discuss some of the ways you could be using your mental disorder as a way to avoid taking accountability of behaviour that is maladaptive. 

Can depression be weaponized?

Depression and other mental health conditions can be weaponized to be used against and in favor of the person who is affected by a diagnosed mental health condition.

The use of mental health conditions as an excuse to explain behaviour has become a problem since people have begun to use it as a weapon to avoid taking responsibility for one’s behaviour.

Let us take a look at what depression is and how people can use it as a weapon.

Depression

Depression is a mood disorder that involves a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It consists of episodes of depressive moods during which the symptoms last for at least 2 weeks.

Common symptoms of depression that can be debilitating include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness 
  • Feelings of irritability or restlessness
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, or being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in appetite
  • Physical pains and aches that do not ease even with treatment
  • Suicide attempts or thoughts of death or suicide

There are many possible causes, and sometimes, various factors combine to trigger symptoms such as: 

  • Genetic features
  • Family history
  • Structural dysfunction of the brain
  • Imbalance in neurotransmitter levels
  • Environmental factors and life experiences such as trauma
  • Comorbid mental disorders
  • Loss and grief

Weaponization of mental health

Many people with mental illness report of behaviours that can impact their relationships and their life. For example, a person who has depression can be irritable and angry which might affect their relationship with their loved ones. 

Oftentimes, people with depression might also be unable to keep engagements due to their fatigue or fears and anxieties related to low self-esteem. These behaviors can make them unreliable as friends and partners. 

These behaviours can make them feel like they have no control and of course, they’re diagnosis is not their fault and they are in no way to be blamed for the fact that they are struggling to keep up with the world when they are fighting an illness. 

However, it has to be said that there are people who tend to use depression as an excuse to avoid responsibility for their behaviour. 

Sometimes, the symptoms of a person’s mental illness can make them behave in ways that are unkind- they might not consider other people’s feelings when they behave in ways that best preserves themselves. 

They might also be unaware of the fact that they use mental illness as an excuse to explain or rationalise their negative behaviours and when that happens, we consider that they are weaponsinsing their mental illness as a means to get what they want. 

For example, a student who is depressed and is unable to cope with their school work might use their depression as an excuse to get unconditional pardon and when this request is dismissed, they might lash out against the school as being insensitive to their pain. 

This maladaptive strategy to victimise one’s own self using their diagnosis can do more harm for themselves and the other people in the community that is also struggling with a mental illness. 

While these behaviours could be the best they can do to cope with their mental illness it does not mean that it is excusable as it can hurt other people as well. 

In order to prevent these maladaptive patterns of behaviour, let us take a moment to consider some of the ways that you could be weaponizing your mental illness. 

Ways you could be weaponizing depression

Some of the ways you could be using your mental illness as an excuse include:

Leveraging depression in the face of accusation

You could be leveraging experiences of depression to stop conversations which are difficult. When it could be issues related to your behaviours that could have harmed others you could be saying things like- “I am also struggling with a mental illness, how can i possible hurt you when i am hurting too”

When the conversation is about taking accountability of the hurt you might have caused by your behaviour, you could be using your diagnosis as a way to shut down the concerns of other people.

Crying or tearing up

While you might feel slighted when people confront you about your behaviour, you might be using your tears and other ways of expressing your distress to drown out theirs. 

These types of behaviour, that is done to garner pity and favor, can diffuse attempts at building community or holding each other accountable.

Using your depression as an explanation

If you apologise but use your depression as an excuse to your behavior then it is likely that you are not taking accountability for your behaviour. Your apology could sound something like: “I am sorry, I am depressed and I didnt know I was doing this to hurt you.”

Trauma and mental illness do not abdicate you from responsibility for your relationships with others. Even if you are struggling with depression, your illness does not excuse the behaviour and you cannot expect people to let it go just because you are struggling. 

Feigning ignorance

Another way you could be weaponizing your depression could be by saying something like “I don’t know why I did that or why I feel like this’  and alluding your thought process or your feelings and behaviours to your depressed and low moods, or your negative thought cycle. 

You might have behaved in ways that you did not realise were hurting but once you realise that it is maladaptive by the way other people have confronted you, feigning ignorance is not a healthy way to resolve it. 

Confronting without meaningful resolution

Another practice of weaponizing depression or mental illness is when we approach others with our grievances and then refuse to engage the other person meaningfully. 

While confronting those who hurt us is a part of healing, it becomes maladaptive when we call them out and then refuse to give them a chance to make things right. This eliminates the voice of the other person and is an abusive tactic which over time leads to toxic behavior.

How to stop weaponsing your depression

Here are some steps you can take to stop unhealthy behaviours that weaponize your depression:

Acknowledge 

If you think that you have noticed yourself doing some of the things listed above, take time to acknowledge that perhaps you are weaponizing your depression.

When we acknowledge, we do not judge ourselves for it so be mindful of the thoughts that label you negatively as you acknowledge your unhealthy behaviours of avoiding responsibility. 

Forgive yourself

Even when you are trying your hardest, there is still so much of you that is imperfect and that is okay. You are human and perhaps you were not even aware of what you were doing.

We all learn somehow and we all start somewhere. So forgive yourself of how you have been behaving even if it takes a look in the mirror and an apology in the silence of your own room. 

When you apologize to yourself for engaging in unhealthy behaviours such as this, it could be a way of acknowledging what you have been doing and open doors to acceptance. 

Make attempts to rectify your mistakes

The next thing you can do is make an effort to apologize to the people who have been affected by your behaviour. Apologizing shows that you are taking accountability for your behaviour.

You can apologise in ways that you find most comfortable, though a phone call, a message, and email, or a letter. You can start your apologise at a place where you are capable of. 

Let your apology show that you have become aware of what you have been doing and the hurt that you have caused without using depression as an excuse. 

Be mindful

The best thing you can do, after apologising, and to further take accountability is to make efforts to change your behaviour- to stop using depression as an excuse. 

To do that, you need to be mindful of the thoughts that arise when you feel cornered or stressed out. It also means being mindful of the things you say and the things you do to protect yourself. 

By being mindful, you take notice of what you are doing and you can change your behaviours gradually as you grow in taking accountability, 

Conclusion

In this article, we have discussed what are some of the ways you could be weaponsing your depression. We have also discussed how people tend to weaponize their mental illness and some steps you can take to stop these unhealthy behaviours. 

Reference

Medium.com

onlinelibrary.wiley.com

Frequently asked questions related to “Can depression be weaponized?”

What does weaponizing feelings mean?

Weaponizing feelings is a maladaptive way to deal with stressors and confrontations. It is a way of avoiding accountability of what you do and say when you are overwhelmed with your emotions which might have hurt other people.

It is almost a manipulative technique to cope with the stress of being confronted by directing blame on others for hurting our feelings. 

Is it OK to use mental health as an excuse?

Mental health is not something we can use to justify poor behavior; it must not be used as an avoidance tactic.

The person with mental illness needs to take responsibility and take accountability if their behaviour has impacted someone else negatively.  Avoiding responsibility will just make poor behavior become normal because they can get away with it.

Is mental health a reason to miss school?

Mental health conditions can be a reason for both lengthy and recurrent absences. It can impact a student’s performance and ability to engage in school related activities.

It is a valid concern to look into if you notice your child or a student who has been missing classes.

Is anxiety an excuse for bad behavior?

Unmanaged illnesses such as anxiety can lead us to engage in unhealthy behaviours, causing us to behave in ways that don’t align with our values or true characters. 

While it is a valid reason and cause for dysfunction, unfortunately, mental illness doesn’t evaporate the consequences of our actions.

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