In this article, we will talk about how people that are going through mental illness can sometimes have trouble looking for help and might feel like they don’t want to get better and how it can be related to the notion that the suffering you are going through is a suffering that is already known.
Why don’t I want to get better?
When a person is suffering, people assume that they would want to be free of it as fast as they can. And that can be true, but not to everyone, and not all the time. Let’s discuss some reasons why people find it hard to look for help.
Be afraid of the change
In some circumstances, it might be hard to think about looking for help because the suffering the person is in might be known, but what they might discover about themselves through treatment, might be even scarier.
Of course, this fear is based on a fantasy, and imagining what is deep inside them might be worse than suffering, but fear can paralyze people in such ways. In that sense, one might say that a person’s defense mechanism is preventing them from looking for help, even though we might express the conscious desire to change.
The payoff from stressful situations
In situations of suffering some people might experience a sort of benefit from it, this is called the secondary gain. It is related to what benefits you can get because you are suffering.
It can be more attention from friends and family, more love. The person in pain might not realize they are making this decision of staying the same because of what they might be getting from it, but subconsciously that might be a reason to not wanting to get better.
Create meaning for suffering
Some people may not want to get better because they found meaning in the pain they are experiencing. Religion is often related to this reason. It might give a cause to why people are suffering that it may be enough for them.
In this way, suffering might even not hurt as much, once a person gives meaning to it, it might be a way to lessen the pain.
You think you don’t deserve to get better
When someone is experiencing mental illnesses, such as depression, they might have a decreased sense of self-worth, with that comes a notion that you might not be worth the improvement.
That can be a paralyzing thought. It can be a line of thought that can even lead one to suicide because it is connected to the idea that you don’t have anything positive to bring to the world.
You can think your suffering is actually protecting you
If someone is going through anxiety, they might have a constant fear of something happening to them, if they accept the fear that is put on them by anxiety, they might not want to get better, because they might think it will put them at risk.
What can be taken from all this?
What is important through all that was said is to understand that the person who is experiencing suffering might think and say they want to get help. But sometimes, inside them, despite them even knowing, they might be refusing to get better.
This might be something hard for people to witness, but it is important to be patient and understand that looking for help is a process, people might swing from days that they are determined to do it, to others like it just might feel it is not worth it, that the pain they are going through is already so familiar, that it might be easier to just adjust and accept it.
If someone you know is going through that, try to be patient and support them, offer to be with them in the search for help, and accompany them through it. Help them set small goals for their improvement, little things that they can put in their routines that will give them a sense, even if fleeting, of well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Why don’t I want to get better?
Is depression a choice?
No, depression is not a choice. It affects around 5% of the world’s population, showing it is a common mental illness. It is also a very serious one. Depression has different types, and also different intensities, but people that have it are all impacted by a sense of intense sadness and lack of purpose, hope, and perspective, and it can get to a point that the person might even contemplate suicide.
It is an illness that can impair a person’s life in many forms. Sometimes, depressed people can even have trouble doing everyday activities like getting out of bed or taking a shower. There is a misconception that people that are depressed got like that because they went through one life episode, or that they should just be happy.
But it doesn’t work like that. A depressed person, although sometimes they try, won’t stop being depressed just by will. It takes time, even when they look for treatment, which only half of the people with depression do, it is a slow process. With that, it is important to know that although some people might have a better chance of developing depression, it can happen to anyone, and can be caused by multiple things.
Why does it seem that I keep on seeking sadness?
Although it might seem that people with depression might be choosing to be sad, it isn’t like that. Research has shown that people with depression might have trouble in the process of regulating their emotions. They regulate it, but they tend to do it in a direction that reinforces their negative mood.
This is something that can easily be observed in people with depression. You can see that people with depression tend to, most of the time, focus on the negative aspects of a situation. This can happen because a depressed person needs to reaffirm their sadness and also because people with depression might think they don’t deserve to be happy.
So it is not that a person is seeking happiness, there are emotional reactions that are part of a depressed person, that may be giving you mostly sad information, that might be changed through treatment.
How can I learn to control my emotions?
Learning how to deal with your emotions will help you not feel so out of control when some things happen to you. To do that, there are a few steps that can help you deal with your emotions better.
The first thing one should do is embrace the feelings and emotions they experience. People used to think they should pretend to not feel emotions, but that is the complete opposite. Wounds from unaddressed emotions tend to only get worse, causing the person to look for unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol.
So it is important to allow yourself to feel and name your emotions, you may feel more than one at a time, but putting a label on it can help you understand how each of them affects you, and how you can deal with it.
Try not to answer so quickly to what your emotions are telling you. If you feel anxious, for example, it might mean that you will decide all of your actions through the anxiety lens. The important thing is to try and separate how you feel, to what actions you will take, separate the fantasy of it, from what is going on.
Discover what things work as a mood booster for you. When we are sad, we sometimes tend to just want to wallow. Instead, it might be good to find things that will help you feel better. It can be calling a friend, doing some exercise, or meditating.
Understand that recognizing and dealing with your emotions is something that needs to be in constant practice, be open to it, understand how volatile emotions can be, and embrace them.
Is turning off my feelings a mental illness?
No, turning off your feelings, in itself is not a mental
Illness, but it can be a sign of some mental disorders. It can make you avoid people, have difficulty empathizing with others, and lose contact with people.
This can happen because a person went through some traumatic experience, but it can also be something done on purpose as a way to distance oneself from an overwhelming situation.
The emotional detachment is not, in itself, a mental illness, but some mental illnesses can bring this detachment as a symptom. It can happen if a person has depression, Bipolar Disorder, some Personality disorders, and in people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
What is Apathy?
Apathy is what a person feels when they lack the motivation to do anything or they just don’t care what is going on around them. It can be a sign of mental illness. Although it might be similar to the feeling of depression, apathy might be a symptom of depression.
There are some signs that a person is feeling apathy. They tend to not have the energy to do everyday things, turning to other people to plan the activities for them. They lose the desire to learn new things and live new experiences, and they might not care when good or bad things happen.
Apathy is related to the frontal part of the brain, so it can be found in people going through dementia, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Aside from those, it can be present in people with depression, schizophrenia, and stroke.
It is diagnosed through a doctor’s evaluation, and to cope with it, it might be important to put yourself through situations of doing things you love or being with people that are close to you. It is important to set yourself small goals and reward yourself when you manage to do something.
In this article, it was discussed why people that are usually going through a mental illness find it hard to look for help and sometimes might even say that they don’t want to get better.
The article showed how this can be related to a lack of hope, but it can also be related to staying in a situation that is already known, instead of going through something new.
If you have questions or comments about this article, feel free to write it in the section below.
Fahed M, Sttefens DC. Apathy: Neurobiology, Assessment and Treatment. Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci. 2021 May 31; 19(2): 181–189.
Davidhizar R. The pursuit of illness for secondary gain. Health Care Superv. 1994 Sep;13(1):10-5. PMID: 10172109.