Wishing I Were Mentally Ill

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I have this strange obsession with mental disorders. Everything I do I relate to myself having some sort of illness. I know that I must have depression, because no matter what I do those feelings of helplessness towards myself keep coming back. But I don’t know what I have, really. Most people are afraid of going insane, and they think “I’m not crazy!” when they’re in my place: lost, alone, depressed, suicidal, and self injuring. But with me, I WANT to go crazy, I WANT to see/hear things that aren’t there. The simple thought of being schizophrenic (which is my favorite mental disease) just makes me smile ear to ear. I love hospitals, and have this great desire to be in one. I want to be sick, and I know that’s horrible, but I can’t help it. I had a dream that I was in an ambulance, being raced to the hospital, and I woke up smiling. The thought of having problems is this huge thing for me. I get all sorts of books on mental illness and psychology. Just today I was thinking, “Am I obsessed with going insane? But then does that make me insane already? Can I just not deal with the fact that I’m sane? But then all these other symptoms I have, does that make me insane…?”

I just have no idea what’s wrong with me, if anything is wrong with me. But that’s just it, I can’t fathom that nothing’s wrong with me. Would you have any idea what I should do?
Oh, but you should also know, that I’ve been recommended for therapy by my school counselor for cutting myself, and to speak the truth I’d love to go to therapy, but I say I don’t want to. It’s like I want people to decide what to do with me. I don’t know what that is either.
Help, please?

A. There must be some part of you that is starved for attention. That’s the only logical rationale behind why you’d want to have a mental illness or to be hospitalized. Maybe you believe that if you were hospitalized you’d have many people concerned about you. There might be teams of doctors caring and looking after you. Your parents or family would likely be involved too. You may see hospitalization as a form of “guaranteed attention.” Perhaps that is your goal.

Your deep desire for attention has turned into an obsession. The desire to be sick may be related to a disorder called Munchausen syndrome. Individuals with this disorder not only desire to be ill but they actually pretend that they are. Many even undergo risky or painful tests and treatments for their fictitious disorders in order to receive sympathy and attention. This is not the type of behavior you’re currently engaged in. The concern is that in the future you may progress from wishing you were ill to actually pretending that you are or doing something to make yourself ill.

You wrote about schizophrenia being your “favorite” mental illness. You say that you “want” to experience delusions and hallucinations. No one who had schizophrenia or knew anyone with the disease would have this desire. You must be unaware of the fact that schizophrenia is one of the most debilitating mental illnesses that exists. It’s treatable and people can get better but there is no cure. Individuals who have the disorder say that it’s “hell on earth.” No one who was thinking clearly or knew anything about it would want this disease nor would they wish that they could experience any of its terrifying symptoms.

It’s normal to want attention. Children need attention and when it’s not given they might act out inappropriately to get it. Teenagers need attention too. If they do not get it they too may misbehave. Individuals who are physically or emotionally neglected may go to great lengths to get noticed. I suspect the cutting behavior you’ve engaged in and your desire to be ill are misguided attempts to gain attention and sympathy from your caregivers. It’s human nature to need and want attention but it shouldn’t come at the expense of harming yourself.

You want to attend therapy but when presented with the opportunity, you lie and say you don’t want to go. Why do you do this? If you have the chance to receive help then you should take it. You are engaging in self-harm and it needs to be treated. The desire to have a mental illness or to be hospitalized also is something that desperately needs to be addressed in counseling. A counselor can help you find more appropriate ways to ease your emotional pain. You are clearly suffering and your thinking is distorted but these things are correctable. The next time you are offered the chance for counseling make the very smart decision of saying yes.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Apr 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Wishing I Were Mentally Ill. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/04/20/wishing-i-was-mentally-ill/

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