Mental Illness Is Not an Excuse to Be Unkind

August 12, 2021 Annabelle Clawson

I wish I could say that my poor mental health doesn't affect my social life and relationships, but unfortunately, it does. Sometimes, my mental illness makes me unkind, and it's embarrassing to be the one always canceling plans, leaving texts unanswered, and occasionally lashing out at friends and family.

A major pitfall that I've found myself falling into is blaming my negative behaviors on my mental illness, so much so that I deflect responsibility for hurting others' feelings. Mental illness becomes an excuse for being unkind. Allow me to explain what this looks like.

Mental Illness, My Excuse for Being Unkind

Say that I prefer corner tables at restaurants because my anxiety doesn't like to be surrounded by tons of people. I go out to lunch with a friend, who sits at the first table they see. It's right in the middle of the restaurant, and I'm too embarrassed to ask for something else, so I sit down, too. But then, in the back of my mind, resentment for my friend grows. And by the end of the lunch date, I'm hardly speaking, leaving my friend hurt and confused.

They ask me what's wrong, and I respond, "You shouldn't have picked this table because it's really made my anxiety spike."

Then they say, "I'm so sorry, I had no idea!"

But this doesn't feel like enough to make up for the pain I'm in, and my mind and heart are racing, so I leave the restaurant without another word.

All-day long, I hang onto the resentment. Because I'm allowed to, right? It's my anxiety; I just can't control it. Later, my friend calls me and says, "Can we talk about what happened today? The way that you stormed out made me upset."

I can't believe how inconsiderate they're being. 

I say, "Well, it wasn't me; it was my anxiety."

Try to Be Better at Taking Responsibility

Now, I didn't handle that all too well, but here's the main mistake that I made: I failed to take responsibility for my actions. While a mental illness diagnosis can be helpful in describing why you do something, that diagnosis stops being helpful when used as an excuse for treating others badly. Having a mental illness doesn't take away your responsibility to be kind.

Don't get me wrong here. Mental illness seeps into every aspect of your life, especially your relationships. So, of course, when you're in a bad mental state, you might ignore or snap at someone else. It's tough to control those behaviors, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't apologize and try to be better. 

Your support people do a lot of adapting to help you. You can show your appreciation for your friends and family by spelling out your needs for them and taking responsibility for unkindness. Together, you can figure out a way to communicate about your mental illness.

APA Reference
Clawson, A. (2021, August 12). Mental Illness Is Not an Excuse to Be Unkind, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Annabelle Clawson

Find Annabelle on Facebook, Instagram and her personal blog.

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