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Mental Illness Puts Thoughts in Your Head -- Judging Them

February 8, 2022 Natasha Tracy

Mental illness puts thoughts in your head. The fact that mental illness puts thoughts in your head is pretty much the definition of most mental illnesses. If it wasn't for the unhealthy thoughts and feelings that we have, we wouldn't be sick. And just like everyone, we tend to judge our own thoughts and feelings -- even if they're illness-generated. Moreover, the judgment of our own thoughts and feelings often gets translated as a judgment of ourselves. For example, if we judge our thoughts and feelings as unacceptable, then we may feel that we are unacceptable. So, let's take a look at mental illness putting thoughts in our head and how we judge those thoughts.

What Thoughts Does Mental Illness Put in Our Heads?

The thoughts that mental illness puts in your head depend on the specific illness(es) you have. For example, in bipolar disorder, sometimes your thoughts will resolve around depression. These thoughts could be things like:

The thoughts put into your head by bipolar will also sometimes be around mania or hypomania. These thoughts could be things like:

  • I am a god.
  • God is talking to me.
  • I am better than everyone else.
  • I'm a genius.
  • Everyone is slow and irritating.
  • Life is great.

Judging Thoughts Mental Illness Puts in Your Head

The above examples of thoughts that mental illness puts in your head are of the more extreme variety, but if you know mental illness, you know that the thoughts it spawns are many and varied. At some point, you will likely find yourself thinking about the thoughts that mental illness puts in your head. You might think to yourself, "Why would I think such patently untrue thoughts? Obviously, I'm not a god. Obviously, I'm not a genius. I'm clearly crazy for thinking these things."

(Where I've put the word "crazy," you can insert any judgment you like.)

In short, we tend to judge ourselves harshly for these thoughts when not in an acute mood episode. This is especially true if our thoughts have led to harmful actions such as a suicide attempt. 

The Problem with Judging the Thoughts Mental Illness Puts in Your Head

The trouble with this type of harsh judgment is that it just makes you feel bad about yourself. You tend to feel bad and guilty for thoughts that were not your own. You tend to beat yourself up because of thoughts put into your head by a mental illness.

What's clear to me is that my brain and my mind as separate. My brain is an organ, a thinking machine. All it does is think all day long. And I can't control the way that organ works any more than I can change how my heart works. Thoughts come, thoughts go, and there's nothing I can do about it. And unfortunately, when acutely ill, these thoughts become unreasonable and unhealthy. But the fact that this is the case is not my fault. It is an illness that is affecting an organ in my body. I can't control that. (I can, of course, control what I choose to do with those thoughts, but that's another issue.)

I know it's important not to judge these things, these thoughts, I can't control. I'm well aware that some bipolar thoughts are unhealthy, negative, and even extremely disturbing. I know that. But while we may be disturbed or upset by them -- and that's okay -- I need to watch them without judgment in order to move forward. Beating myself up sticks me in the mud. And I continue to get dirty and feel terrible in that mud until we\\I let go of the judgment.

Don't Judge the Thoughts Mental Illness Puts in Your Head

So, the next time you're experiencing or remembering thoughts or feelings caused by mental illness, try not to judge them. Mental illness will put thoughts in your head, and there's nothing you can do about that, but you can decrease the harm by not adding negative judgment on top of the thoughts. You are not to blame for your thoughts. Mental illness is.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2022, February 8). Mental Illness Puts Thoughts in Your Head -- Judging Them, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, June 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2022/2/mental-illness-puts-thoughts-in-your-head-judging-them



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Lizanne Corbit
February, 8 2022 at 3:10 pm

This is such an important distinction to make and realize: "Moreover, the judgment of our own thoughts and feelings often gets translated as a judgment of ourselves." I think we do this (in a different but similar way) with feelings. We see them as ourselves instead of something we're experiencing. Another wonderful piece, Natasha.

February, 15 2022 at 8:08 am

Hi Lizanne,
Thank you for the kind words. And you're right, people do it with feelings all the time. It's hard to see feelings as experiences rather than as expressions of ourselves. It's important to learn how to do this, however.
- Natasha Tracy

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