Personality and Mental Illness – A Personal Perspective

This is a topic I had never really given much thought to, until I realised how severely my personality effects my mental illness, which I then discussed with my psychiatrist which led to one of the most interesting conversations I have ever had. Before I begin, I would like to immediately point out that my personality is not the cause of my mental illness and although there may be a link between the two, your personality is in no way responsible for your mental illness as any individual, regardless of their personality, can become mentally ill.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get started. I’ve always thought about how mental illness effects myself and my personality rather than looking at it the other way, and when you do look at it the other way, you realise that there is far more involved than you originally thought.

I’ve always been very sure and comfortable in who I am, and through meditation and mindfulness I have gained a deep understanding of myself and my personality, as well as my illness. Which is what eventually lead to discovering the link between my personality and my illness, therefore allowing me to notice how my personality impacts my mental illness. This is an extremely interesting concept, and to understand this in the same way that my psychiatrist discussed the topic, I’m going to give you a general idea of both my personality and mental illness, and then discuss the link between the two. However, this article may be vaguer than I wish it to be, and for that reason I will go over this in a lot of depth at some point in the future.

Just like everyone, I have both bad and good sides to my personality, in order to provide a clear picture I will discuss both the positive and negative sides to my personality, as well as an objective perspective of the person I am in general. If you were to see me standing in the street without knowing me, the first thing that would come into your head would be ‘hippie’ or possibly ‘eccentric’, as it is a part of human nature to prejudge. However, this would give you an immediate idea of who I am, even if it is an assumption, I’d have to say it’s fairly accurate.  I am a friendly and outgoing person, I absolutely love nature and spirituality, and I am fairly confident. I’m very sure of myself in what I say, think, do, and believe. I have found that initially most people find this intimidating but soon realise that although I am very sure of myself, I’m also open minded and like to debate and discuss almost anything. I live by the rule of no regrets, so I tend to take a lot of risks and be quite careless when it comes to myself. As I put it to my psychiatrist, “I like to do the most dangerous things in the safest way possible”.

I am a very tolerant person, but when people push me over the edge I can get very angry very fast. Although I currently have it under control, I do have quite the habit of becoming self-destructive, which can obviously lead to problems for myself and also those who care for me. I have a super addictive personality and can become addicted to almost anything for any period of time, this includes food, drinks, hobbies, and substances. My love for drugs could be seen as a negative part of me, but that would depend on who you are. However, any drug use carried out by a person with a mental illness is clearly not a good idea, but I have found they have not caused any real harm to me, and the positives outweigh the negatives.

As I’ve mentioned before, I suffer from schizoaffective disorder, which to put simply, is the combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This means that I experience states of mania, depression, a mixture of both (mixed episode), and psychosis. I also suffer from severe insomnia which can appear during any of the previously mentioned states, as well as when I am ‘stable’. During these states I experience a variety of symptoms, which are both exaggerated by my personality and have the ability to further bring out different parts of my personality.

When I’m experiencing mania, racing thoughts and crazy ideas are to be expected, however they are further brought out by my knowledge of spirituality and my perspective of the world and how it works. This can lead my mind off on some lengthy tangent which will of course end up making no sense. As you feel 10ft tall and bullet proof when you’re manic, risk taking seems to be a brilliant idea at the time, no matter how risky it is. When I’m stable I take more than enough risks and am way too careless, this means that when I’m manic, the risks I take are no longer risks, they are simply insane. If it seems fun, I’ll do it. This soon leads to an increase of drug use, which is when my addictive personality can really get out of hand, particularly with stimulants. This is dangerous for obvious reasons. Although mania can feel euphoric at times, it can also lead to agitation and full on enragement, meaning that I can get to the point of being irate even quicker than when I’m stable.

Depression doesn’t tend to be affected as much by my personality in comparison to the other states, which I’m very thankful for. However, the parts that do exaggerate it can be quite harmful. Self-destruction along with my anger and violent (typically towards objects) side are what are exaggerated by my personality. Self-destruction has led to me putting myself in some pretty dangerous situations, self-harm, drug abuse and many more negative things. My lack of self-care can become much more prevalent when I am depressed. As I tend to abuse drugs, this can lead to addiction, particularly at this time as I’ll usually feel the need to keep taking whatever substance in order to feel better. However, my addictive personality can grasp on to almost anything when I am suffering from depression, if it’s satisfying, I’ll be addicted to it.

My personality fuels a lot of my symptoms when I’m psychotic. Particularly my delusions and paranoia, mainly due to the fact that my interests lie in eccentric subjects such as spirituality, conspiracy theories, mythology, sociology and psychology. Becoming involved with such subjects can spark off delusions when I am psychotic. Although I may be oblivious to it, my drug use will also likely contribute to the severity of my symptoms and how they present themselves.

As you can see, at times my mental illness and personality are the best of friends and work together quite well, although the combination of two can cause negative results, I would never change it. My mental illness is a part of me, and it has certainly made me who I am today, which is the one thing that I am thankful to my mental illness for. The link between a person’s personality and their mental illness is an extremely interesting concept to explore and comprehend, and I am glad I had the chance to have this conversation with my psychiatrist, as well as write this article.

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