Why Does Mental Illness Recovery Feel So Scary?

October 3, 2022 Laura A. Barton

No matter how much someone covets mental illness recovery, some part of it feels scary. My struggles with mental health started when I was very young, and there were years and years when I was desperate for recovery—but I was also terrified of it. From what I’ve seen, my experience and feelings are not uncommon, so I want to take a closer look at that.

Reasons Recovery from Mental Illness Can Be Scary

I’ve tried to narrow down some of the key reasons I was so scared of taking the steps toward recovery, even though I desperately wanted it. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. I didn’t know what life looked like beyond mental health struggles: Because my struggles started when I was so young, I didn’t know what life would look like in recovery. What if it was somehow worse?
  2. I didn’t know who I was apart from my mental illness: It’s common for mental illnesses to intertwine themselves with our identities because of how deeply they impact our lives. The idea of losing who I was frightened me.
  3. I worried it wouldn’t work and I’d fail: Quite simply, what if I couldn’t recover from my mental illnesses?

As you can see, it mainly boils down to uncertainty. No matter how much I craved the change, healing, and peace promised by mental illness recovery; I was most familiar with the struggle. I knew what to expect. I knew the brand of terrible I’d be faced with.

The potential for failure was also a big factor. I had this thought that if whatever method I chose for mental health recovery didn’t work, then it meant I was even more messed up than I thought I was. This may surprise some, but as much as I write about and promote hope, I’m very cautious with it. I don’t like to get my hopes up because there have been too many times where I’ve done that only for them to be dashed. (That’s a discussion for another time.)

Identifying Why You Feel Scared of Mental Illness Recovery Helps

There are probably dozens more reasons people could come up with for fear of recovering from mental illness. We’re individuals with our own back stories that contribute to how we feel about approaching recovery.

I didn’t do this when I started approaching recovery, but hindsight is 20/20, and, looking back, I think identifying these fears is an important part of the process. Feeling scared is one thing. Being able to identify why we feel scared helps us understand and begin to work through those fears and ultimately take steps toward mental illness recovery.

APA Reference
Barton, L. (2022, October 3). Why Does Mental Illness Recovery Feel So Scary?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Laura A. Barton

Laura A. Barton is a fiction and non-fiction writer from Ontario, Canada. Find her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and Goodreads.

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