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What Mental Illness ‘Looks’ Like

I think there’s a fairly common misconception that mental illness can be ‘seen’ or looks a certain way. This isn’t the case. People can be going through so much and you would never know by looking at them. Mental illness doesn’t ‘look’ a certain way and it’s vital that we raise awareness of this where we can.

Mental illness varies so much

I know that sometimes on my worst days, I do my makeup and hair to try and help myself feel a bit better and therefore I don’t ‘look’ depressed or anxious. I am a fairly positive person in general; I can be laughing and smiling and feel horrible inside. Mental illness has so many varying symptoms and varies so much in severity and in how it affects each individual; no one person experiences things in exactly the same way. It can even vary in an individual so much from day to day or even by the hour.

It doesn’t all look the same

Depression doesn’t always look like someone crying or lying in bed.  Anxiety doesn’t always look like someone having a panic attack or being completely unable to function. People can be high functioning and still struggling, this doesn’t mean that they are not going through a difficult time.

Putting a ‘face’ on for the rest of the world

Some people can deliberately put on a ‘face’ to the rest of the world if they are private people or because they don’t want everyone else to know what’s happening with them. Unfortunately, people can be less than sympathetic about mental illness at times, so not everyone is going to be open about what is happening: instead, they may try to make it less obvious. Sometimes we want to look as ‘normal’ as possible for our loved ones or those around us, so that they are not constantly worrying about us. Getting on with things the best we can is sometimes a way of coping. Whatever the reason, whether people’s symptoms are very obvious or completely ‘hidden’, it doesn’t make their struggles any less valid or any less real.

Raising awareness

I asked some of my twitter friends to participate in this by sending pictures in which they were going through a really hard time but you wouldn’t know it by looking at them. Some of them were kind enough to share their experiences to try and help raise awareness.

“Anxiety, fibromyalgia pain and sadness. Before going out for a night out. All hidden, so I didn’t bring others down.”


“On this day I had severe joint pain, chronic anxiety and I was in excruciating pain. “


“I don’t know if this girl looks like she was having night terrors and crying under the covers so that her roommates wouldn’t hear. I do know I survived living with the type of people who made fun of me for it. “


“This was one of the hardest days I had last year. I did my make up to try to help myself. It didn’t work.”


This is me a couple of days ago when I was going through one of the hardest days I’ve had in a long time.

Just by looking at someone you don’t know what they are going through and it’s important to remember this and to be kind to others as you never know what’s happening behind closed doors or in their mind.


What Mental Illness ‘Looks’ Like

Ann-Marie D'Arcy-Sharpe

I am 32 years old. I live in Glasgow, Scotland UK with my husband and lots of lovely pets. I battle with Bipolar Disorder, fibromyalgia and arthritis. You can find my YouTube Channel here and you can also follow me on Twitter, here.

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APA Reference
D'Arcy-Sharpe, A. (2019). What Mental Illness ‘Looks’ Like. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Feb 2019
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