Above is one of 8 monsters, drawn by Toby Allen, to depict a mental illness. The monsters include Anxiety, Depression, Paranoia, Social Anxiety, Avoidant Personality Disorder, Borderline personality Disorder, Schizophrenia, & Dissociative Identity Disorder. Each monster includes a description of the monster in question.
Below is the description for the monster of Anxiety: “The anxiety monster is small enough to sit on its victim’s shoulder and whisper things into their unconscious, eliciting fearful thoughts and irrational worries [This can be associated with an individual’s development of self-soothing behaviors or extreme compulsions in order to ward off one’s irrational fears]. The anxiety monster is often seen as weak in comparison to others but it is one of the most common and is very hard to get rid of [This pertains to anxiety as a common comorbid disorder with depression and social anxiety disorder, to name a few]. They often carry a small objects linked to their victim’s anxieties, which represent a common but irrational fear of things that may never happen [Hence the clock that the Anxiety monster, is carrying in the picture]. No one has ever seen the face of the anxiety monster for it always wears a skull as a mask.”
The Depression monster’s description states: “The Depression monster floats around endlessly, always covering his eyes to hide itself from the outside world. Because of this, it always bumps into people or into other monsters causing more stress to itself each time [This is pointing to depression’s comorbidity with other mental illnesses such as anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide]. Its only relief is to wrap its fluid tail around a victim and share its depression with them [This can be associated with the impact that depression has on interpersonal relationships]. The victim is unaware of the monster but will register a heaviness and will develop a state of deep depression. Meanwhile, the monster absorbs any positive emotion from its host until it has had its fill and moves onto another host.
In my opinion, the artist’s visual and linguistic depictions of the mental illness are on point with how the illnesses are manifested and internalized in those that experience the cognitive or affect disorder. The descriptions of the monsters also contain aspects of the diagnostic criteria of the illness, which can assist in providing psycho-education to those unfamiliar with the disorder.
What does your mental illness or greatest fear look like?
Click on this link, Mental Illness Monsters to view the additional seven monsters.