Mental Illness Doesn’t Excuse Behavior


“Don’t blame me! My mental illness made me do it.”

“I wasn’t in control of myself, my mental illness was.”

“Why would you blame me when I have [mental illness here]?”

“It’s abusive to hold someone me accountable when I am mentally ill.”


Well. I have heard all of these before. And if someone ever tells you this, I recommend to really assess the situation between you and the other person, and then create distance. You don’t deserve to be responsible for anyone but yourself.

I struggled with mental illness when I was younger (depression and PTSD). I have mentally ill family members (addiction and Type I Bipolar Disorder.) I had mentally ill partners (Borderline Personality Disorder and psychopathy).. While they were mentally ill, they were still always responsible for their behavior. Emotions can be intense for those who are mentally ill, and when combined with poor impulse control it can lead to being destructive. That’s understandable. It is very sad to see people struggle this way.

However, they are responsible for themselves (with very few exceptions). Emotions can be tolerated. Impulses can be restrained. It’s certainly not easy for them, as it often requires therapy and/or medication to make progress in those areas. But it is kind of a choice for a person to lose complete control over their behavior.

If a person was about to freak the hell out on another, there are options before doing so. He could leave the room. He could distract or soothe himself. He can try to communicate to the other person how he is feeling. But exploding at another, or having an out of control outburst, is inexcusable. Understandable, yes. Sad, yes. Ok? No.

It’s hard to even want to make people who struggle with mental illness responsible for their problems. They obviously lead harder lives, and it may feel like pointing fingers at the victim. Part of me sometimes feels the same way. Yet as I mentioned, there are always alternatives to being out of control.

Mental illness is a single aspect of a person. Only a small part of them. It can have a large impact on their lives, but it doesn’t make all the decisions. If anything, it gives tendencies to be easily overwhelmed by emotions and impulses. Everyone has a chance to get better and change their behavior.

What excuses I listed at the top were said to me when the person was either feeling guilty/ashamed/afraid of their behavior or if they were adverse to recovery. It may have also been manipulation or even what they truly believed. I learned not to accept them. I can interpret the excuses to try to understand where they’re coming from, but it isn’t a justification for their treatment towards me.

My major point is if someone who is mentally ill tells those excuses, you must urge them to get help and keep your distance. You don’t need to be, nor deserve to be, made to feel like you’re responsible for the other person.

You can love them. You can spend time with them. But it doesn’t benefit anyone if you don’t hold them accountable for their behavior by blaming yourself instead.



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