Dealing With Criticism When You have Mental Health Challenges

I want to touch on something that I feel is important, especially in today’s society as the internet grows and continues to bring forth a verity of interactions with many types of diverse individuals. These experiences can be both positive and negative. Most humans in today’s modern age have all been effected by ‘troll’s or judgment from others through online social media at one point or another. Contrary to my Instagram account, which has been a primarily positive experience, a recent message I received on this blog was actually not a kind one; rudely pointing out simple errors on a blog that I have just barely begin to learn how to utilize. This happened within my first week of creating this website, though luckily most comments back have been positive after that. People are entitled to their opinions, and I appreciate feedback, but I want to use this situation as a learning experience, and I want to explain and discuss how these types of experiences tie into various mental health diagnosis and how these types of scenarios affect people with mental health challenges both in the short term and long term:

              First off I want to specify that neurotypical as well as neuroatypical individuals can make mistakes and can feel defeated when they receive negative feedback, even if it is due to simple online commentary. Humans are not perfect in nature and we all have struggles. It is important to remain humble and recognize this fact. We need to try to remember we are talking to other humans that exist on the other side of these screens, even though we feel detached. We need to be aware and remember not to place too much judgment on others for mistakes they make, because this does not lead to positive encouragement and does not help our society flourish. It sadly often leads to feeling of defeat and a lack of motivation. We need to evaluate how our sentences will be taken by the other party and evaluate the usefulness of our wording when we want to express our feelings toward a certain event.

How does negative feedback impact mental illness?

              I touched previously on ADHD and how it effects executive functioning. This ‘disorder’ is directly related to attention to detail and one’s ability to even notice detailed tasks. This can be over-come but it is not strange or abnormal that a person with this diagnosis would miss simple grammatical errors. Small detail work can be difficult for those with underlying conditions that impact cognitive functioning, this can also apply to those with autism since their diagnosis is often co-morbid ( together) with ADHD. Most of these individuals are also self-aware that this happens and it is already a frustrating event for them. They are often their own worst critics.

             On the contrary, if someone has depression or an anxiety disorders and even PTSD, experiences this behavior from others this can lead to negative thinking and spiraling down into negative thought patterns leading to self-defeat and avoidance behaviors because they feel as though they will fail if they try again. Unfortunately depression often tricks our minds into catastrophizing, which is when someone creates “ a mountain out of a mole hill” as my grandmother use to say. This is when our minds turn on us, turning simple negative scenarios into larger ones, and it tricks us into thinking something is a lot more awful and ‘un-fixable’ than it actually it is. This can happen more easily when people experience feelings of rejection from their peers and it is important to remember that often times people with negative self-doubt isolate themselves away in real life, turning to the internet for support before they make life decisions, so negative words can cause a lot of internal conflict and stress leading them to stop whatever it was they were doing, and simply never picking it back up again.

              Taking various forms of criticism can be a difficult task for anyone but can be worse for those with mental health challenges. There are specific reasons for this; much of the time they are already dealing with various internalized struggles, and trying to fit into a society that often doesn’t understand their behavior, diagnosis and or symptoms. There is an inherently negative stigma toward those with any form of mental health diagnosis. This can cause them to feel as though they are fighting an uphill battle already in every day life. This, however, does not mean they do not want to fit in and feel ‘normal’(if normal existed). This simply means their symptoms make it harder for them to fit in to a specific mold within our society; so when they branch out and try to do things either online or in their daily life with their internal goals and passions, they run a higher risk of receiving harsher criticism and negative feedback from those who simply do not understand the struggles they go through, and then run an increased risk of feeling deeply emotional about what was said to them. Our society typically operates in a way that is made for those who are more neurotypical and dont have the daily task of trying to seem “normal” or “fine” constantly. Neurodiversity, however,  is common, and yet we find ourselves struggling to understand each-others differences on a most basic level. It can be difficult especially when society hasn’t set people up with the proper tools to heal and work past their symptoms.

So? What can be done about this? We need to teach our children first and foremost to be sensitive to diversity and the needs of others, ultimately breeding compassion for our fellow man. This should be done not only by parents but also the school system. Children spend countless hours in class per day, having ways of instilling empathy at an early age through the school system could greatly influence positive behavior when going into adulthood. Our children are sponges. They look to adults to teach them how to behave through creating various habits. Positive encouragement is important, and teaching them to put themselves in ‘other peoples shoes’ so to speak is an important life-skill that helps develop healthy communication and empathy. We need to be able to learn empathy in order to give empathy to others.

However, it is important to note that criticism and negative feedback is not something that will ever be completely avoided so we also need to evaluate if our responses and reactions and ensure they are healthy or useful to the situation at hand and then decide what we should do if they are not. Should we re-frame? Should we talk to our therapist or a friend about it? Who can we reach out to for support? Also, It is okay to block someone if they are becoming toxic, and it is okay to leave a conversation if they are not helping you in a way that you need at that time. We can also re-word the statements in ours minds in order to receive the feedback in a more constructive way. One example would be if someone said to you; ” I think your clothes are ugly”; you could walk away from that person and change the wording in your mind; “I am not a fan of the way you put your outfit together” and evaluate why that person may have said what they did and evaluate why it came off so rude. Did they mean for it to be rude? This does not excuse their behavior, it just beaks through that negative feedback loop stopping the spiral and turning it into something more positive with resolve.
When I personally am upset I also find myself looking for positive helpful outlets that can help me re-frame my state of mind and work toward a more positive mindset. Usually, for me, this means TED talks and inspirational YouTube videos. It is also important to note that most famous people and most celebrities have had negative feedback and some form of uphill battle at some point in their lives. They are not any different than you or I. Don’t lose your motivation over some negativity because I assure you, you can do whatever you set your mind to.

What are some things you do when someone gives less than positive feedback?

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