My Take on the Fear of Recovery

I was reading an article on Psychology Today entitled “Fear of Recovery” (link:, and while what I read initially surprised me, the more I thought about it, it really shouldn’t have.

The article discusses how some people with mental illnesses such as depression or bipolar disorder actually have a fear of getting better, even though their ultimate goal is to become better, because the feelings of their illness have become familiar to them.  It goes without saying that the unknown is a scary thing for all of us, but what was surprising to me was that the unknown, even if it’s supposed to be an improvement or more coveted than our current predicament, can still scare us to the point that we’d rather stay with the status quo.

I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised by it though.  This sort of mentality explains why people remain in relationships when they’re not happy or not truly in love with their partner, even though living the single lifestyle would bring them more joy and fulfillment.  Or why people never seek that promotion at work which would bring them a higher salary, and further life and career satisfaction.

Really, what came as the real shocker to me here was the fact that living a life that’s better than your current predicament, even if that future life is unknown, is still scary enough for someone to want to retain their habits of fearing change.

Maybe it’s the fear of the unknown.  But maybe there’s a fear of failure at not accomplishing your goal. Maybe those that are afraid of getting better are actually afraid of being unable to get better, regardless of how hard they try to.  Personally, I think it all comes down to your mental habits.  If you allow yourself to think that the unknown is a frightening place, or if you allow yourself to think that failure means you suck, then you won’t reach your desired level of life fulfillment.  You have to accept and understand that the unknown (usually) isn’t going to be as scary you imagine it in your mind.

But maybe it comes down to feeling overwhelmed, and perceiving the need for a major change instead of taking things one step at a time.  Personally, while I love my life, I still strive to improve my life on a daily basis, whether it’s saving a few extra dollars here or there, making better dietary choices, working out longer/harder, or maintaining or improving my productivity at work. But I look at things in small steps.  I look at the proximal goal, instead of the distal goal, because when I do that I lose sight of my current smaller goal and predicament, and I feel less engaged in the present process when I focus on the distal goal.

It’s interesting how this “reaction paper” to an article on why people fear overcoming their mental illness turned into me discussing that it comes down to the perception of your goals in life.  I didn’t plan that when I started writing this, but then my mind began wandering a bit.  So maybe what’s buried in the fear of the unknown is the fear of not liking your future as much as you like your present, regardless of how much you dislike your present predicament.


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