The internet age, especially the reign of social media and the increasing prominence of pop-culture has brought with it the infamous ‘labelling culture’ and brought with it bouts of armchair psychologists. While we have willingly accepted and internalized the ‘Instagram trend’ of fixer-culture, it’s imperative now that we stand back and actually think about it. Can your well-meaning 3AM-therapist friend also be harmful to some extent? What’s wrong with armchair psychology? It’s time to deep dive.

Quite often, you have heard your ‘selfish’ roommate being called a ‘narcissist’ or your ‘socially-awkward’ friend being randomly labelled as ‘autistic’ within your friend circle. This is what we call as armchair psychology- jumping to labels and conclusions without understanding a person’s behavioural context or even being qualified enough or licensed to diagnose individuals with mental health labels. And this is going wrong in several ways.

When we talk about ‘armchair psychologists’, it refers to individuals who are not licensed to practice therapy or treat mental-health related issues, or in simple words, aren’t the professionals. This also includes your 3AM-therapist friend, as well. But you might say that your friend only means to give you ‘friendly advice’ but usually it isn’t true. As Gen-Zs inspired by Instagram culture, we often are swallowed by the ‘labelling culture’. Your so-called therapist friend also comes into a loop of inserting labels to your problems- “Stop being a psychopath”, “Don’t be so bipolar about stuff”, “You’re so possessive”, “So hyper-sensitive” or “so obsessive” yada yada yada.

Professional psychotherapists usually do not jump ahead and insert labels to issues. They go through several sessions, slowly analysing patterns and try to resolve individual aspects, rather than attaching labels to your personality. Giving mental health advice without formal training not only may push individuals to internalize those pseudo-labels and associate them to their problems but also may tend to neglect real mental health disorders. Armchair psychology leaves the other person out of the conversation, allowing you to put on your ‘judgy’-goggles and restricting their persona according to your own perspective. Not everybody you dislike is a “psychopath”, when you judge people so soon, it stops them from opening up about their struggles. They tend to internalize the fact that they are probably a ‘psychopath’ and that’s when the cycle of harm begins.

While the Instagram age has opened up more avenues to have open and honest conversations about mental health and but this has also opened doors to an influx of armchair-psychologists. Taking it upon yourself to speculate other people’s mental health can be damaging. Hushed conversations like “Your ex-boyfriend is a total narcissist” or calling out celebrities on twitter, the age of armchair therapists is troublesome nevertheless.

Armchair psychology can even go beyond labelling, it may seem like – diagnosing someone with a mental health condition (“You definitely have borderline personality disorder, all the symptoms are there!”), offering psychological advice (“The only way to get over your triggers is to face them head on”) or making judgement about someone’s personal psychology (“She had a traumatic childhood so she trusts nobody around her”). This pretension of being experts trivialises the heavy weight of being diagnosed with mental health conditions and also propels stereotypes- not everyone who is socially-awkward falls on the autism spectrum and not every selfish person is a narcissist.

Moreover, armchair psychology can even lead to stigmatizing mental-health issues. Associating people’s controversial or abusive behaviour with mental health issues, perpetuates a harmful and inaccurate image of how people with mental issues behave. You tend to pathologize normal behaviour. Sometimes your roommate is just having a bad day and we do not need a diagnosis or a deeper psychological motivation as to why your friend is behaving the way she is.

But this pseudo-psychology, cuts down on ways to get proper treatment. If your loved one is truly struggling with a mental health issue, providing unqualified opinion to them might lead them down the wrong path for their recovery or even hinder them from reaching out towards professional resources or the help they need. On most days, they don’t need their friends to act like experts; they just need encouragement, support and someone who will listen.

While the well-intentioned therapist friend, often takes on the role of a ‘fixer’ with their ‘I can fix all your problems and you’ attitude, it’s time we start calling out this armchair-psychology. If you’re being targeted by an armchair psychologist, try to acknowledge their concerns, set boundaries and call out the harms. It’s absolutely okay to say, “I’m coming to you as a friend. I don’t need you to act like my therapist.” Or if you notice someone targeting someone else, be courageous enough to say,” As friends, our job is to support them, not judge them”.

Often times, we tend to act as armchair psychiatrists ourselves, unconsciously or consciously. Ending on a note of advice for all those therapist friends, if you are concerned about someone’s mental health, reach out and check in with their condition, and instead of passing labels and stereotypes, listen without judgement and connect them to proper resources, so that they can heal the right way.

Even though you might have an overwhelming urge to give advice and fix their issues, sometimes the best thing you can do is show them the right mental health resources, and be the friend they need you to be 🙂

Featured Image Credits: Google Images (IMDb)

Read Also: It’s Not Your Job to Fix Others

Priyanka Mukherjee

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The second extension of lockdown shattered our post quarantine plans, yet one more time. With the exhaustion of the ‘to watch’ movies list and the increasing anxiety day-by-day this third phase, which is about to end soon,  seemed more tedious and tough for us.

The continuous everyday cycle of attempting and failing to sleep and wake up early, has made most of us to give up. The unsatisfactory results of almost every social media and blog suggested way to be productive, has left us heartbroken. With loads of demotivation and sacks of laziness one seeks solace only by residing in the world of either memories or post quarantine plannings. Apart from affecting ones mental health this third phase is also targeting the economical vulnerabilities of the people to a greater extent, as compared to the previous two lockdowns.

With business and industries shut for almost one and a half month people are slowly and gradually getting short of their savings. The daily wage labourers are the worst hit, as they are struggling even for basic needs like food, shelter and clothing. The government too is facing a shortage of funds and revenue, owing to which it recently passed an order allowing the opening of liquor shops and stores. This decision however failed in acquiring positive support from the people. There were several metres of lines in which people stood closely to buy drinks and booze. The entire ideas and norms which the Prime Minister promoted in the former two lockdowns were erased by this decision.

“Ostracisation, lack of hospital care, loss of wages, homelessness, hunger etc. This extreme lockdown seems to be a case of the privileged transferring their epidemic risk to the under-privileged”, said Praveen Chakravarty, political economist and head of the Data and Technology cell of the Congress party, in an interview to The Hindu. The little kids of four to six years of age are locked in their homes. In an age where they should be involved in outdoor activities they are left with no other alternative except of sticking their eyes to the screens of their parent’s mobile phones. This lock down promoted phone addiction is having devastating results on the growth and development of kids. This second extension has contributed only in furthering this phone dependency.

Increasing irritability, hypertension and obesity are some of the commonly observed outcomes of the developing technology geekiness in children. With the patience reaching at brim it is becoming more and more difficult to distance one selves from friends, family or even work (the realization which struck during this quarantine). Owing to the life of hustle and bustle many people during the initial two phases took it positively, considering it as a necessary break, or an opportunity to spend me time but, in this third one even that group is facing a hard time. The initial methods of survival which included Ludo, Tambola and bingos is now appearing to be monotonous.

This is a greater trouble agreed, but is somewhere contributing in the saving of lives, which is the greatest existent asset. Acknowledging both the vices and virtues of the approach is imperative, but at the same time one should not let that hinder in abiding by the passed rules and regulations. With all the uncertainties the entire country is facing a hard time, during which keeping ourselves strong and supporting not only our families but fellow humans is extremely important. If you are bored with one activity shift to other, there are a plethora of things for you to try your hands on. So, stay calm and remind yourself of what Martin Luther says, “we must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”

Feature Image Credits: Swarajya

Kriti  Gupta

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