September 3, 2015

The Monsters Lurking Behind 8 Mental Illnesses.


Toby Allen, an artist from Cornwall in the UK is hoping to de-stigmatize and raise awareness for mental health illnesses that are often ignored.

As many of them do not have obvious physical symptoms they are not always taken seriously and this can mean that the illnesses are either left untreated or the person suffering from them becomes alienated from others in society due to a lack of understanding about the condition.

Allen has created a face for eight mental health disorders and wants to point out that although he hopes the images will be seen as slightly humorous, he is not intending to make light of these serious conditions.

The artist has described his artwork as, “Real Monsters” and the drawings depict his perception of what each illness would look like if it had a visible image.

Allen told me the reason for putting the illustrations together was because he “really wanted people to see their condition as a separate entity from themselves. You don’t have to be defined by the condition you have and neither are you to blame for it.”

The artwork began after Allen drew something to reflect how he perceived the anxiety he was experiencing. He created the “Anxiety Monster” and found that by drawing his worries and fears as a little monster he started to think differently about them and discovered he managed his anxieties better.

Allen’s experience with anxiety led him to discover that many people do not take anxiety seriously enough. He hopes that if people can connect to his drawings they might view these mental health illnesses under a different light.

Allen continued on to illustrate seven other mental illnesses that people close to him were dealing with on a daily basis and here are the results.


Allen has described the “Anxiety Monster” as feeling oppressive and dark which is why he has associated the illness with a dark colour. The skin of this monster is pale as the creature lives most of its life underground.

“The anxiety monster is small enough to sit on its victim’s shoulder and whisper things in to their unconscious eliciting fearful thoughts and irrational worries. 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.

The often carry small objects linked to their victim’s anxieties such as clocks which represent a common but irrational fear of things that might never happen. No-one has ever seen the face of the anxiety monster for it always wears a skull as a mask.”


The Avoidant Personality monster is very similar to Social Anxiety except that it prefers to be above ground. In this depiction the monster spends its time hiding in trees by using their leaf-like wings to camouflage them so they remain hidden from those around them.

“They have an unsightly appearance to ward off contact with other monsters, but are in fact gentle and kind creatures, having a delicate beauty about them that even the creature is mostly unaware of. They interact with their victims innocently, only wishing to be friendly, but they unintentionally pass off their own anxieties and fears to the victim, with contagious spores excreted from their tails.”


“The Borderline Personality monster is one of the most delicate, but perhaps the most sinister of monsters. They gather in small swarms around their victims and use pheromones to heighten the emotions of their victim before feeding upon the emotional energies. They feed upon any emotion but tend to favour feelings of depression. The monster is made almost completely of clear ice, rendering it invisible. Only the maple shaped leaf on its tail is visible to the naked eye and looks like a falling leaf. At times when the monster gorges itself too much on any given emotions, it can overwhelm them and they shatter like glass.”


“The Paranoia monster uses its tall ears like a radar, scanning the area for any activity. In fact the monsters ears are almost useless due to the tight curled up cartilage and thick fur, so the sounds often get confused and muffled meaning Paranoia almost often hears the wrong thing, which it then passes onto its victim. They feed upon feelings of anxiety of fear that they unintentionally create within their victims and they work with other monsters such as Schizophrenia and Anxiety, of which they share a similar biology.”


“The Dissociative Identity Monster (also known as multiple personality disorder) can be characterized by its ability to alter its form into whatever it likes. As well as changing itself physically, the creature also takes on different persons of itself each with their own personality. The Monster’s constantly altering form reflects its victims alternate personalities. If many different personalities exist, the monster and victim can become confused about their original identity and multiple persons can play out in the same form. No “DID” monster looks or acts the same as another.”


“The Schizophrenia monster is a vile creature that manipulates its victims into doing its bidding. It uses hallucinogenic gases secreted from the pores on its underbelly to control and influence others to do what it wants. Its victims relate to the monster as a powerful and controlling voice inside their subconscious. It is often accompanied by other monsters such as Paranoia, with Schizophrenia taking up an authoritative role much like a mafia gang leader. They are rarely seen and like to hide in the shadows.”



“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 other monsters causing more distress to itself each time.

Its only relief is to wrap its fluid tail around a victim and share its depression with them. 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.”


Since publishing the work Allen has received numerous messages from people all over the world thanking them for putting a face to their intangible and somewhat visibly hidden illness. He has also had requests from others who have asked him to use his imagination once again to illustrate their specific illness.




The Stigma of Mental Health.


Author: Alex Myles

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Toby Allen–Used with permission



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Sista Maldonado Dec 9, 2015 9:45am

I only counted 7, lol.

I have depression and anxiety. Although what is said/described is the perception of someone, it describes what I go through perfectly. Ironic……isn’t it??

Paula Dec 8, 2015 2:53am

This is a bit ridiculous and doesn’t actually portray mental illness in the correct way either.

Tastentier Sep 11, 2015 1:41pm

How does the notion that mentally ill people are controlled by monsters help destigmatize mental illness? I see little difference between "they're dangerous monsters" and "their illnesses are dangerous monsters that make them do scary things".

While the second narrative seemingly shifts the blame from the sufferer to the illness, it still attributes monstrous characteristics and behaviors to the mentally ill, and makes it seem as if our health conditions play us like puppets. Which is not the case, except maybe for the most severe cases of schizophrenia. Our perception may be distorted and we may suffer from irrational fears, but we're still ourselves and would never do anything that goes against our nature.

The monster narrative reminds me of the medieval misperception of mental illness as demonic possession, and the adjectives that are used to describe mental health conditions – vile, weak, unsightly, contagious, sinister etc. – are just terrible. This is the opposite of destigmatization, imho. In the 21st century, we should have a better public understanding of mental illness, and see these conditions as the crippling social disabilities they really are.

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Alex Myles

Alex Myles is a qualified yoga and Tibetan meditation teacher, Reiki Master, spiritual coach and also the author of An Empath, a newly published book that explains various aspects of existing as a highly sensitive person. The book focuses on managing emotions, energy and relationships, particularly the toxic ones that many empaths are drawn into. Her greatest loves are books, poetry, writing and philosophy. She is a curious, inquisitive, deep thinking, intensely feeling, otherworldly intuitive being who lives for signs, synchronicities and serendipities. Inspired and influenced by Carl Jung, Nikola Tesla, Anaïs Nin and Paulo Coelho, she has a deep yearning to discover many of the answers that seem to have been hidden or forgotten in today’s world. Alex’s bestselling book, An Empath, is on sale now for only $1.99! Connect with her on Facebook and join Alex’s Facebook group for empaths and highly sensitive people.