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How Humour Helps and Hurts My Mental Health

Posted by Alexandra Van Rijn on

Written by Kate Farrell 


I like to think of myself as the most hilarious person I know

...and yes, I know a lot of people. When you've got anxiety, OCD, and anorexia on (and in) your brain for the majority of the day, it’s a nice change to laugh a little. So there I was, going about my day, signing autographs, getting followed around by paparazzi, just a usual Tuesday (kidding), when it was time for a session with my therapist. She asked me why I used self-deprecating humour. Right before I must have cracked a joke like how I’m always failing (lol!). It caught me off guard because that’s something that I always do, something that a lot of people do.


How many times have you said something along these lines:

I probably did so bad on that test I’m so stupid haha!

I might as well have this piece of cake, it’s not like I have anyone to impress, I’ll be single forever!

Did you see me trip? Wow I hate myself!

Oh yeah I got this job, it’s really no big deal, it’s really a miracle that I even got it.

You think I look great? Are you blind, I look like death right now.

Now obviously when you said these things, like me, you thought there was no harm coming out of it, besides, you’re just making a joke. But when my therapist asked me why I was making those jokes, it, as questions tend to do, made me think. Why was my go-to humour one that put me down? Why was I always making jokes that downplayed my capabilities, or just generally made me feel like a “lesser” person?


The reality of it was on the surface level they were just jokes and I honestly didn’t think anything of it

 ...but below that I realized that they reflected the way I actually thought about myself. My eating disorder tells me that I’m not allowed to receive compliments about my appearance, that I’m never good enough. My OCD tells me that I am never doing anything right, that I’m always messing up. My anxiety makes me think that shouldn’t ever feel fully safe somewhere, so how can I ever be normal? Self-depreciating humour is a coping mechanism to make you brush off those core beliefs that, to be honest, suck. It’s not always a bad thing, self-deprecating humour can make you seem humble, but it becomes a problem when it comes from that place of true doubt in yourself. When you are actually using it to make fun of yourself and try to avoid your issues, it will only serve to reinforce your core beliefs.

 You don’t have to have a diagnosis to use this humour, it literally comes up everyday. And I’m not saying that we should stop using it, it is humour after all, something that is meant to be light and fun. Just think about the next time you make a joke at the expense of your self-esteem, think about where it’s coming from. Whenever I treat myself with more kindness I always find that I see the world in a better way, and a joke really does just become a joke instead of a coping mechanism. You don’t have to make fun of yourself just to get a laugh, you are capable and worthy of more than that.


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