Mental Illness and the Fear of Involuntary Hospitalization

There is a relatively common fear among the mentally ill of involuntary hospitalization. It is perfectly reasonable for anyone to fear the loss of their freedom of movement and choice without any real say in the matter. In relation to Bipolar Disorder specifically, the fear can easily get exploded out of proportion in a mentally ill person’s mind. Remember, Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder, which primarily affects emotions, and fear is most certainly an emotion.

The best way to combat this fear, whether you are mentally ill yourself or the loved one of a mentally ill person who fears it, is to arm yourself with the knowledge of the process and requirements for involuntary hospitalization in your local area. In the United States, involuntary hospitalization follows proof that the person poses a real and imminent threat to themselves or other people.

The best way to double check this is to inquire with a local facility and ask for a patient rights pamphlet or ask your doctor.

Every place I’ve received mental health treatment has given me a pamphlet that clearly outlined my rights as a mental health consumer. If you have not been given one or it’s been awhile since you started treatment at a particular facility, ask.

As it relates to trying to soothe the oftentimes irrational fears that mental illness creates, the best route is to ground the other person in truth and reality, reinforced with boundaries. The approach I personally use is:

“I will not promise you that I will never call authorities. If you are suicidal, violent, or making threats, I absolutely will. But beyond that, I will not.”

Clear, concise, with fair and meaningful boundaries.

Involuntary hospitalization is meant to be used as a last line of defense to help a person in dire need and prevent them from hurting themselves or someone else. It is a tool to be used if a mentally ill person has completely disconnected from reality, rationality, and poses an imminent threat. It’s not something that can just be evoked over whatever. The authorities are not going to haul a person off and lock them in a padded room just because another person says they are a threat. It’s not that simple.

My personal opinion? If I were to ever reach the point where I would need to be involuntarily hospitalized? I would be glad for it once I leveled out. I’m sure it would have been used at a time when I could have done serious harm to myself or someone else at a time when my mental illness was overwhelming me. And you don’t get to take back the actions you take in those times.


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4 Responses to Mental Illness and the Fear of Involuntary Hospitalization

  1. Brittany C. says:

    I disagree. Once you have been involuntarily hospitalized ANYONE can call the cops and say you are a threat to yourself and they will haul you off. I have experienced this many times.

    its why i want to move out of my state.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Brittany. I’m sorry to hear that’s been your experience. If you have toxic or ignorant people using it against you, it can certainly be very disruptive. If you want to discuss the situation more in-depth, drop me an email at and maybe I can help you with a strategy to prevent it from happening more effectively. There’s a lot of moving parts to situations surrounding hospitalization, including interacting with the people doing it. I might be able to help you with that.

      Also: Never use your full name when discussing mental illness on the internet. Search engines will eventually index your name to your posting. You don’t want to give away any personal information accidentally. I changed your display name before approving the post.

  2. locojo says:

    Unfortunately, our local hospital is not one of the places I would go for any hospitalization. Our experience with them was the worst; he came home from their and cried because they had scared us so badly. They had some truly nasty people.

    They also had a sheet of patient rights , all of which they proceed to violate while telling us the list was too inconvenient to do. While my husband was voluntarily committed, they misled us both in the process. He was too ill to follow up and file a complaint. Check them out well before you deal with them.

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