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Unsure - Please help!



New member
Sep 25, 2017
Hello everybody!

I'm Alex and I'm 23 and an art student. I have what I believe to be a somewhat unique condition, I've previously been diagnosed with mild depression/self harm (around age 15) but I'm really quite worried and I've been suffering with this for over a year now.

First off, I'm not sure if this is in the right forum, so if it's not - please move it!

I've been drawing and painting for around two years. But a year ago I became extremely obsessed with it, constantly comparing myself to the old masters, my peers, professionals, everybody.

Art stopped being a hobby, I knew I had to pursue it as a full-time career. It's just so important to me that I make art, and it has to be good. I constantly berate myself if my work is sub par or if I'm just having an off day, but equally I'm extremely pleased with myself if I do well.

Art has literally consumed my life, if I'm not creating art, I'm on Twitter or Instagram promoting my work and sourcing commissions. And even though my improvement from beginner stages has been remarkable, I have this constant feeling in the back of my mind that I'm not improving, that I'm not good enough, that I HAVE to be better, that I have to work professionally and it all has to happen right now. I have 0 patience for it.

But the really odd thing is that before I started drawing, I had absolutely no interest in it. It was just one night I randomly decided to start drawing some cartoons, my interest waned a little bit but a few months passed and I picked it up again and slowly but surely it became an extremely important part of my life.

I don't want to lower the amount I draw, I don't want to remove my feelings of NEEDING to get better, I'm proud of that and I'm really happy that I know exactly what I want to do with my life. I just want to stop giving myself such a hard time about it, I want to enjoy the experience rather than feeling an insatiable need to understand absolutely every tiny detail of an object so that I can draw it perfectly. And what's worse is - I'm so obsessed with getting all the details right that I can't seem to develop my own style, something that I feel is really important. I've even been missing classes because I stay up 'til ridiculous times in the morning (like right now) it's 3:40am where I am right now.

I should note that I don't feel at risk, I don't feel like harming myself or anybody else, but I do feel really, really low. I guess I'm just trying to figure out if I should seek help or if this is what true passion feels like and it's completely normal.

Thank you for listening!


Staff Member on Leave
Jan 25, 2012
Sounds exhausting, and like it's something you feel compelled to keep doing and obsessing over. How would you like things to be? If you could imagine the ideal way you'd like to be in relation to your art, what would it look like?

I think if this is making you feel really low, then it perhaps is time to seek help. Could you talk to a tutor in the first instance, to get their perspective on whether this is 'normal' passion, or something more concerning? Or to other people on your course? Admittedly this would only be the opinion of one or two people, but it might give you somewhere to start, and it might help to let these people know that you are struggling.

If you decide it's something that you need to seek help with, then I would think your GP would be the place to start. Make sure they are aware how it's impacting on your life, and your life/work balance, and affecting your mood and sleep. Maybe some sort of counselling would help, your GP might be able to suggest options, or you might need to arrange something yourself, perhaps through Student Services or similar where you're studying.

Would a break help? Are you able to go away for a weekend and not take any art materials with you, and put your phone somewhere so you're not constantly checking it for updates/info to do with your art? Or perhaps deliberately taking up a new interest that's nothing to do with art, to give yourself something else to absorb yourself in for an hour or two a week? Maybe even some sort of voluntary work, where you are helping other people, or a sport or some other physical activity? It might be a good idea to make sure you socialise some of the time with people who are not studying the same thing.

I hope some of these ideas might be helpful. I'm afraid I can't tell you whether this is something that you need to seek help for, that depends on how much it's impacting on you. But in a way, there's not much to lose by seeking help, you might benefit, or you could decide it isn't what you need and you could stop accessing the help.

Lastly welcome to the forum, I hope you find it helpful, and hopefully there will be others on here who will be able to relate to what you're describing.

All the best.