What is it like to live with Visual Snow Syndrome?

This article is my personal account of living with Visual Snow Syndrome.


When I realised something was wrong:

Everything began when I looked at the carpet one day and I could see lots of black dots dancing all over it, like the static on an old TV screen. It was a bit strange, but I didn’t think too much of it at the time.

But it didn’t go away. Even weeks later, every time I looked at the carpet, I would see these dots.

Then I realised that when I looked at the walls, the dots were there too, but they looked pink and green. I began to notice vague bands of shadow all over the walls. It looked like there were moving grubby, grey, rectangular patches all over them.

Again, I carried on without giving too much thought to it.

It was when I was watching the darts on TV a few months later, that I realised something was definitely not right.

When I looked at the dartboard on the TV and then I looked away, I could still see it in front of my eyes. I would look at the TV and then look at the wall next to it, and there would be a ghostly image of the dartboard for about 10 seconds, before it slowly faded away.

10 seconds sounds quick, but when you think that your vision is normally instant, as you look from one thing to another, 10 seconds is a long time for an object to remain.

The more I noticed it happening, the more it was bugging me. It happened with other things on the TV, too. When I watched the news and looked away, and I could still see the newsreader and their desk in front of my eyes.

It wasn’t an exact image, with colour, but an inverted, negative image in black and white, like this:

The TV became more and more difficult to look at, and I avoided watching it. But it wasn’t just the TV that was causing the images. When I looked at pictures on the wall, or pieces of furniture, they’d still be there when I looked away.

I began to notice mini flashes of light going off in front of my eyes, like those you get if you stare at a naked lightbulb and look away. I was feeling dazzled just from looking at a lightly coloured wall, or walking into a room with a window, even when it was not sunny. The TV became unbearable.

My eyes had become really sensitive to light, and I had to wear sunglasses whenever I went outside, even when it was cloudy.

If I got up in the night, the bright spots seemed to crowd in on me and block my view in darkness, and when I was in a brightly lit room, I could clearly see what looked dark blobs and lines right in front of my eyes, and they moved around as I moved my eyes around.

When I sat in my living room in the evenings in dim lamp-light with my partner and my cat, at times it became hard to make out the features of their faces. That made me feel sad.

All these things were beginning to get uncomfortable, upsetting, and disturbing.

I started searching online for my symptoms, to see if I could understand more about what was happening. I think I probably searched for ‘fuzzy dots in front of eyes’ or something like that, and I ended up coming across something called Visual Snow Syndrome.


These are the main symptoms of Visual Snow Syndrome:

  • Moving dots over your entire field of vision, like snow or static
  • Bright flashes of light or colour
  • Small objects appearing to float in front of your eyes
  • Being sensitive to light (known as photophobia)
  • Images of objects remaining, even after the object has left your field of vision (known as palinopsia)
  • Shadow images of floaters, that move as you move your eyes
  • Starbursts around lights, such as car headlights or lightbulbs

I was immediately sure that this was what I had: I could relate to all of it.

I discovered that the images that stayed when I looked away were something called palinopsia.

The blobs in front of my eyes that obscured my view were things called floaters.

I was glad to find a name for the symptoms I was experiencing, and that I was not the only one reporting them, but I was dismayed to see it was a condition that was not yet fully acknowledged by many medical professionals.

I read that there were doctors who thought it could be linked to migraine. Although I did get these, the eye symptoms were there all of the time, not just when I had a migraine.

From what I read, it seemed to be some sort of neurological disorder, but other than a few doctors that had showed an interest, it was largely unrecognised.

I had so many questions. I wondered in particular what had caused this to happen to me now.

I was also afraid that there might be something physically wrong with my eyes, and that my eyesight was deteriorating in some way. I knew I needed to get my eyes checked out.


Trying to get help

The first thing I did was see an ophthalmologist at my local Specsavers, and I paid to have as many tests done as she felt were necessary. I was continuously blinded by the lights she was shining in my eyes. The whole experience was disorienting and verging on painful, and I was embarrassed about coming across as a high maintenance customer, who had to keep stopping and waiting for their sight to recover.

The ophthalmologist was great, though. She told me that she could find nothing physically wrong with my eyes, which was a relief. She could see that there were some floaters there, but she said that was quite normal for someone who was approaching 40.

She went away to speak to her boss, and then came back and told me that they thought it was probably Visual Snow Syndrome. I had not mentioned it to her, because I hadn’t wanted to influence her opinion, so it was validating to hear her say it. She said she would write a letter to my GP, asking them to review my medications in case anything could help.

I was hoping I might be referred to a neurologist. I had seen one when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, only the year before. I was wondering if this was perhaps linked, especially as it was all coming after a period of poor mental health.

Unfortunately, I came up against some resistance when I finally spoke to my GP.

After I pressed the issue with her again, my GP said she would like to refer me back to the mental health team, which I had been discharged from some time ago.

I tried to explain that I didn’t think it was connected, but she still made the referral. I had no choice but to back down and just go through the motions, so we could rule out mental health as a cause, in a process of elimination.

I waited about four months for my referral to go through and during that time I went back to my doctor yet again, because my eye symptoms were beginning to really upset me.

I had told a couple of my friends about what had been going on, they were quite shocked at what I was having to deal with. They encouraged me to go back to my GP and demand more firmly to see a neurologist. I did exactly that, but I was denied again. She said that there was likely a psychological element to all this. Once again, I gave in and decided to go along with it and see it through.

I was allocated the same care co-ordinator I’d previously had. I told her about my issues with the visual snow. I mentioned that it was quite a rare condition that doctors did not know much about (big mistake!). On hearing that, she instantly dismissed it.

She told me that she thought it was to do with stress. I didn’t feel at all stressed, and I didn’t agree, but once again I decided to just go with what the professionals were telling me. There wasn’t much else I could do.

Even if you know in your heart that the professionals are wrong, sometimes you have to go along with their version of things, for as long as it takes to finally disprove it.

After a few sessions with the psychologist focusing on other subjects, I reminded her about my eye issues again. She said that she thought it was likely happening along with some dissociative episodes I had been having. I told her that the symptoms didn’t tie in with the other episodic dissociative symptoms, because they were there all the time. She listened, but then the eye symptoms were completely swept under the carpet and lost in amongst a number of other issues that we discussed.

I eventually completed the psychology sessions and was discharged from the mental health team once again.

Unfortunately, my eye symptoms have not improved at all. They have been the same for well over a year now.

I do think that if your health record has mental health issues on it a lot of what you experience can get attributed to your mental health by medical professionals, especially those symptoms that are harder for them to understand or solve easily.


Living with it:

The walls are still covered with moving pink, green or black dots. Everything lightly coloured looks permanently dirty and cobwebby, and I’m dazzled and disoriented as I go about my day.

It is like I’m looking through mist or a smudgy, dirty window all of the time, and I often need to frown or squint to see detail. I’ve started wearing glasses when I read, use the computer, or watch TV, and although they sharpen up a little of the fuzziness, they don’t do anything to help with the visual snow symptoms.

A lot of the time I try not to dwell on it, because thinking about it too much can make me feel hopeless, trapped, and overwhelmed.

Lying in bed at night is probably the most difficult time of day for me, because when I look around the dimmed or dark room, I feel surrounded by moving swirls of dots, shadows, streaks, and shapes. The tiredness at the end of the day makes it feel all the more exhausting.

The most distressed I have felt through all of this was the moment I realised that the dots, shapes, and lights did not go away when I closed my eyes. Lying in the dark in bed, I realised there was no escape. I couldn’t get away from it, ever.

I sometimes describe the symptoms to people as ‘tinnitus of the eyes’, in that it is a constant ‘noise’ in the background that you can’t turn off. At least with tinnitus, however, you can put on some white noise or music to block it out.  There is nothing like that for my eyes.


In the absence of the input of medical professionals, I have my own theory about why I may have developed Visual Snow Syndrome. It began not long after a period of severe stress and trauma, which I experienced over an extended period of time.

I believe that my neurological system became so stressed that I developed fibromyalgia, visual snow syndrome, and tinnitus, all around the same time.

The common denominator for all these things is that they are neurological.

Fibromyalgia is a neurological condition that was not acknowledged for quite some time by the medical profession. There is still not consensus on why it develops, but it often occurs after someone has experienced mental ill-health or a traumatic experience.

Your neurological system works overtime and tells your brain that you are in pain when you aren’t. I’m not an expert, but my theory is that, in the same way, my neurological system began working overtime when it comes to the input from my senses.

My sight is altered, because the signals carried by the nerves between my eyes and my brain are not working properly and going off in ways they shouldn’t, and the same is happening with my hearing, causing the tinnitus.

The hunches or theories of patients and sufferers rarely hold much weight against the opinions of medical professionals, but I think it is important in this situation to try to understand why this has happened.


I hope that one day more will be understood about this condition so people like myself will finally be believed, validated, and given more support.


How working in customer service taught me how to support people in crisis

Customer service is often viewed as low-skilled work, but there is actually an art to doing it well.

I have had a number of customer service jobs, including working for various auto breakdown services, and a private pathology lab. I was often on the phone to distraught people: perhaps they’d had a smash on the M25, and they had 3 terrified children with them, or they were waiting for a breast cancer test result that was running late and were petrified the delay was due to bad news.

Those calls were much trickier than the average; however, through them I learned some fundamental principles that have continued to help me help others, including work with prisoners, rough sleepers, and those with mental illness, for many years since.

Whether you are dealing with a vulnerable person in crisis or a customer on the phone, these principles come in handy.

Here are 9 that I see as the most important:


1. What people define as a crisis is relative

A crisis can be an enduring situation where someone’s entire life is collapsing quite literally, or it can be a sudden, short-lived incident that causes acute stress but is able to be resolved within a day, or even a few hours.

What one person experiences as a crisis may not be the same as another.

Timing is also a consideration – someone might normally cope very well, but they might not have the emotional resources to cope at other times, depending on what else is happening for them.

All reasons for distress are valid and relevant because of the meaning they have for the person experiencing them.

It is best to avoid judging someone coming to you in crisis, even if their issue does not resonate with you, or it could be seen as minor or silly in comparison to others.

People need to feel like their problems are not just valid, but that the extent and gravity of their problems as they see them is acknowledged.

People, understandably, need to feel like they matter, and that their problems matter to you as much as they matter to them.

2. You can make a big difference in just one interaction

When someone is already stressed out, whether it is because they’ve dropped their phone down the loo, or they’ve found themselves suddenly homeless, the last thing they need is a difficult interaction when they reach out for help. This only makes people feel more stressed, angry, and frustrated with their situation.

We all know what a relief it can be to have a problem sorted out speedily and adeptly. The call handler is friendly, empathetic, and competent, immediately putting you at ease. They give you opportunities to ask questions, explain what you’re not sure of, and tell you what they will do to help. You come off the phone feeling lighter and less worried about your problem, now it is in someone else’s capable hands. Your stress levels decrease immediately.

Most of us have had experiences at both ends of this spectrum and can remember how differently we felt after each of them.

You can radically affect how stressed someone feels in quite a short space of time, depending on how you approach their issues and how you treat them.

You do not have to work in a call centre. The same principle works when supporting people in social or healthcare environments.

Make the most of those opportunities. Lessen their burden, instead of adding to it.

3. Anger is fear and a need to be heard

When someone in crisis appears angry, it is often fear in disguise.

Understanding this is key to being able to help someone whose stress comes across as anger.

If someone seems frustrated or angry, I stop talking and I listen. I let them do the talking.

After they get their initial rush of frustration out, most people begin to relax, especially if they aren’t coming up against resistance from you, and it is obvious that you are listening.

A calm, attentive reaction often takes people by surprise. They’ve most likely been expecting a battle, and you don’t let that happen.

You will notice their relief emerging as they begin to slow down, take some breaths & come to a calmer, more centred place. Sometimes people begin feel a bit embarrassed at their outburst, and they apologise. So many times, I have heard the words:

“I’m sorry, I know it’s not your fault – I’m just so stressed about it all and I don’t know what to do.”

At which point I say ‘it’s ok, I understand that this is very difficult for you/stressful for you’ or something similar.

People often just need to be heard and have their fears acknowledged. They need to be able to share the impact a situation is having upon them and have someone be a witness to that. They need to feel the emotions they are having are externally valid.

Anger is rarely about you as the helper: it is more about the person’s situation, and how afraid and out of control they feel because of it.

(N.B. I am not saying anyone should have to tolerate aggression. It is not okay for someone to be abusive. I have found that active listening, followed by focusing on joint problem-solving, is very effective in de-escalating anger. If it isn’t working, it is important to be assertive and possibly end the interaction if they are being aggressive towards you.)

4. People need allies

Someone in crisis who is reaching out for help longs to feel that they aren’t alone.

Being distressed and alone is something no one should have to experience.

Knowing that someone is helping to shoulder the weight of their problem (especially someone who has access to resources to help them fix it) can make a huge difference to how powerless someone feels.

It doesn’t mean that you should do all the work for them, or that you should step outside professional boundaries. Even simply ensuring the person has a positive and genuine interaction with you will help them feel less alone. Be a human.

Even if there’s little you are actually able to do for that person, just listening and acknowledging their frustrations is a wonderful way to be an ally.

5. Be reliable

This is one of the simplest, but also most powerful, of these principles.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to be reliable when you are working with someone in crisis.

It is likely that you represent a glimmer of hope for that person, so don’t just throw that away.

If you say you’ll do something, you must do it. If you forget easily, make a note, or put it in your calendar.

If you’re not able to do what you said you would, let them know. Get in touch and tell them that you’ll need a couple more days to find something out, or that you’re going to be trying something else instead.

Not doing something when you said you would (especially when someone is relying on you to help them), shows that person that they don’t really matter – even if that is not your intention.

Don’t just leave someone in limbo, wondering what’s happening. Call them. Get in touch and let them know.

It might feel easy to get lazy about these details, but don’t let that happen. It is that important.

If you can’t commit to an action or communication, it is probably best not to make or state those commitments in the first place.

6. Be honest

Don’t take the easy road and simply tell people what they want to hear, just to make your life easier. Honesty is everything – even if it means delivering less than satisfactory news.

People appreciate being told the truth.

Most people prefer news that isn’t what they want to hear to lies or vagueness given only to placate. This is otherwise known as ‘fobbing someone off’, and most of us know how that can feel.

7. Move people forward

A manager and trainer at Citizens’ Advice taught me this:

You may not be able to solve someone’s problems in one go, but you should aim to move them on a step further than when they came to you.

Openness, warmth, and a listening ear may be helpful in the moment, but you should also think about what you could give the person that they can take away with them.

It might be something tangible such as an information leaflet or a telephone number to call, but equally important are hope, the relief of a problem shared, the courage that comes from having an ally, or even some restored faith in humanity.

We can all think of times when we’ve walked away from an interaction feeling more hopeful, whether it was from a medical appointment or a call to the insurance company.

Think about how you want that person to feel when they put the phone down, or walk away from your office.

People feel better when they can see where they are going, or what steps to take next. It is like finally receiving a map to somewhere when you’ve been completely lost.

8. Everyone can benefit

We could probably all do with more customer service in our lives! You don’t have to be in an official ‘helper’ position.

I use these principles in my daily life to support others, even my partner, my parents, and my friends. I regularly ask myself:

“What can I do to help this person? How can we sort this situation out? Will letting them talk while I listen help? How can I help, in this moment, to take them from feeling stressed to feeling a bit better about things?”

9. Be human

I’m not suggesting by using customer service principles we should all become call-centre robots. Not at all. Good customer service is warm, supportive, and validating. Everyone is treated as an individual equally as important as the last, and everyone’s plight is as valid as the next.

Nurse, doctor, receptionist, call handler, or friend: any of us can make a difference to other people’s distress by thinking about how we interact with them, and what effect that might have on them. It doesn’t matter who you are or what position you hold, these principles apply to everyone.

It is about being a human being talking to another human being: the simplest things are often the most powerful!


10 ways you might feel after your Mental Health Act section is over

Being detained under a section of the Mental Health Act is an experience that can be difficult and stressful.

It involves being removed from familiar surroundings, sometimes against your will, and being placed on a mental health ward for the safety of yourself or others.

Not only can it cause a lot of stress at the time, but it can also have profound and lasting effects on a person, which may continue to have an impact long into the future.

This is something people don’t tend to talk about much, and it can be difficult to know where to turn for help if you have been affected.


Although different people may feel differently about this experience, here are 10 ways you might feel.


1. Ashamed or embarrassed

No one should have to feel ashamed or embarrassed by needing urgent mental health care, however due to continuing stigma around serious mental health issues, this is a common experience for many people.

Those feelings could be about things you said or did that were out of character for you. Perhaps you feel that you let yourself or other people down in some way. This often goes along with feelings of guilt.

Perhaps people around you, such as your loved ones, or even your neighbours or work colleagues, know that you were sectioned, and it makes you feel embarrassed, and you worry about what they think of you. This can cause you to lose self-esteem and confidence, and not want to be around those people.

2. Guilty or sorry

Feeling ashamed is often tangled up with feelings of guilt. You may wonder why you acted a certain way, or why you didn’t do enough to stop it happening.

Perhaps you did or said things that you did not mean because you were so unwell, and now you feel bad about it. Maybe you caused other people to be distressed or upset, or even broke the law, because you were not your usual self, and you are carrying feelings of regret.

You might even want to say sorry to certain people, but you don’t have the opportunity, or you don’t know how.

3. Alone

The experience of being sectioned is one that not a lot of people go through and it is also deeply personal. It is not something that is easy to talk about with other people.

Your loved ones may be too close to the situation for you to want to talk to them, or perhaps you feel that they won’t understand because they have not been in the situation themselves.

Because your experiences involve services or professionals, you might not feel you can talk to them about this, or you may feel like the last thing you want is to be involved with mental health services again.

4. Like you don’t belong

You might find you feel differently around other people now. You might feel that you don’t fit in anymore because you have been through something that has changed you so much that you can no longer relate to others in the same way.

You may prefer to be alone and away from other people because of how you feel.

5. Angry

You might still feel angry about what happened, and even harbour resentment about what you experienced.

This could be due to feeling let down by loved ones or people you thought you could trust. It could cause you to avoid these people.

It could be due to what happened whilst you were sectioned and how professionals or services treated you. It might lead to you not wanting to engage with services in the future.

6. Afraid

You may find that bad memories of your experience come back to you, even years later.

You might see something on the TV, such as programmes about mental illness or movies where people are trapped, held against their will, or coerced into doing things they don’t want to, and find these things upset you because they remind you of your experiences.

You might get flashbacks or nightmares about things that happened, or physical and physiological reactions, such as panic attacks or dissociation.

7. Numb

You might not feel anything at all.

Sometimes when things are too painful and too much to bear, your brain may try to cope by shutting off, and that can make you feel numb.

You might be unable to properly feel happy or sad about anything. You might feel indifferent about everything and find it hard to connect with other people because of it.

You may prefer not to be around other people and might lose interest in a lot of things you’d usually enjoy.

8. Confused

Things may have happened during your experience that still don’t make sense to you. Things may have been said or done by people around you that you still don’t really understand.

Wondering ‘why?’, and not having any opportunity to ask or find out, can lead to thoughts, images, and questions that continually bug you. That can make you feel uncomfortable, confused, and make it harder to come to terms with your experiences.

9. Helpless

Being restricted and having your freedom taken away can make you that you have very little control over your life, even after you have your liberty back again.

It is very hard to forget that feeling of helplessness once you have felt it.

You might not have the mental strength afterwards to even think about your experiences, let alone talk about them, and prefer to push them to the back of your mind.

Unfortunately, intense feelings and emotions don’t just go away, and may continue to affect you deep inside.

10. Any way you like

Everyone can have different experiences whilst they are sectioned, due to many different factors, and that will have a bearing on the way you feel afterwards. Everyone is different, and people deal with things in different ways.

It doesn’t matter if you feel differently from other people who have had this experience. There is no one way you should or should not be feeling. Just because someone you know seems ok afterwards, doesn’t mean you are expected to as well.

You might be feeling all or none of these things, or some that I haven’t even mentioned.

However you are feeling, it is ok to feel like that, even after a long time.


Even if you went through the experience of being sectioned some time ago now, you have been through something very personal and difficult, and it is okay if you are still not over it.

If you do have someone you trust to talk to about it, perhaps you could share with them how you are feeling. You could try writing them a letter, or drawing pictures, if it is easier to get your feelings out that way.

If you don’t have anyone you trust, you could write how you feel in a private journal, which no one else reads but you. You could create art that helps you express how you are feeling.

Contacting a mental health charity is another a good idea. They are independent from services and people who work for these charities do so because they care about people like you. You could call a helpline and speak to a trained person who will listen to you. They won’t judge you, and could help you make sense of what you’re feeling.

Click here for a list of mental health helplines and listening services.


I want to raise awareness of the fact that there is a need for specific support for people who have been sectioned, on top of the support you might get for your mental health condition. Being detained in this way is an experience that can affect you very deeply, and it is important that this is recognised.

It is important that mental health treatment does not add to the trauma or distress that people are already experiencing, and that they don’t continue to carry that burden into the future.

If you are a mental health practitioner or healthcare worker who works with people who are/have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act, please be aware of the lasting psychological effect this can have on an individual. Checking in with how someone feels about their experience days, weeks, months, even years after a section is rescinded could be really helpful for that person’s wellbeing. Just being able to talk about it with someone who is compassionate and open to listening could make a huge difference to how someone feels about their experience.


You might also like to read 8 ways it is OK to feel when you’re sectioned under the Mental Health Act, which looks at how you might feel whilst sectioned and detained in hospital.


8 ways it is OK to feel when you’re sectioned under the Mental Health Act

Being detained under the Mental Health Act and confined to a psychiatric ward is something that is meant to happen in your best interests, but it most likely won’t feel like that at the time.

Of course, everyone will feel differently, but here are 8 ways you might feel.


1. Powerless

Being free to mostly do as we choose is vital for us as human beings in today’s society. Being told that you cannot leave somewhere, or go out for a walk to stretch your legs, or being forced to do things and go places you do not want to, can have a profound and lasting effect on how you feel about yourself and about the world. It can make you feel like you have very little personal power left.

2. Angry

One of the most natural emotions to feel when you are no longer in control of what is happening to you is anger. You might feel angry with the professionals who assessed you, because you don’t agree with their decision. You might feel angry with your family or loved ones if you feel that this has happened because of them. You might be angry because you feel you are not being listened to, or because you feel that the staff are against you.

There are many things to feel angry about, and often other strong emotions, such as fear, can feel like anger.

Sometimes anger can lead to you lashing out and this is understandable if you feel stuck in such a confined and powerless situation. Unfortunately aggression may lead to further restrictive interventions or negative staff attitudes towards you, making you more angry and creating a cycle.

3. Afraid

You may not be sure what is happening, know where you are, or know who these people are who are stopping you from doing what you want to do. You might be scared of the ward you are on, the other patients, or the staff, or what you think is going on.

The way you feel and act when you are afraid can often feel and look the same as anger.

4. Ashamed

No one should have to feel ashamed if their health has led to them needing urgent mental health treatment or support, but stigma in society around serious mental health problems continues, so it is not surprising if you do feel this way. Many people do.

Your feelings of shame may be about how you perceive yourself, and also about what other people might think about you.

5. Alone

You may only be able to see or speak to your loved ones at certain times or for short periods. You might not get along with any of the other patients, or be interested in them, and spend a lot of time on your own.

If you are moved to a hospital out of the area, it may be very difficult for you to have anyone visit you, and you may feel very far away from anything and anyone familiar.

You might not even want anyone to visit or call if you are feeling bad, such as feeling ashamed, or if you are angry with people seemingly playing a part in your current situation.

You can still feel lonely, even if you have purposely decided that you don’t want to see or speak to anyone.

6. Irritated

When you are feeling irritable, you can get annoyed or stressed out at things very easily. This can happen for many reasons, such as in response to outside stress, or because you feel bored and fed up.

Psychiatric wards are usually not calm places. They can be noisy and uncomfortable, and boring if there are few activities, or if you don’t feel like joining in. All of these things can make you more irritable.

Other patients can be noisy or disruptive because they aren’t very well. Being stuck in a fairly small area, with people you would not normally choose to be with, can lead to you feeling irritable and agitated.

7. Worried

You may have children, a partner, or pets, and be worried about how you being away from them is affecting them. You might be worried about how being sectioned will affect your life in terms of your job or your reputation. You may be worried about your money situation or where you are going to live.

8. Trapped

If you are an informal patient on a mental health ward, you will often be allowed to come and go as you please throughout the day.

As a patient on a section, however, you cannot go out for leave unless it is legally agreed to and signed off by a psychiatrist. This is called section 17 leave. If the psychiatrist is not in over the weekend to do it, or if they decide you won’t be allowed it yet, then you cannot leave the unit.

This means spending all your time in just a few spaces – a bedroom, hallway, lounge area, dining room, a small yard, maybe a quiet room, and occasionally activity rooms – sometimes for some time.

Feeling trapped can make you feel irritable, stressed, and angry, and more likely to feel aggressive towards others.

It can also have lasting effects on you mentally because of the stress it can cause.


These feelings are all very natural responses to the experience of being detained under a section of the Mental Health Act.

Although I have set them out individually here, these emotions do not happen separately, but are all entwined with each other. Feeling one will often make you also feel many of the others.

You may not even be able to tell which of them you are feeling because they all get so easily tangled and jumbled up together.

Your stress levels can affect the way you act and how you come across, which in turn might affect the way others respond to you and the care that you receive.

All of this can lead to an extremely stressful experience, the effects of which you might carry with you sometime into the future.

It is quite normal to feel any of these emotions, or any others, when you are in this situation.


If you are currently on a section on a mental health ward of any kind, it is highly likely that you are legally entitled to an advocate.

This is someone impartial, who is not part of the staff who are caring you, that will listen to you and support you to be able to express your views, and who will help you stand up for your rights.

If you would like to speak to an advocate, let a member of staff on your ward know. They will be able to organise that for you.

Alternatively, you can find one and contact them directly by searching online.


Here are some great UK charities with resources to get you started:

Mind

Rethink

Voiceability

POhWER


You might also like to read 10 ways you might feel after your Mental Health Act section is over, which looks at how the experience of being sectioned can still affect you for quite some time afterwards.