October 8, 2013 11:52 am
Updated: October 8, 2013 12:25 pm

Artist aims to raise awareness by depicting mental health illnesses as monsters

U.K. artist Toby Allen hopes to bring a face to mental health illnesses by depicting various psychiatric disorders as cartoon-like monsters.

Toby Allen - 2013/Tumblr

TORONTO –  U.K. artist Toby Allen hopes to bring a face to mental health illnesses by depicting various psychiatric disorders as cartoon-like monsters.

Real Monsters is a reflection of the stigma surrounding mental health.  The 22-year-old from Cornwall said his illustrations of depression, schizophrenia, avoidant personality disorder and paranoia in the form of monsters originated from his own anxieties.

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“I found that drawing my worries and fears as little monsters would help me think about them differently and make my anxiety feel more manageable,” said Allen in an email to Global News. “I began to work with these ideas and draw monsters that represented my worries and fears.”


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Allen said he created the “Anxiety monster” first and later decided to develop the concept into a much larger project that tackled a variety of mental illnesses or conditions that people close to him dealt with on a daily basis.

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Allen said he hopes to draw attention to mental illnesses that often get ignored or aren’t taken seriously.

READ MORE: Toronto film explores the power of art in mental health treatment

“Anxiety disorder is often being seen as trivial or not serious enough,” he wrote. “I want to make people aware of how damaging these illnesses are and how much of a burden they can be to those who suffer from them. I hope that people can relate to the work and that it helps them to see their illness in a different light.”

Below is a look at some of Allen’s ‘Real Monster’s illustrations

Avoidant Personality Disorder:

“The Avoidant Personality is similar to Social Anxiety but much smaller in size and prefers to be above ground. They spend most of their time hiding in trees, using their leaf-like wings to camouflage and hide from anyone or anything that is 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.”


Borderline Personality Disorder:

“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.”


Dissociative Identity Disorder:

“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 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 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.”


Global News received permission to re-purpose the images for online use. CreditToby Allen – 2013. All images can be seen here.

© 2013 Shaw Media

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