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Are You Anxious, or Are You Just an Aries?

“What’s your sign?” used to be a lame pickup line. Now it’s how millions of TikTokkers talk about mental health. Is it possible that understanding your astrological chart could help with your psychological one?
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If TikTok trends are to be believed, your astrological birth chart and your mental health are working together in some kind of cosmic alignment that defines parts of your personality and tells people a lot about who you are. 

According to one of the latest viral waves on the app—which links astrological signs to what might be best described as a mental-health-adjacent trait/quality/behavior—the connection is all too real. Take these examples:

“When my therapist tells me my need to not feel like a burden and keep my problems to myself is because my feelings weren’t validated as a child and not because I’m a Scorpio.”@ohitscarli 

“When my therapist tells me that saying the most awful evil things to people when they upset me slightly is a symptom of borderline personality disorder and not because I’m a Leo.” —@roseangelap 

“When my psychiatrist said the reason why I’m cold hearted has something to do with my past and not because I’m an Aquarius.”@notyourlocalhabibi

As someone who regularly sends her own therapist astrological memes as a way to explain actual feelings and behaviors—as if to say, SEE! This is me!—I nodded my head along to this trend as I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled. 

But is there a danger here, conflating astrology and mental health? Are we somehow glazing over the true root of our issues by making jokes about sun signs?

Is It Therapy If It Feels Therapeutic?

Even on a surface level, it’s no feat to find similarities between the zodiac and mental health topics. Meeting with an astrologer can sometimes feel like therapy—though shouldn’t be confused for it.

“People often apologize and say, I know this isn’t a therapy session,” says astrologer Heidi Rose Robbins, author of Everyday Radiance: 365 Zodiac Prompts for Self-Care and Self-Renewal. “But a good astrological session goes deep, right to the heart of the matter and often does feel therapeutic. We should feel lighter and filled with a greater sense of possibility after an astrology session. Astrology is a language of compassion.”

GOTTA READ: 5 Surprising Signs of Anxiety

There is the occasional therapy practitioner bringing the two fields together in more literal ways—like Glenn Perry, Ph.D., an astrologer and licensed psychotherapist, who writes about something he calls “psychological astrologers” who, he says, “are interested in depth, unconscious processes, and the promotion of personality integration and transformation.’” 

To be clear, this is in no way a widely recognized field of study, and astrology is not diagnostic, as all the experts we spoke to reinforced. Still, New York City psychologist Christine Fornabia, Ph.D., can see a link between the psych and astro worlds.

“We’re always looking for reasons why we are the way we are, and if we can sort of connect that to something bigger than us, then it makes us feel part of a community of sorts,” she says. “It helps us explain our tendencies, or why we’re behaving or feeling the way we do.”

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Astrology is certainly entertaining, and, says Dr. Fornabia, if you use it “to help you dig deeper, if it’s a springboard where you could then talk about those things in therapy, for example, then I think it can be useful.” But if you don’t dig any deeper, then the meme is just a meme.

And that’s the crucial thing. With mental health, it’s more about what you do next, which—unlike the jokiness that often accompanies astrological posts copping to personality “flaws”—may come down to a person’s level of readiness to change. It’s a lot easier to laugh at a Co-Star Astrology post pegging all Aries as hotheads than it is to sit down with a professional and explore why you, the human (not the Aries), might actually be getting unnecessarily aggressive in work meetings.

Earth, Wind, and (Playing With) Fire

It can feel safe under the umbrella of astrology, perhaps because it can be taken lightly. But pinning all your traits and behaviors on the fact you’re a rising Sag removes your agency over what’s going on in your life. It’s like taking yourself out of the equation in a way that’s not dissimilar to blaming everything on your childhood or your parents. “It lessens your accountability in a way,” says Dr. Fornabia. “You’re off the hook.” 

Unfortunately, mental health issues can’t be summed up by claiming, Well, it’s because I’m a Scorpio. I’ve tried—but the time of my birth is not actually why I’m intense, anxious, or controlling. 

Psychologist Donna Rockwell, Psy.D., warns against using astrology to mask larger issues. “Psychologically speaking, there’s something called ‘magical thinking,’ which is where we look at a situation and project our own notions of things over it, so that we can cope with it,” she says. If there’s something more serious going on in your life, magical thinking can keep you emotionally safe—like being wrapped in a metaphorical mind blanket—until you’re equipped to address the root causes.

But it can quickly become unhelpful. “If someone can do a little magical thinking and say, Well, I’m just a Pisces, so I’m wishy-washy, and that’s why I can’t make a decision, then they’re holding at bay their own personal growth and pushing away the very things that they need to do,” says Dr. Rockwell, founder of Already Famous, a wellness community for women and girls, and an adjunct faculty member at the College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences at Saybrook University in Pasadena, California. “That’s a foolproof way to enter into the psychological coping mechanism of denial.”

GOTTA READ: What Therapists Wish You Knew About Intrusive Thoughts

This could prevent you from seeking the help, and possibly the treatment, you might truly need. If certain thoughts or behaviors come up during an astrology session, ask yourself whether they’re impacting your daily life. To what extent are they affecting eating or sleeping or your ability to form connections with people? If the answer is majorly, it’s probably time to see a therapist. Dr. Fornabia also worries about a tendency to over-pathologize astrological information without guidance from a therapist.

It is possible, for some, that astrology can provide a sense of comfort that a more medical diagnosis might not. “I work with many psychologists whose clients give me permission to look at their charts,” says Robbins, the astrologer. “The astrological map can offer insight into where obstruction, difficulty, physical or psychological tests may present in life. I notice when we can name the issue through the astrological chart, it is somehow relieving for my clients.” Once named and identified, she adds, “it can be addressed.”

If talking about astrological characteristics is the gateway to addressing behavioral issues in a deeper way, well, that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. As long as a trained psychological expert then joins in on the journey.

That’s certainly the Venn diagram where you’ll find me. 

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