3 Signs Your 'Fleabag Era' Is Doing Real Damage To Your Mental Health

What should you do when your beloved character is riddled with red flags?

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | April 14, 2023

What does entering your 'fleabag era' mean? Why is this primarily female TikTok identity cluster hell-bent on 'embracing the chaos' of their lives? Most importantly, what are the mental health consequences of adopting a 'fleabag' mindset?

The phrase 'fleabag era' derives from the main character of the eponymous show – a hilariously disturbed 20-something girl who, after the death of her best friend, chooses to live her life in a nonchalantly destructive manner, both towards herself and her loved ones.

Apparently, what women on TikTok are identifying with is the character's slick apathy and unapologetic amorality that seem to be byproducts of her grief and trauma. While the show does a great job of humanizing an anti-heroic character, it certainly does not portray her as aspirational.

Fleabag is a complicated character. Emulating her journey or looking upon her as a role model is not a recommended path to mental health and happiness.

If you find yourself in the midst of a 'fleabag era,' here are three questions to explore.

#1. Do you sabotage your closest relationships?

Self-sabotage and self-destruction are core elements of the fleabag era. Fleabag gets stuck in the moment of her best friend's death and avoids moving forward by making destructive choices. This suggests that people who relate to her might also be stuck in patterns of problematic behavior, conscious or unconscious, that continually set them back.

A common form of self-sabotage, one that Fleabag too succumbs to repeatedly, is relationship sabotage. A study published in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy explains that the urge to test and damage your relationships stems from an attempt to avoid vulnerability altogether.

Acceptance is the first step to curbing your relationship sabotage, according to psychologist Raquel Peel. This has to be developed by working on building trust, improving communication, making commitments, and creating an atmosphere of safety – preferably under the guidance of a licensed mental health practitioner.

#2 Do you make destructive decisions when overwhelmed?

When things get hard, sensitive, or too personal, Fleabag does whatever she can to change the situation – usually for the worse. This suggests her weakness in the face of overwhelming emotions that lead her to make poor decisions. If you relate to this aspect of her personality, a recent paper published in Practice Innovations might have a solution for you – identifying your 'thinking threshold.'

"Emotions are like waves – they have a beginning, middle, and end," explains psychologist Jennifer Veilleux. "Something (a situation in life, a thought about the past, etc.) triggers an emotion inside us. Like waves, emotions rise up, peak, and eventually come back down."

The idea is to postpone making any decisions until after the peak of your emotion (i.e, your 'thinking threshold') has passed and you are not feeling overwhelmed anymore. Put simply, do not make decisions when your emotions are overpowering your cognitive faculties.

Instead, Veilleux advises turning to behavioral or sensory strategies like splashing your face with ice water, taking a walk, or getting a hug.

#3. Do you use humor as a coping mechanism?

Fleabag's humor is what makes her lovable to the onlooker. But how healthy is it really to constantly mask your true feelings behind the garb of being funny? A study published in Personality and Individual Differences explains that a socially desirable trait such as a good sense of humor can harm you when it turns into a maladaptive coping mechanism.

Studies have also linked dark humor to dark personality styles. Self-deprecating humor has been strongly associated with low self-esteem. All in all, you can tell a lot about a person depending on the content and the timing of the jokes they crack.

If you have a problematic sense of humor, chances are someone close might have pointed it out to you. You should take a concern like that seriously as humor-based coping mechanisms often go unnoticed and the problem may only become apparent when it gets out of control.

Talking to a trained professional and navigating the root of this coping mechanism can prevent it from hurting you in the future.


Self-discovery through art can be liberating. However, leaning into a fictionalized character's destructive qualities might be taking it a bit too far. Remember that the character you love is fictitious and so are the consequences of her actions, unlike yours which can cause real damage.