Euphoric Realism: HBO’s “Euphoria” Challenges Representation Of Mental Illness & Health

By Angelina Rosado 

Assistant Entertainment Editor 

With season two of HBO’s “Euphoria” coming to a dramatic, heart-quenching finale last month, fans are roaring as the show continues to create a complex, yet wholesome and rounded enactment of mental health struggles. 

“Euphoria” focuses on neglected or mistreated types of mental illness as it erases outdated stigmas that create misunderstandings of its reality to today’s youth. Unlike other platforms in Hollywood, “Euphoria” avoids sugar-coating or making light of any mental or physical disabilities. The show presents high school drama, bullying, mental and emotional distress, addictive traits and abusive patterns that all shed light on all forms of health conditions faced in today’s world.  

Based on creator Sam Levinson’s own personal teenage experiences with substance addiction and depression, the drama hones in on the raw yet honest reality of teenagers hardships. Set in a modern high school that follows all of today’s social trends and standards, Levinson reflects on our society within the boundaries of our entertainment.

Levinson propels audiences to question themselves by showcasing the effects that social media, toxic relationships and self-esteem has on the growing population. As a response, we then turn to ourselves, and the treatment of our own mental state and how we navigate the world.

As each character faces their own challenges, the audience learns more about the spectrum of mental illness. For Cassie, the misuse of over sexualizing her body controls her ego and her relationships as it compensates for the loss of love when her father ran away. Kat continues to question her body and self-worth by oversexualizing herself for validation from others. 

As Jules’ mother’s unacceptance of her transition created an inability to fully love herself, it resulted in unsafe encounters and insecure relationships in her coming-of age. Maddy’s violent and toxic relationship with Nate continues to heighten her distrust and need to gaslight others. And Rue’s substance abuse tailored her inability to conquer her father’s death and her lifetime struggle with anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. The platform continues to create a space for everyone to feel the accuracy of their story being told. 

Arguments have been made that the show is creating an overly graphic display of violence and drug use for the younger audiences of today’s generation. However, “Euphoria” in many ways has added to the cultural reset of how we address mental illnesses, personally and through entertainment. The show focuses on the honest and natural state of these brutal situations, and accepting the ranges of mental illness and health for what it is today. 

“Euphoria” continues in the efforts to guide the youth through these life-threatening situations and dealing with the turmoil of mental illness through the experiences and graphic reality of its consequences, rather than hiding it from the audience; a silent message that no one is ever alone in their battles. 

For those overwhelmed or struggling with any mental health conditions or disabilities, check out the FDU community’s Student Counseling and Psychological Services (S-CAPS) personal development workshops on mindful diet and exercise, mindfulness and meditation and managing stressful events occurring throughout the rest of the semester

If you ever feel that you are experiencing self-doubt, questioning your mental state, seeking help or know of someone in need— there is always someone here to hear your words, and together, can help guide you to local resources. 

You are never alone: 

Please follow us on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Write to us at

“Euphoria tackles” taboo topics of mental health and illness throughout the show.

Screen grab from “Euphoria” by Angelina Rosado