Language Mentality

Trigger Warnings – Discussions of the mental health spectrum (OCD, Schizophrenia, Depression, Bipolarity) and one passing mention of suicide, discussion of bullying relating to mental health

Well the people have spoken, or rather clicked on links, and the site stats speak for themselves, you’re all pleased to see me back in action. I’m on my way to one hundred views in less than a week of activity and my works have reached seven different countries including India and Finland. To that I say thank you, I’ll keep up the hard work, keep sending in your support and keep reading

Anyway, that aside, I want to conclude this week of mental health awareness (Well, OCD awareness) with a little rant I’ve been meaning to get round to for a good while and that is the use of mental health terms as adjectives. I know that instantly some of you will relate or at least understand what I’m about to talk about, the use of depressed as a synonym for sad and such and today I’d like to talk about why this is a habit we now need to break as a collective so I’m going to call these out one by one and cut them down where they stand

1. Depressed

Slang Usage – “I’m so depressed!”, “Don’t be so depressing!”, “I’m feeling a bit depressed..” – Used to mean sad or unhappy

Actual Definition – Diagnosed with clinical depression

Words To Use Instead – Morose, Crestfallen, Down, Gloomy, Melancholy

You hear it all the time – someone has had a hard day, they’re tired and grumpy and they’re usually sulking in a corner when they come out with “I’m so depressed”. Ok, if you are depressed, that’s fairly accurate, as in you show the signs of depression. However, depression does not come about as the end result of a bad  day at work, it is a condition that lasts much longer than a day or even a few weeks, it is an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness or bitterness that can last for months or years. If you think you are suffering from depression, consult your GP. You may start to notice if you feel a constant low mood or lack of interest in your own life. Please don’t take depression lightly though, it is a serious issue that isn’t as simple as just being sad, there are chemical reasons for it (Lack of serotonin, links to hypothyroidism) and emotional reasons (Constant stress/grief/post-natal depression) but if you’re just feeling low, it’s more than likely just a rough patch in your life and may well pass soon enough

2. OCD

Slang Usage – “I’m so OCD, I always keep my pencils in line on the desk”, “He’s a bit OCD about his DVD collection”, “I wish I was OCD, I’d clean my room instead of letting it get into a mess” – Used to mean picky, organised or having an unusual quirk

Actual Definition – Diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Words To Use Instead – Organised, Fussy, Pristine, Quirky, Tidy

OCD, the subject of the week, is prone to a lot of misunderstandings due to constantly reinforced stereotypes. If you have to have things a certain way, you’re not OCD, you just like your own order – like any decent person does. OCD isn’t a disorder that means “The patient likes to be organised and is generally tidy”, no, the ‘cleaners’ out there fear the negative consequences of not doing these little thing, they clean surfaces to avoid getting germs that could infect their children but it doesn’t do them a favour. I cannot remember her name but a woman recently released a book about how she used to spend so long cleaning the house for her kids that she’d forget she’d have to actually, y’know, pick them up from school. I know your counterargument might be “But it bugs me when…” but that’s not OCD, OCD is “But it makes me sick with anxiety when…”, something bugging you is just your own desire for organisation or perfection. If you’re tidy and likes things in a certain way and get annoyed when that’s not the case, chances are, you’re a perfectionist or just generally quite a well-kept person. Good for you, just don’t write it off as OCD until disturbances to your order genuinely make you feel sick or panicky

3. Schizophrenic

Slang Usage – “The weather’s a bit schizophrenic, one moment sunshine and then it tips it down?”, “I thought you wanted me to stay? Make your mind up you schizoid!”, “The stock market is a bit schizophrenic with stocks rising and falling constantly” – Used to mean indecisive or unpredictable

Actual Definition – Diagnosed with schizophrenia

Words To Use Instead – Indecisive, Confused, Unpredictable, Tentative, Conflicting

Schizophrenia seems to be largely misunderstood as being a crazy person who talks to themselves and can’t make a clear decision but heck, if you diagnosed every indecisive person alive as schizophrenic then 80% of us are schizophrenic. Schizophrenia is seen as a dangerous and frightening thing to be by most people and yet strangely okay to make fun of. For the record, the stereotype is wrong, not all of them sit there playing good guy, bad guy with themselves, some harrow much more unsettling thoughts but some have it in remission or under control with medication and therapy and function within our society like the rest of us. You are not schizophrenic if you’re indecisive and someone who is unpredictable or irrational might just be stressed, confused or genuinely just a loose cannon. The use of this word in this way is very harsh and ignorant as it suggests all schizophrenics are essentially re-enacting Jekyll and Hyde in their head. Schizophrenic is not an adjective, end of discussion

4. Bipolar

Slang Usage – “I thought I was having a good day but I’m upset, so bipolar”, “He’s always either really happy or really sad, he’s like bipolar or something”, “It was cold yesterday and yet it’s hot today, it’s like God is bipolar”

Actual Definition – Diagnosed with bi-polar depression

Words To Use Instead – Temperamental, Erratic, Fickle, Impulsive, Inconsistent

Ever had a great day ruined, or a bad day made into something brilliant? Moods constantly shifting as the day goes on? Well, a lot of you will say yes here so it’s safe to say that if the majority of us feel this way, it’s not a disorder, it’s just a part of life. Bipolarity is a swing between states of depression and mania and doesn’t always happen in the same day, these switches can last for months at a time and someone who is bipolar might never feel “normal”. Bipolarity can lead to feelings of ambitiousness or joy interchanging with hopelessness or suicidal thoughts and is not a case of being happy and sad within a short time frame. I hear this being used more to describe the weather as a form of personification for the weather but let’s be real people – the weather doesn’t have moods, your mood is just affected by the weather. Rain isn’t sad, the sun doesn’t smile and clouds aren’t actually lazy drifters.

5. Psycho

Slang Usage – “He went psycho when I told him!”, “Calm down psycho!”, “Looked like a proper psycho with that angry face!” – Used to mean someone who is very angry or bad-tempered

Actual Definition – A psychopath

Words To Use Instead – Angry, Livid, Furious, Aggressive, Grumpy

As someone who has tested positive for many traits of psychopathy, this one hits close to home and I find it to be a derogatory term that attributes any aggressive behaviour to being the end result of a fault in your own mental fault, as if it’s your fault you’re annoyed. Granted, I may well be an actual psychopath so those people who taunted me as “the school psycho” might actually be onto something but it doesn’t change the fact they were deliberately provoking me, I didn’t just explode for no reason. If you call someone a psychopath, that’s a serious thing to call someone, you’re saying that they are a remorseless being incapable of empathy. I struggled to gain a sense of empathy and the theory that I am essentially dormant (Due to a childhood free of abuse) and not active is what made my life much easier and my rage controllable with enough effort but not everyone has it as easy as exerting some self-control, some may not even feel guilt for their misdeeds and some may rely on medication to fit in so don’t make it harder for them by calling every aggressive person you meet a cold-blooded psycho nutjob

6. Autistic

Slang Usage – “She just didn’t understand me, is she autistic?”, “You’re so awkward, are you autistic or something?”, “He likes counting stuff out loud, it’s his thing, like that autistic guy in the movie!” – Used to mean an awkward person or someone with unusual habits or in a worst case scenario, someone who is slow or unintelligent

Actual Definiton – Diagnosed with autism or a similar condition on the scale of autism such as aspergers

Words To Use Instead – Awkward, Unusual, Eccentric, Difficult, Odd

Autism is the new retardation it seems, I hear this word being used as synonym for stupid. Rule of thumb guys, if you think someone is stupid, call them stupid or dimwitted or anything other than a retard or an autistic person. I dreaded telling people I had aspergers, the moment some found out they started talking slower, checking if I was ok every five minutes and saying “Don’t mind him, he’s got assburgers” to every stranger who looked at me funny. Autism and aspergers are either seen as cute and quirky or dopey and infuriating and that upsets me as a man with aspergers, my brother being autistic and having met many like me. I mean, do you take me for a dullard? No, I’m perfectly intelligent, got A* across the board in my core GCSEs, my IQ is technically genius level and my brother worked hard to overcome the label of ‘the stupid brother’ to smash his school’s expectations of him and now you can’t tell by looking at him, or me, that we are what we are, people just think we’re two general nerds. Autism is just a different wiring to achieve the same result, it’s the Playstation to the Xbox, the Renault or Peugeot – same basic deal, just some slight differences but ultimately doing the same thing

I know you might use these words in jest but these jokes stick and serve to reinforce stereotypes and frankly it’s only mental health that gets this kind of stigma. Imagine if I said the weather was as unreliable as a woman, that you’re as angry as a black man, that the weather seems a bit diabetic. I understand we do use physical illness as an adjective, a bad idea is called cancerous after all. I also know that not everyone is offended by this behaviour as it serves as a vehicle to raise awareness but I think we can agree that the fact these words are now used to describe certain character traits means that people know these things exist, they just need educating on what they actually are. You might call someone OCD for always cleaning their room once a week, but do you understand what actually defines someone as OCD? The time for educating people about mental health is here, for children and adults alike because the joke has long since stopped being funny


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