Mental illnesses are not adjectives.
They are not metaphors.
They are not personality traits.
This blog post is not me getting MAD at anyone or meant to make anyone feel bad. I am simply writing it to help people understand what exactly they are referring to in very common every-day phrases and the detrimental effects they can have on those living with a mental health disorder.
I, too, have been guilty of using these expressions. Everyone has. Sometimes they come to my mind, but I no longer let them slip out because I am much more aware that there are people all around us suffering in silence. I do not want too disrespect someone living with a very real chemical imbalance in their brain and make them feel like they are not taken seriously.
This is an incredibly touchy subject because the following disorders/illnesses are not physically visible. Some of them HAVE to be treated with medication, some of them can be worked through with therapy and alternative treatments. Some of them are a result of circumstance, life trauma, or a variety of events. Some of the you are born with.
No matter which way, how, why your brain functions the way it does does not make what you have been diagnosed with any less significant. So please, lets stop using these common phrases that are ultimately adding to the stigma around mental illness.
“I am so depressed there’s no Kardashian’s on this week”
No. You are not depressed because of this. Sad, maybe. But not depressed. Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Depression can be fatal, leading to suicide, if not taken seriously and treated properly. Telling someone to “snap out of it” who lives with depression is an ignorant statement as “snapping out of it” is not physically possible. It takes work, treatment, lifestyle changes, and potentially medication.
“My mom is so moody she’s so bipolar”
Moodiness DOES NOT mean someone is bipolar. Bipolar disorder is manic depression. It is an illness that involves severe highs and lows, changes in sleep, energy, thinking and behaviour.
OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
“My clothes need to be organized in my closet I’m SO OCD”
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is not the equivalent to being clean and organized. It is a mental disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), and behaviours that drive them to do something over and over (compulsions).
These examples are slightly different. People who don't live with an anxiety disorder may also experience anxiety and/or panic attacks. Situational anxiety, though different from an anxiety disorder, is very common and everyone experiences it whether it be from taking a test, flying on a plane, going to the dentist, etc. Anxiety starts in the brain but soon after will present itself physically. Sometimes, before realizing that your brain is feeling anxious. An anxiety disorder is an imbalance in your brain that makes you feel these emotions when there is no present situation or thought that would reasonably cause anxiety. It is the feeling or fight or flight within your body more often than not. It is fearing fear.
“That person is so skinny they look anorexic” or my personal favourite (not) “tell that girl to eat a piece of bread!!”
First of all, if she/he is actually anorexic as they may seem to you, it is not their choice. Anorexia is an emotional disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat. All eating disorders are mental disorders and should never be made fun of or compared to when someone around you is looking skinny, or not eating their meal. Anorexia is the number one cause of death of any mental illness.
“That guy has so many personalities I swear he’s skitzo”
Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves. People with schizophrenia often seem like they have lost touch of reality. Many people don’t realize that schizophrenia is not something you are necessarily born with, but can actually be developed through a series of traumatic events.
There are several other mental health disorders but these are the ones I find are most commonly used in everyday phrases.
Let’s be more aware. More conscious. Stand together. And end the stigma.