Too many times I’ve heard the same phrases tossed around:
“Ohmygod, you’re like so OCD!”
“I was happy two hours ago, now I’m crying, I’m really bipolar.”
“Ever since I finished watching the latest season of Stranger Things I’ve been so depressed.”
As harmless as these phrases may seem, the root of their ignorance is genuinely disturbing. Unless individuals claiming such hefty terms actually suffer from the mental disorder, using it as an adjective devalues the disease’s true meaning. To summarize an entire disease that people suffer from just to sound relatable or current is disrespectful and harmful. Mental disorders are not adjectives. It is not cute or quirky to bring them into everyday conversation. These diseases kill people from the inside out, and it is not anybody’s right to appropriate the term for their own sake.
25 million suffer from depression each year, and 50% of suicides occur to people suffering from a Major Depressive Disorder. Contrary to the stigma associated with mental illness and “crazy people” label, these people control the process no more than a person with a tumor can control its spread. The neurochemical interactions, as in the imbalance of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, often contributes to depression. Depression doesn’t have an “off” switch–it’s unwittingly hardwired into people’s brains. It is not feeling sad for a couple days, it is a full-fledged disease that takes countless lives.
Bipolar Disorder, or Manic Depression, affects 3 million Americans every year. Patients go from hyperactive “manic” states of high energy, agitation, loss of touch with reality, and little sleep to “depressive” states of intense sadness, worrying, minimal energy, low motivation, and loss of interest in ordinary activities. These varying states can last weeks at a time, or they can occur in “rapid cycling” on a more daily basis, though this is rather rare. Misinformation about Bipolar Disorder is exceedingly common; these people cannot simply “calm down” or “relax,” as periods of mania, depression, and normal living cycle throughout their life endlessly. It is not feeling sad then happy suddenly, it is a debilitating condition that jars millions.
Approximately 1 in 40 American adults–5 million people–are afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Many people confuse Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) with OCD, so allow me to explain the difference: OCPD is characterized by a person preoccupied with orderliness, perfection, and immaculate control of their life, and they often focus on cleanliness and organization in their living spaces. OCD, on the other hand is a disease characterized by persistent, uncontrollable, and disturbing obsessions and compulsions that result in intense distress/anxiety if not satisfied. People with OCPD like the world that they create for themselves–it is their preference–whereas people with OCD do not like nor want these thoughts, as the obsessions and compulsions restrict their lifestyles in invasive, insuppressable ways. It is not just organizing pens neatly, it is a domineering disorder that controls people’s everyday life with unwanted anxiety that compels people to be somebody they don’t want to be.
People mock and misuse numerous other mental and learning disorders, such as anxiety, phobias, dyslexia, and ADHD, without a second thought. Before using such disorders as casual adjectives, think about the actual people suffering with these conditions; would you say that in front of them? You may not even realize your friends and family experience these diseases, as many people deny their symptoms or hide their disorder, so stay vigilant and present for those you care about.
I know it isn’t easy to eliminate these so-called adjectives from everyday vocabulary, but if Bhad Bhabie can avoid saying the n-word, you can avoid using these terms in your life not just for your sake but for the sake of those around you who silently suffer from mental illness.