As someone living with a mental illness, there are some things I hear that just hurt. Like when we use names of mental illnesses to describe things that have nothing to do with the illnesses themselves. Or when we perpetuate stereotypes about certain disorders, when real people live with these disorders every day. So here are some words and phrases I believe we need to simply eliminate from our vocabulary.
1. “The weather has been so bipolar lately.”
This phrase minimizes the very real struggle of people who live with bipolar disorder by comparing it to simple weather patterns. Bipolar disorder is complex, and is not reducible to a fluctuation between hot and cold air. And when we misuse this word, we are misunderstanding the truth of the disorder, making people who live with it feel minimized and made fun of.
What you can say instead: “The weather’s been all over the place lately”.
2. “I’m really OCD about things.”
Unless you have actually been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, please don’t say that you, or anyone around you, have OCD. This perpetuates stereotypes about this disorder, like that people with OCD just want things to be clean all the time, which isn’t even an accurate representation of this disorder.
What you can say instead: “I’m really anal/type A about things.”
3. “That roller coaster was insane/crazy.”
Using words like “crazy” or “insane” mock people who live with mental illnesses. While it may not seem that way to you, it can come off as really rude and insensitive to someone who has felt “crazy” their entire life.
What you can say instead: “That roller coaster was ridiculous.”
4. “That movie was so depressing.”
Unless you have a diagnosis of depression, I recommend cutting this word out of your vocabulary completely. Misusing the word “depressed” has led to myriad of misinformation regarding the disorder. The more we misuse and misunderstand this word, the more people who live with this disorder feel misunderstood and shamed into silence.
What you can say instead: “That movie was so sad”.
5. “That kid is acting manic.”
Mania is a very real part of bipolar disorder that affects people in very difficult ways. When we refer to anything as “manic” when not referring to the disorder, we are, again, misunderstanding the symptoms and perpetuating stereotypes.
What you can say instead: “That kid is full of energy today”.
Misusing words associated with mental illness can be really damaging. It perpetuates stereotypes about these disorders in society, which shames people who have these disorders and makes it difficult for people to seek help when they need it. So please consider changing your vocabulary. It might not be easy to stop saying these things at first, but make a commitment to treating these disorders with more respect by not misusing these words.