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Mental Disorders Are Not Adjectives

02/12/2016 12:45

Far too often do I hear people casually dropping things like: "I am so OCD!" or "I feel so depressed!" or "she is so bipolar!" into conversation and, honestly, a little piece of me just dies inside every single time. Perhaps it's lack of education; perhaps it's sheer ignorance, and perhaps it's just a bit of both. Either way, things need to change. Constantly undermining the seriousness of mental illness and contributing towards the stigma in this way is harmful beyond words and, in my opinion, not enough is being done to stop it. It's not only incredibly dangerous, but upsetting and frustrating for those who work so hard at fighting against the taboo attached to mental illness every single day of their lives.

Let me explain.

For example, you can have OCD, but you can't be OCD. Just for the record, there is an extremely large difference between having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and just being neat and tidy. It is a serious mental disorder that can significantly interfere with a person's daily life, yet an uncomfortable amount of people throw it's name around as if it's nothing. I, personally, am an incredibly neat and tidy person, almost freakishly so; I wash my hands at basically every opportunity I can get, yet I know that I don't have OCD and I would never claim that I do.

Likewise, just because somebody experiences a simple change of mood doesn't automatically give them bipolar disorder. The episodes that a person with bipolar experiences typically switch from depression to mania (which is a feeling of an extreme high, for those who haven't heard of it). These occurrences are incredibly difficult to live with, putting an intense strain on every day life, and often last for many weeks, if not longer. They are incomparable to that of a simple mood swing.

Just because you're sad about something doesn't mean that you are depressed.

Just because you can't get to sleep one night doesn't mean that you have insomnia.

Just because you're nervous about something doesn't mean that you have an anxiety disorder.

Do you see a pattern forming here?

All mental disorders and illnesses can be just as serious and life-disrupting as the other, yet, essentially, they are still being mocked and trivialised on a daily basis by comments like those in the illustration above. The worst part of it is that it has seemingly become such a normal and casual thing to do that most people don't even seem to realise that they are doing it in the first place, and it's even more worrying when incredibly influential celebrities only add fuel to the fire.

So, what can we do to change and potentially stop it altogether?

Honestly, I think that the best and most effective way of tackling something like this is actually quite simple: if you have a voice, use it. We all have one, yet it shocks me to see how many continue to abuse their platform. Why do you think I wrote this post? We need to talk about mental health at every opportunity that is given to us. Talk, talk and talk some more. Education is key, and I find it so refreshing that there's such a large (and growing) community of bloggers who are constantly using their voice to talk about mental health.

If you are one of those people that calls themselves "so OCD" because they like things in a certain order or "so depressed" because they've just watched a sad film, you are, as a result, equating that mental illness to something much less serious than it really is. Fighting the ignorance and the stigma surrounding mental health is a constant ongoing battle for so many people as it is, and adding to it so carelessly is doing much more harm than you probably realise.

Mental disorders are not adjectives. Pass it on.

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