I was originally going to write an article on the use of smear campaigns in political ads, but while doing research for that article, I found that almost every article I read used words like “narcissist” and “sociopath” to describe politicians. I really hate when terms like these are thrown around willy-nilly, especially when those using them do not even know what they mean. First off, mental illnesses are not adjectives, so stop using them as such. Secondly, do not use terms when you have absolutely no idea what they mean.
Mental illnesses are not adjectives. It is a pretty simple phrase, but no one actually seems to follow through with that. Do not say that the weather is bipolar today. Yeah, the weather is changing pretty rapidly, but is it going through episodes of depression and mania? I don’t think so.
Mental disorders are groups of symptoms that are meant to help individuals seek treatment, not for some random person to make comments about how they have OCD because they need to have their pencils in a certain way. No, no, no. Stop that. As a person actually diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, I couldn’t care less about how my pencils are arranged. But I do have to constantly wash my hands for long periods of time because I am terrified that I am going to catch a severe disease and miss class and fail and have to drop out and then die under a bridge. Yeah, that is what having an obsessive-compulsive disorder is like, not your fascination with your pencils.
When people trivialize and colloquialize these mental disorders, they are just furthering the stigmatization of mental illness that is horribly detrimental to individuals who actually have mental illnesses. The stigmatization of mental illnesses cause people to go without treatment and this only makes their symptoms worse. Every year since 2000, around 70% of individuals with mental disorders do not seek treatment due to the stigmatization of mental illness and about 30% of those have a severe mental illness. Statistics have even shown that about one in five people have a mental disorder, according to various studies in the past two decades conducted by a psychologist, Patrick Corrigan. So next time you’re thinking about making a comment that might be stigmatizing, remember that the person you are speaking to might just have a mental disorder and what you have to say could have a tremendous effect on them.