The emerging blogger series is aimed at community building through giving mental health bloggers who are early in their blogging evolution the opportunity to have their work seen by a wider audience. It’s also a way to introduce you as a reader to some newer members of our community.
This post is by Tori Talks.
Mental Health Illnesses are NOT Adjectives
Do you ever hear these phrases? Have you ever said one yourself?
‘They are acting so bipolar today.’
‘Sorry, I’m a little OCD.’
‘You look anorexic.’
‘She is such a psycho.’
Using mental health illnesses as adjectives can be extremely damaging. We need to stop.
We do not use diabetes, asthma, or arthritis as adjectives. If you said you felt diabetic today, what would that even mean? It is illogical and to describe yourself as feeling ‘bipolar’ is equally as illogical. You can’t feel like a mental illness.
I will break it down for you.
Why you can’t act bipolar.
Bipolar, as informed by the NHS website, is a mood disorder, where people will experience extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression) for episodes at a time (weeks or more).
You cannot perform actions that are bipolar. Often, appearing indecisive or experiencing mood swings are described as acting ‘bipolar’. Bipolar is a complex mental illness and it is dangerous to simplify it down to these actions.
It is important to educate yourself and identify signs if you believe someone may be suffering. It is unhelpful to describe their emotions as bipolar. This is damaging. If you believe someone to be suffering, guide and encourage them to get a medical diagnosis. Someone cannot act bipolar, but people can suffer. It is a mental illness, not a way of acting. There is a difference.
Why you can’t be a little bit OCD.
OCD is perceived across society and the media as being some clean freak, obsessed with their health, ensuring surfaces are sterile and hygienic and objects are aligned. Even though these can be compulsions of someone suffering from OCD, this presents only one form of the illness.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, described by the charity Mind, is an anxiety disorder that consists of obsessions (unwelcome thoughts, images, urges, and worries that repeatedly cross your mind) and compulsions (repetitive activities taken to reduce the anxiety of the obsessions). Someone who struggles with OCD may have negative thoughts associated with getting ill, therefore may perform compulsions to ensure they do not catch an illness, such as unnecessarily cleaning surfaces, washing hands, etc. However, someone with OCD may have worries that harm will come to their family members, thus performing routines or rituals as their compulsion. OCD therefore can be perceived in many ways.
Reinforcing the stereotype that the only sufferer of OCD is a ‘clean freak’ is extremely damaging; it diminishes the entire illness. A sufferer of OCD is not merely an obsessive cleaner, and acknowledging this allows you to fully understand what the illness entails, explaining why you cannot be a little bit OCD. Liking a tidy bedroom does not make you ‘OCD’. You have OCD when, if you do not clean your room, bad thoughts emerge, making it tremendously difficult to manage day to day life.
Why you can’t look anorexic.
What does looking anorexic entail? A stereotypical image would show a young underweight girl. But anorexia can affect anyone. Any gender, age, ethnicity, or background. Anyone.
YoungMinds charity describes Anorexia Nervosa as an eating disorder, where you begin to worry, restricting yourself from consuming food and may begin to excessively exercise more. Anorexia often leads to a loss of weight and can cause sufferers to become an unhealthy low weight. However, a sufferer may not fit your stereotypical view of someone with an eating disorder. You can be any weight and suffer from an eating disorder. You can also naturally, without suffering from an eating disorder, be of low weight. Presuming someone who has a slim build is anorexic is damaging for sufferers and non-sufferers. You cannot presume people have eating disorders because of your prejudice.
Why she is not a psycho.
This one is heard a lot and is the adjective that people deem the most acceptable. Most commonly, women are often referred to as ‘acting like a psycho’ in relationships. When boys break up with their girlfriends, they are quick to describe their ex as a ‘psycho.’ Why? They were controlling, not letting them go out with the ‘boys’ when they wanted to or restricted which girls they spoke to? They tracked where they were, had no trust in them? These behaviours don’t equal a healthy relationship, but they do not deem the girl to be a ‘psycho.’
Do you even know what a ‘psycho’ is? A psychopath is someone who suffers from a personality disorder, specifically, according to Healthline, it is someone who suffers from Antisocial Personality Disorder. ASPD is described as being part of the ‘suspicious’ category of personality disorders, where someone may act impulsively out of anger and have no consideration for others.
So, I think your ex-girlfriend being slightly controlling does not mean she is a psycho. Psychopathy is no longer a term used since the Mental Health Act of 1983. Calling anyone a psycho, whatever your relationship to them, is incorrect.
Ultimately, using mental health illnesses as adjectives perpetuates stigma associated with the illness. These adjectives are used negatively, therefore, we are reinforcing the negative conations with these illnesses. We are continuing to add to the stereotypes of these issues but, most importantly, we are minimalizing and invalidating them.
We need to educate yourselves. Learning about mental health is vital to prevent further stigmatisation and harm. If we are aware of what these illnesses truly entail, we will stop belittling them by using them as adjectives.
Visit the author on her blog Tori Talks.
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You can find a listing of all of the posts in the emerging blogger series directory.
Do you want to be the next emerging blogger?
- you have a personal (rather than business-oriented) blog that’s focused primarily on mental health/illness
- you’re a new(ish) blogger, with WordPress following <100 preferred
Interested? If you fit the criteria above:
- email me at mentalhealthathome (at) gmail (dot) com
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- don’t think of this as having to “pitch” an idea – I’m just trying to make sure people actually fit the criteria and spirit of the series