One of the things that annoys me most about the media is the misconception they allow to breed by the misuse of psychiatric terms. Up until recently I included crazy in that word pool. However my psychologist made a great point when she said that it isn’t a term that is used in the psychiatric field and so it had no bearing on the stigma. I still think it’s a word that has certain privileges but it’s not the stigma fueled argument I once had.
I do however have an issue when technical terms for mental illnesses or their symptoms are used to describe everyday things. There are so many more words you could use instead of them, and if you can’t think of any then I suggest you buy yourself a thesaurus. I’ve put together a list of words that are commonly misused, their real definitions and few words that should be used instead.
Psychotic: Definition Characterised or afflicted with psychosis.
It does not mean that any person who is acting in a way that is unfamiliar to you is psychotic. Psychosis is a serious mental condition in which the affected person can hear voices, is out of touch with reality and may experience hallucinations.
Words you can use instead: Strange, unfamiliar, odd, different.
Manic: Definition: pertaining or affected by mania.
It should not be used to describe a sales campaign. Manic is similar to psychotic in that a person experiencing symptoms is often out of touch with reality, hears voices and makes risky choices that are out of character.
Words that can be used instead: exciting, fast paced, quick, enthusiastic.
Schizophrenic Definition: a severe mental disorder characterized by some, but not necessarily all, of the following features: emotional blunting, intellectual deterioration, social isolation, disorganized speech and behavior, delusions, and hallucinations.
It is completely different to someone with split personality disorder. It is also not a word that needs to be used to describe a work load or a music album.
Words that can be used instead: unsettled, range of emotions, feverish.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Mental disorder in which an individual experiences obsessions or compulsions, either singly or together. An obsession is a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an unreasonable idea or feeling (such as of being contaminated through shaking hands with someone). A compulsion is an irresistible impulse to perform an irrational act (such as repeatedly washing the hands).
It is not a joke to be used about having a clean house. It’s not something to aspire to. It is something that a lot of people struggle with every single day, and it does not always manifest itself in the stereotypical way that the media portrays it.
Words that you can use instead: clean, cleanliness, germ free.
Do you have any words that you would like to add? I would love to hear them!
Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.
Oh the OCD one gets my goat so badly! Hubby often jokes that he got ripped off ’cause my OCD doesn’t extend to excessive cleaning but it drives me mad when people who have no idea what it’s like to actually live with the intrusions and the anxiety and to desperately carry out rituals and compulsions in the hope of quietening those intrusions down for just a moment or two make throwaway comments about being ‘soooo OCD’ because they like their pencils arranged into colour order or their vacuuming done a certain way. I have to dry my clothes in the dryer every single day because my rituals around sorting and pegs and hanging it on the line mean it can take more than an hour to hang a single load. *That* is OCD.
Sorry, you opened up the rant gate 😉
Nice post Tegan.
Those who confuse psychopath with psychotic REALLY frustrate me. The two terms have almost nothing in common. You know I am not one for blog flogging, plus I have closed the blog anyway so don’t give a toss about page hits, but THIS is a psychopath. And it’s bugger all to do with psychotic.
Sorry Emily, that was not intended as a reply to your comment, not quite sure how that happened 🙂
Yep they really are two different terms.
I’m sorry that you have to experience those feelings of anxiety. One of my friends and I (who also has a mental illness) often joke that we got ripped off in the Mental Illness stakes because neither of us can paint or draw. However like you, if someone else who hadn’t been through it all made the same joke I wouldn’t find it so funny.
Yep, OCD is a big one used in everyday language all the time, as is psycho. I must admit that I use psycho quite frequently. It is disrespectful though and I will try to curb it. It’s frustrating how society can change the meanings of these words and how they are used, so it can become second nature using them in the incorrect way.
Yes I think media has a lot to answer for, in helping to make these terms and their incorrect meanings to become norm for society.
I reckon a lot of us are guilty for saying words without thinking how they might affect others. I used to be super concerned with making sure my house was spotless before kids. Now I don’t care, I actually less about the small stuff and I’m so grateful that I can, a family member suffers badly from anxiety, I’m so glad I don’t as I can see how hard their life is xx
Yes I haven’t had to deal with anxiety too much but when I have, it’s given me a new found appreciation for people who struggle with it every day.
I agree, we all tend to use these words (especially the OCD one) without thinking about the purpose & effect of using them to describe someone. I have family members suffering from mental illness (depression, schizophrenia) and have been with them while they have been hallucinating. Mental illness has a long way to go before seen as a valid health concern in society. I think a change is on the way Tegan.
I hope so Lisa
I don’t think this type of offending is limited to just medical terms and conditions. People often say things without thinking or knowing. I remember when I was a teenager I told someone I got “jew’d” out of something. I had no idea what that actually meant, just thought it meant ripped-off. I had no idea it was from the stereotype of Jewish people being tight with money. I know you’re not talking about kids who don’t know any better, I just think if someone has had no experience with something they’d have no clue they were being offensive. I used to have very different ideas on depression and anti-depressants until I suffered PND myself. x
It’s definitely not just limited to Mental Illness but I think it is the one that is most widely spread. It’s almost normal to use these terms.
My kids copped a lecture or two from me when the word ‘retard’ became fashionable to insult each other. I had to remind them that my brother (their deceased uncle) was born mentally retarded (I don’t even think you are allowed to say this anymore – disabled is the norm) and it is an extremely offensive term to use – I have not heard them use it since. With kids it’s understandable because they pick it up from others without thinking…but for adults, no excuse! Great post Tegan
So true, there really is no excuse, with so much access to information for an adult to use words like retard as an insult.
Spastic would be another. Although I know I sometimes I use some words carelessly and it isn’t until I have said it that I realise. I think by educating ourselves and others about the weight that these words can carry for some makes us all one step closer to opening the eyes of the world to the reality of what these illnesses actually are. I know that until I met you, I had had no personal experiences with anyone who suffered from depression. Actually, let me rephrase, I had not had a close enough relationship with anyone who openly discussed suffering depression or any other mental illness. I would be kidding myself if I believed I didn’t know anyone who had. Since meeting and befriending you, I actually had very little knowledge of many aspects of mental illness so you have brought a lot of things to light for me.
Thank you for being a friend who cares enough that I feel comfortable sharing my story with you.
I remember when Black Eyed Peas song, “Let’s Get Retarded” came out. What were they thinking???
I try to be as sensitive as I can about using terms. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m offending someone but I think if I keep having an open mind, and educating myself, that can only be a good thing.
I think having an open mind is the most important thing. Without an open mind we can’t be open to accepting information that people want to share with us.
I do try to be mindful of using these words out of context because they are mental illnesses and like you say, not words to describe a music album. I totally agree with the OCD term being thrown around when there are people out there who suffer terribly from it.
Yes, I am sure someone who suffers from OCD would love it to be about being a bit of a neat freak. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what they are going through everyday.
Guilty! I know I’ve used a few of those without even thinking about it. It’s not meant in a disrespectful way, but then that’s not really a good excuse. Thanks Tegan. I’ll try to be more mindful about that from now on.
I’m happy that you are being mindful of your words Jess
You are right to point out this tendency. It’s insensitive the way people and in fact society in general, bandies around these terms, so thoughtlessly. As a teacher I’ve noticed some others – “spastic” and “retard” – used to describe anyone who is somehow wrong, clumsy or uncool…horrible. Another one that grates is “gay”, a synonym for homosexual as well as something stupid! But once you point out that it’s offensive to someone close to that condition, they listen. Kids are good that way, wish adults were. 🙂
The trouble with adults is that they are usually stuck in their ways. Sometimes our only hope is to continue to educate the next generation, in hopes that the effects start to trickle through to their parents.
Thank you Tegan for starting this discussion. I always think back to when I was at primary school and the word ‘retard’ or ‘spastic’ was used as an insult, the mother of one of my good friends (who was a teacher at the local special school) sat down with us one day and talked to us about the ‘true’ meaning of these words… it’s something I have tried to be mindful of ever since.
That’s great that your friends mother was able to open the dialogue with you and it’s something that has stayed with you since.
This is a great post Tegan. I am definitely going to put my hand up and say I am guilty of hearing and using the OCD comment in my friends circle. I honestly don’t really know why but most people who use these terms inappropriately probably don’t even register the true definition behind the words. Our culture is way too desensitised these days. I’m going to think twice!!!
Visiting from IBOT
We really have become desensitised and I hope that by bringing these words and their true meanings to the forefront of people’s minds that they will begin to think twice about it.
My goodness, I had never realised those terms could have synonyms that really mean something else entirely.
This means you have to be quite careful using the thesaurus.
I think the media has really distorted the meanings of these words so that a lot of people think nothing of using words like psycho and manic.
Great post Tegan. I think I have been guilty of using OCD when it really should not apply. I totally get what you are saying but I guess in this world people like to grab your attention especially online and in the media. But you are right we should be mindful of what you are actually saying and of the real people in real mental health struggles that are affected by the misuse of these powerful words. Thank you for the insight once again x.
I guess that is the point of my post, that there are lots of words that can be used instead. People in PR and advertising should know better and surely if I, with a highschool education can manage to read a thesaurus, they can too.
I love this post Tegan, very timely at the start of a new year. I don’t use many of these terms myself but its a great reminder to model better ways to talk about mental illness to our children.
Our kids are such little sponges and it’s easy for them to pick up on the way we speak.
Yes, yes and yes. Add spastic and retarded to this. I HATE hearing people use those terms to describe someone (or put them down) when they’d done something a bit silly.
Yes! I would much prefer to just call it like it is and call them a dickhead lol!
Something to think about that’s for sure. We say things so mindlessly. Other terms used incorrectly and flippantly that may result in offence (though the psychological) are things like that’s gay’ and comments about ‘lucky I’m not epileptic’ around flashing lights etc
It’s true that we say things so mindlessly and I know that I have been guilty myself of saying things flippantly. I guess all we can do is become aware of the consequences some of these phrases can have on someone who is experiencing the illness.
Great post Tegan
Pisses me off when people say “I’m so OCD today”
My girlfriend has OCD and it is a struggle for her in her own home let alone in a local cafe where i can clearly see her discomfit . Took me yrs to accept the fact that this funny lovely lady will never have a cuppa in my house.
Retarded is another one. 2 boys on the spectrum of course i will take issue with that word
Another one is “So gay”. my son is a teen now and ive caught him out using this word. gave him a crossword dictionary to expand his mind and a lecture on the fact that his uncle is a homosexual and aunty a lesbian & they would be dissapointed in him > It has such a negative descriminate tone when said like that.
It almost makes you want to be able to make them spend a day with OCD or Autism doesn’t it?