Have you ever heard someone refer to themselves as “OCD” because they like things neat and orderly? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental health diagnosis that is so much more than liking things clean. It is a serious diagnosis, not an adjective.
Adjectives are colorful words. They are used to describe a noun by giving more information about that person, place, thing or idea. Using a mental health diagnosis as an adjective is taking away from the seriousness of that disorder. A diagnosis is not a colorful word. It is a difficulty many people face every day. These diagnosis are life altering and not in a positive way.
More and more, people use mental health diagnosis as adjectives to describe certain behaviors. Often these behaviors are just the commonly known symptoms of the disorder. For example, a person that can change their attitude or demeanor quickly would be referred to as “bipolar”. When someone is unfocused, they may blame “my ADHD”. But in truth, these people usually do not have a diagnosis of a mental health disorder. They simply use these terms to describe a fleeting feeling or action.
Lack of Awareness
As a person with actual mental health diagnosis, it angers me that these diagnosis are used as every day adjectives. Those who use these are simply unaware and uneducated about the true nature of these disorders. True obsessive compulsive disorder is not washing your hands and having a tidy desk. A person with OCD has persistent thoughts and impulses that are intrusive. These thoughts cause anxiety and panic. They also may have repetitive patterns of behaviors or mental acts they feel compulsed to complete. In order to relieve the anxiety, a person with OCD must fulfill these compulsions. The thoughts and behaviors are disruptive to daily life.
Perhaps if we educated others about the true nature of mental health diagnosis, they would realize that using these words as adjectives can be harmful.
Read about Mental Health Awareness here.
Self- Diagnosis and Labels
Using words such as schizophrenic, psychotic or bipolar to describe a person or one’s self is a dangerous thing. These are popular adjectives for people with manic or extreme behaviors. Self-diagnoses comes from usually observing unwanted behaviors and based on simply surface actions. There is far more to the diagnosis of these disorders than behaviors. A person’s thought process as well as environmental factors are not considered with a self-diagnosis.
Placing labels on a persons occasional behavior is unfair and detracts from what may really be going on. Could this person be struggling with stressors they are keeping private? Are they acting out due to environmental factors such as home life or work stress? A qualified mental health professional would be able to look into all these factors to determine what is truly at the heart of the extreme or unwanted behaviors.
Using a mental health adjective is quite frankly, lazy. Instead of finding other ways to describe a behavior or feeling, “OCD” or ADHD” is easier to blame. Perhaps we should invest in teaching everyone that a Thesaurus is not a type of dinosaur. Branch out and challenge yourself to find new ways to describe things that would typically fall under a mental health category.
Tempted to say you are ADHD because you can’t focus? Here are some words you can use instead:
Not too hard to do!
Stop the Stigma of Mental Health Diagnosis!
Using mental health diagnosis as adjectives simply adds to the stigma that surrounds mental illness. They are used negatively to describe a person. No one wants to be called bipolar or schizophrenic. It’s not a figure of speech.
Find new words and new ways to express yourself. You wouldn’t refer to yourself as a cancer patient or as having dementia. Have the same respect for people struggling with a mental illness that you would for those with a physical health problem.