People with mental illnesses and psychological conditions already struggle to be accepted by society. It doesn’t help when their conditions are used as exaggerations to describe negative behaviors and situations. People with medical conditions are diagnosed by a doctor and treated by professionals. If you truly feel that you display symptoms of a psychological condition, the best course of action is to seek professional guidance. However, when people claim that “they’re so OCD” because they simply like to keep their space clean, it invalidates people who actually suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Unless you know what it’s like to suffer from a condition like that, it’s insulting to throw the term around like it’s no big deal. Because psychological conditions are minimized so often, here are some common examples and how to avoid misrepresenting the conditions- that is, if you actually care about people who suffer from the real thing.
“Look at how skinny she is. She looks anorexic!”
No. Anorexia is not a body type. Unless a person deprives themselves of necessary nutrients and has a distorted view of their body image, they are probably not anorexic. Believe it or not, some people are thinner than what we’re used to seeing as “normal” for reasons other than anorexia. You have no idea how physically healthy someone is just by looking at them, so unless you’re their doctor, you don’t have the right to evaluate thief internal health based on what you see. Anorexia is potentially life-threatening. Simply wearing a size 0 isn’t.
(Additionally, don’t tell someone that they “need to eat a burger.” You have no idea how much they eat or how healthy their current weight is for that individual).
“I hate it when my room isn’t clean. I’m so OCD.”
No. First of all, people are not OCD- they have OCD. Second, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has the potential to seriously interfere with a person’s life. Not giving into compulsions can cause anxiety for a person who suffers from this condition. It’s completely normal to prefer an organized, clean living space. It becomes a problem when it’s no longer just an annoyance, and it becomes something that you can’t stop thinking about until it’s fixed. I’ve been diagnosed with OCD, and I obsess over symmetry. I had to shave my arms because I became so anxious over the fact that some hairs are thicker than others. If my eyebrows aren’t twins (as opposed to sisters), I need to force myself away from the mirror or I won’t leave the house. Obsessions and compulsions aren’t preferences. They’re anxiety-inducing when certain things aren’t how we think they should be.
“It was raining an hour ago, and now the sun is out. The weather is so bipolar today.”
No. The weather might not be consistent, but it does not suffer from a mental illness. It’s also a common misconception that a person with bipolar disorder will always experience mania and depression in a short period of time (hours). This is not always true. Episodes of mania or depression can last up to days, weeks, or even months. In fact, a bipolar I diagnosis requires a person to suffer from a manic episode that lasts longer than a week, or an episode severe enough to cause hospitalization. Weather that gives cheery vibes one minute and gloomy vibes the next doesn’t compare to engaging in risky behaviors sometimes and losing interest in your favorite hobbies at other times.
In case you still don’t understand why these kinds of phrases are offensive, think of it this way. If someone easily forgets things, do you say they have Alzheimer’s? If you’re commenting on someone’s social awkwardness, do you say that they’re “so autistic?” I’m assuming that you don’t, because you realize that Alzheimer’s and autism are legitimate complications that cause legitimate hardships for the people who suffer from them. If you’re still comfortable calling a thin person “anorexic” based on a picture or a first glance, then you don’t see psychological conditions as legitimate health issues. It’s that simple. It means you don’t care.