search
Live Love Laugh Logo

'She's a psycho!'
'He's OCD! ‘You’re mental!
'How Misused Psychiatric Terms

We often come across friends and family using these words to insult or even jokingly address someone. The most common phrases tossed around are ‘mental,’ ‘OCD,’ ‘psycho,’ ‘anorexic’ ‘bipolar’ and such.

Calling people names isn’t cool whether they mind or don’t. The realm of mental health is vast, the terms used to describe a condition within that realm are numerous. It’s something that will take time and expertise to use in the correct context even within the mental health ecosystem.

This misuse perpetuate myths about mental illness, creates stigma, blames the mentally ill for their condition, and put them down. We need to rethink our vocabulary and understand what commonly misused mental health terminology really mean.

Normalizing

We often dismiss misusing mental health terms to describe people as normal. Who set’s these standards anyway? What’s normal for you may not be for others, it isn’t cool either. We use complicated terms to sound intelligent, especially when we’re trying to impress someone in a group. What seems to be alright from your perspective and a few others may be extremely hurtful to others and the person you’re addressing in the group. Maybe we should try to be less impressively intelligent and be more emotionally intelligent.

Here are a few examples of what we have normalized unintentionally and without our own knowledge.

1

“That guy is completely mental”

“That guy is completely mental” – On one side of the spectrum the person you’re addressing maybe completely alright and the two of you dismiss it as just cool lingo. On the other side, what if someone in that particular situation has a mental health disorder and heard you?

2

“What a psycho woman”

“What a psycho woman” – Psycho is short for ‘Psychologically affected’, doesn’t sound so cool now does it? It’s absolutely not cool for the woman being referred to. Who knows what psychological condition she dealing with? Do you know how many of them exist? Psycho was a great name for a Thriller movie, but not to address anyone else by that name.

3

“You’re absolutely crazy”

“You’re absolutely crazy” – Another term that we’ve superbly normalized. What actually has no intent whatsoever to harm anyone actually means “You’re not fit to function normally”, which also means “You belong in an asylum”. Then again, the phrase is so common these days that nobody really knows what it actually means.

4

“That girl does some pretty insane stuff”

“That girl does some pretty insane stuff” – You maybe referring to a particular talent that she’s extremely good it, but the words chosen to appreciate her talent may hurt someone else in another place time or situation when you’re saying it. The point is simple, we are so used to misusing mental health lingo that it has become a part of the way we talk, it has gotten normalized. This normalization is hurting people unintentionally. What if you accidently said it to a girl who actually does insane stuff, doesn’t know why she’s doing it and is desperately trying to stop?

Emotionally unintelligent

At times we get super smart and try to use serious mental health terms completely out of context. These are times when we think we’re uber cool but come off as absolutely insensitive individuals.

Here are a few examples:

Schizo

“That dude is completely Schizo”

You can’t be completely Schizo, being Schizophrenic itself is a lifelong mental illness and that definitely isn’t a phrase to throw around in jest or anger.

Here’s the dictionary definition for Schizophrenia: A long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behaviour, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.

Imagine what a schizophrenic person must be going through on a daily basis, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Bipolar

“That girl has some serious Bipolar issues”

What you may perceive as extreme mood swings may be a serious mental illness. Just because a girl is throwing tantrums doesn’t mean we have the right to label her Bipolar.

Here’s the dictionary definition for Bipolar: A psychiatric illness characterized by both manic and depressive episodes.

That girl may literally be fighting an emotional war within herself.

OCD

“Enough with your OCD”

A person who is a little neat, tidy and organized is immediately labeled OCD. The truth is people actually suffering from OCD can’t control what they do.

Here’s the dictionary definition for OCD: OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts.

There are many such terms that you may be using unintentionally but hurting someone. Let’s try and be careful when referring to someone using mental health terms that we don’t quite understand. Maybe we don’t mean it, but the ones who are dealing with it do and they might actually be immensely offended by it.

Latest updates

5 exercises that help improve mental health

What intimacy means to your partner living with mental illness

5 causes and effects of depression in adolescents

Find more good reads rytarw

Helpline Disclaimer

The Live Love Laugh Foundation ("TLLLF") is not in the business of providing counselling services and does not own, operate or control the helpline numbers listed on the website. The helpline numbers are listed for referral purposes only, and TLLLF does not make any recommendations or guarantees regarding the quality of response and medical advice you might receive from any of the helplines. TLLLF does not endorse these helplines and makes no representations, warranties or guarantees as to, and assumes no responsibility for, the services provided by these entities. TLLLF disclaims all liability for damages of any kind arising out of calls made to these helpline numbers.