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My Diagnosis is Not an Adjective!

“I am so depressed. I really wanted these boots but they don’t have them in my size!”

“It was sunny this morning and now it’s stormy! This weather has been so schizophrenic.”

“I was having a total panic attack last night. I thought I wasn’t going to make it home in time for The Walking Dead.”

At some time or another, many of us are guilty of this: using words related to serious mental illnesses as colloquial terms to exaggerate a point. On the surface, this would appear to be harmless behavior. Certainly, we know “depressed” in the above context doesn’t mean the person was experiencing intense and persistent feelings of hopelessness, psychomotor retardation, changes in sleep or appetite, and so on.

So, aside from being a bit dramatic, what’s the big deal?

Mental illnesses are often hidden struggles for those who live with them. Using symptoms or diagnoses as adjectives in hyperbole may seem innocuous, but take a moment to consider the reality of these terms. Depression, schizophrenia, panic attacks, bipolar . . . These are not adjectives, they are conditions or symptoms of conditions that may dramatically interfere with quality of life for those experiencing them. Using these terms conversationally serves to devalue the seriousness of these conditions in unintended but perhaps serious ways.

  • Schizophrenic weather may not sound so cute to a coworker whose cousin is hospitalized for such a condition.

  • Depression over boots may be at least a bit insensitive to a friend who is privately coping in therapy and taking antidepressant medications just to keep afloat.

While we may make these kinds of statements with harmless intent, we might at the very least try to do this much moving forward: check the audience. If there is even a chance that we may be speaking with someone who deals personally with one of these very real conditions, perhaps we may choose a different word to illustrate our hyperbole.

If you or a loved one is coping quietly, you don’t have to do it alone.

Call me for more information or to set up an appointment.

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