Avoid Using Mental Illnesses as Adjectives

As usual, I’ve been hearing mental illnesses used as common adjectives–not out of spite, but out of ignorance. I’ve decided to list information on these illnesses, along with words that could be used instead of that illness in order to avoid trivialization or misunderstanding.

1. Depressed

What they think it is: having a bad day, stressed out, or bummed, i.e. “I couldn’t find my keys this morning and I ran out of coffee, so now I’m depressed.”
More accurate words to use:

  • down
  • unhappy
  • blue
  • sad
  • dispirited
  • disheartened
  • upset
  • miserable
  • gloomy
  • glum
  • dejected
  • down in the dumps
  • heavyhearted
  • discouraged
  • despondent
  • lethargic
  • dampened
  • having a hard day/week

What depression really is: http://www.psychiatry.org/depression

2. Bipolar

What they think it is: rapidly changing moods or characteristics, irrational or difficult, i.e. “This autumn weather sure is bipolar!” or “I’m always so bipolar on my period.”
More accurate words to use:

  • volatile
  • unstable
  • unpredictable
  • moody
  • sensitive
  • precarious
  • unsettled
  • vacillating
  • temperamental
  • irrational
  • difficult
  • wavering
  • fluctuating
  • erratic
  • uncertain

What bipolar disorder really is: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml/

3. Panic attack

What they think it is: minor freak-out, i.e. “Whoa I thought the essay was due today, I just had a panic attack there!”
More accurate words to use:

  • flipped out
  • freaked out
  • had a fright
  • had a scare
  • unhinged
  • got flustered
  • bewildered
  • dismayed
  • confused
  • discombobulated (extra points if you use this one)
  • frustrated
  • surprised
  • disconcerted
  • rattled
  • shaken up
  • got thrown off

What panic attacks (and panic disorder) really are: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/panic-attacks-and-panic-disorders.htm


What they think it is: having had a bad experience, i.e. “That was a tough class, I kind of have PTSD about it.” (I don’t hear this one as often but I wanted to address it anyway.)
More accurate words to use:

  • had a bad experience
  • had a bad encounter
  • bad incident
  • experienced conflict
  • experienced dissatisfaction
  • experienced frustration
  • bad run-in
  • had a hassle

What PTSD really is: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

5. Social anxiety

What they think it is: normal shyness, social awkwardness, i.e. “I have social anxiety around my crush.”
More accurate words to use:

  • shy
  • uncomfortable
  • jittery
  • awkward
  • fidgety
  • uneasy
  • uptight
  • self-conscious
  • strained
  • nervous
  • embarrassed

What social anxiety (disorder) really is: http://psychcentral.com/disorders/social-anxiety-disorder-social-phobia-symptoms/

6. Anorexia

What people think it is: being skinny, i.e. “All those cheerleaders look so anorexic!”
More accurate words to use (although hopefully you won’t insult people with these, but if you’re going to insult someone at least avoid using an actual illness):

  • thin
  • lean
  • narrow
  • slim
  • small
  • slender
  • scrawny
  • twiggy
  • stick-like
  • skinny
  • bony
  • lanky
  • skeletal
  • gaunt
  • emaciated
  • undernourished
  • shrunken
  • shriveled
  • deflated

What anorexia really is: http://psychcentral.com/disorders/anorexia-anorexia-nervosa-symptoms/

7. OCD

What people think it is: great need for order and/or cleanliness, controlling, fussy, i.e. “I’m really OCD about cleaning my pencil pouch.”
More accurate words to use:

  • orderly
  • precise
  • thorough
  • tidy
  • uniform
  • methodical
  • uncluttered
  • organized
  • neat freak
  • absolute
  • fastidious
  • nit picky
  • fussy
  • hypercritical
  • exacting
  • demanding
  • particular
  • a stickler
  • finicky
  • persnickety (please use this one, oh my gosh)
  • careful

What OCD really is: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml

Those are the most common ones I’ve heard, but there may be more. If you’d like me to create more lists for something not mentioned here, please let me know! Remember, there are lots of words out there, plenty more than I’ve included, so you shouldn’t have to use real, clinical diagnoses as adjectives. If you or someone you know has used these disorders as adjectives, please don’t be too hard on yourself/them. Most people do this because they just don’t know, and once they do know, they are perfectly okay with using different words.

This post has more information on many more mental illnesses not listed here.

xx Abigail

Problems Dreamers Will Understand

I’ve decided to compile a list of problems I’ve had to deal with as a dreamer in hopes that other people will be able to relate. Not all dreamers have all of these issues, and these issues are not reserved just for dreamers. However, I hope this will be easy to relate to for those who think similarly to me.

  1. Having too many aspirations and visions of a perfect future. I’m constantly thinking about all the glorious things I could be. I’m going to be an A student, a passionate animal rights activist, and a yoga nut; and I’m going to sign up for martial arts, pastel classes, environmental volunteer opportunities, and oh yeah, I could start my own a capella folk band! Rarely do I develop plans or attach any sort of practicality to these hopes.
  2. Losing sight of the short-term. When I do create a step-by-step road map for one of these goals, I skip thinking about the hard work and start fantasizing about how great I’ll be once I’ve reached the end. I’m going to start off running a minute and walking a minute-and-a-half, and soon I’ll be running 10 minutes, 30, and ooh! I’ll run a 10k and then a marathon!” When I actually start at the very beginning, I’m slapped with the harsh reality that I’m not even close–and then I feel dejected, often losing my motivation altogether.
  3. Drifting off. This, I think, is one of the most well-known problems for dreamers. Focusing in classes, ceremonies, and even day-to-day conversations is a struggle–I get so caught up in chasing a dream around my head or excitedly planning a brilliant reply that I completely miss what’s actually being said.
  4. Attaching unnecessary meaning to everything. For me, the whole world is full of poetry and possibilities. It seems that my brain is hardwired to view everything this way. Metaphors and sentimentality come out of nowhere. As a result, random objects become very meaningful–cereal pieces, patterns on the ceiling, and even dirty laundry.
  5. Being overwhelmed with ideas. My mind is very tangential. One idea leads to another, which leads to another, and another, and so on. I become like an iPhone–with too many apps running, I get slow and bogged down. I have to take a few minutes (perhaps even a few hours depending on how overwhelmed I am) to breathe deeply and close out some thoughts!
  6. Struggling to be mentally present. It’s often really, really hard for me to focus on my physical surroundings. While taking walks or riding in the car, I’ll suddenly realize that I’ve been so lost in my labyrinth mind that I’ve completely missed all my surroundings. Of course, it will be different once I get my driving permit (just two weeks now)!
  7. Being known as the weird one. Everyone knows me as strange, quirky girl with too many thoughts and feelings. I’m unpredictable, unconventional, but rarely unenthusiastic. So many things interest me, especially personal relationships. I externalize my strangeness around people, especially those I feel comfortable with. But see, being known as the weird one is compliment. I love myself just the way I am. And so should you, dreamer or not.