“Oh my God. I have so much to do; I literally have anxiety right now.”
“I’m just so depressed. Like, their break-up is just so sad.”
“Honestly, I think she’s just acting so bipolar because she’s so moody.”
“I’m just so OCD, you know? My room has to be a certain way, or else I don’t like it.”
“Dude, I’m so nervous for that exam; I might have a panic attack.”
And the list is endless.
Most of us are guilty of it, even if we don’t realize it. When we talk to our friends, we tell them all about our lives in great detail, using a plethora of adjectives to let them know exactly what we’re going through. In doing so, however, we often describe how we feel by adding mental health conditions.
We don’t do it intentionally, or with any kind of malicious intent. It just happens. However, these words can be incredibly hurtful.
By using mental health conditions as adjectives, we conform to the stereotypes that people have created. Anxiety is more than just feeling nervous, depression is more than just feeling sad, bipolar disorder is more than just being moody, OCD is more than needing something to be organized a certain way and a panic disorder is more than just being scared of something. And of course, this is true for just about every mental health condition. When we conform to such stereotypes, we show a certain air of ignorance that makes people who are affected by these conditions feel as if others don’t understand the depth of their conditions.
I can promise you that everyone feels nervous and sad. Everyone has mood swings and idiosyncrasies, and everyone is afraid of something. However, this does not mean that someone can label themselves as having anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD or panic disorder; these are clinical conditions with much more complexity.
Mental health conditions also affect people in different ways. When people say that they feel “depressed” or “anxious,” they make it seem like the people who are affected by depression and anxiety just feel sad or nervous.
There are other symptoms associated with mental health conditions. For example, depression affects how people feel, think and behave on a daily basis. Those with depression may have also lost interest in many activities that used to be pleasurable, they may have irregular sleep patterns (insomnia or sleeping too much), reduced appetite and many more symptoms. It does, however, affect each person differently, depending on many factors, so people may report having different symptoms.
Symptoms of anxiety include having an increased heart rate, an impending sense of doom, having trouble sleeping as well as other symptoms. Like depression, it affects people differently.
We all have to stop using mental health conditions as adjectives; they do not describe how we feel. We have to recognize that there are no clear-cut definitions of mental health conditions. Everyone is affected differently, and by recognizing that, we stray away from stereotyping.
In many places, there is a stigma against these conditions, and using them as adjectives makes them seem trivial. People who are affected by one or more of these conditions may feel as if others are making fun of them.
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience a mental health condition. This population is significant, and we must treat them with the respect that they deserve. We cannot continue using mental health conditions as adjectives.
We all should change our jargon in order to combat stereotypes regarding mental health conditions. These conditions are not adjectives that we can apply to our everyday lives; they are conditions that encompass much more than most people realize.
Anika Veeraraghav is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .