My Diagnosis is Not a Catch Phrase

By: Alyssa Murphree, March 15, 2017

A mental illness is a condition which has the ability to impact a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, or behavior. A mental illness can affect a person’s ability to function or interact with others daily and have a profound impact on those around them, especially family and friends. A mental illness can make people need to seek treatment such as medication, psychiatrists, therapists, and alternative medicine practices for their entire lives.

A mental illness is not a trendy way to refer to your daily inconveniences. Turning medical language into slang does not make you cool or relatable, nor does it provide an accurate account for what you probably did experience. Appropriating the language and lifestyle of the mentally ill is harmful behavior and can make people who do suffer from those conditions less likely to speak openly about them for fear of ridicule and not being taken seriously. In fact, mental illnesses are just as common as other physical health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and more and should be treated in a similar fashion. There is no need for somebody with a mental illness to feel ashamed of it just like there is no need for somebody with a heart condition to be embarrassed. So stop making people feel as though that’s the case.


Lately, I have become more aware of the romanticism of mental illnesses in everyday human language. It grinds my gears in more ways than I can express here. For all you neurotypicals out there, here’s a simple breakdown for you.



What it is: a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.

What it is not: “I saw my ex with his new girlfriend the other day and it sent me into like, a depressive episode.”


Bipolar Disorder

What it is: Bipolar disorders are brain disorders that cause changes in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. Bipolar disorder is a category that includes three different conditions — bipolar I, bipolar II and cyclothymic disorder.

People with bipolar disorders have extreme and intense emotional states that occur at distinct times, called mood episodes. These mood episodes are categorized as manic, hypomanic or depressive. People with bipolar disorders generally have periods of normal mood as well. Bipolar disorders can be treated, and people with these illnesses can lead full and productive lives.

What it is not: “Ugh, I can’t believe it’s snowing tomorrow when it’s 70 degrees right now, Mother Nature is so bipolar.”


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What it is: a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.

What it is not: “I found a bug in my salad once and now I have PTSD and can’t go back to that Wendy’s”


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

What it is: an anxiety disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). The repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, checking on things, or cleaning, can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions.

What it is not: “If any of my blinds are flipped the wrong way it drives me nuts, I’m so OCD!”


Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

What it is: a developmental disorder that is marked especially by persistent symptoms of inattention (such as distractibility, forgetfulness, or disorganization) or by symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity (such as fidgeting, speaking out of turn, or restlessness) or by symptoms of all three and that is not caused by any serious underlying physical or mental disorder.

What it is not: “I had such bad ADD while trying to write my research paper, I couldn’t stop checking Tumblr!”


Definition sources: The American Psychiatric Association and Merriam-Webster

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