Mental Illnesses as Adjectives

She looks anorexic. I’m super OCD about my car. My mom’s a fucking psycho. I’m super depressed about my Bio grade. He’s acting really bipolar today. I have so many tests tomorrow, I wanna kill myself.

These are some of the many ways that people abuse mental illness terminology in their daily language. Do you really know what the words mean? When they are used in a setting to imply anything other than their true definitions, they lose significance. The illnesses themselves are trivialized when compared to the temperate, environmental issues of a neurotypical person’s life.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1/17 of American adults and ⅕ of teenagers live with severe mental disorders such as major depression, bipolar disorder,and  panic and obsessive compulsive disorder. Using these statistics, perhaps 120 of 600 students at Menlo suffer from true mental illness. Who is in the room when you moan about how ‘bipolar’ you are when you’re on your period? Who is standing behind you in line at Mac’s when you joke about suicide?

Depression is characterized by the long-lasting feeling of loss, emptiness, disinterest, and lack of motivation that has no simple solution, not just discouragement or sadness. OCD is characterized by the repetition of uncontrollable thoughts, feelings, impulses that lead to compulsive actions, not the color-coding of History notes. Psychosis is characterized is characterized the loss of contact with reality and a lack of empathy, not bossiness and poor logic. Bipolar disorder is characterized by the oscillation between mania and depression, not happiness and sadness. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are characterized by an emotional obsession for an unattainable body image/goal: these are not just body types.

Most young people are mindful about slurs such as the n-word and f*ggot, but what about the appropriation of mental illness? If you’re using its terms to imply anything else than the literal truth, you may as well be saying “that’s so gay.”

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