As someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder and has had many (seriously, a lot) of encounters with people having a wide range of mental illnesses, I know how hurtful these common sayings can be.
But it goes so much further than just hurting someones feelings. It is perpetuating a stereotype. Mental illness is a real disease. It has real consequences and reducing the stigma starts with these statements.
Let’s all stop saying these four things.
I’m so OCD!
The fact that you are an organized person, eat breakfast at the same time everyday or wash your hands after using a public restroom like any halfway intelligent human, doesn’t mean you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
If missing any of those tasks trigger you to start hyperventilating or are convinced that you will now catch a disease and die within the week, then we can talk.
“OCD is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.”
He’s totally Bipolar.
Sometimes people are happy and other times they are sad. This is called emotions and we all have them. Because someone was in a good mood and has changed into a bad mood does not mean they have Bipolar disorder.
“Bipolar: a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.”
Don’t call people this. Enough said.
Suggesting things that may help them feel better.
I know that the intent behind these suggestions is usually positive. You genuinely believe that exercising regularly could cure our anxiety or that a good nights sleep is all you need when you’re depressed.
But in reality, these things feel very hurtful because I can assure you we have tried it all and it has not worked. Not even a little. No amount of healthy food and veggies will cure these hellacious, recurring thoughts that have been stuck in my brain for 9 years due to my chronic anxiety.
On the other side of that, though, there is a caveat. I must note that hearing stories from other people with legitimate mental illness that have found relief in certain things is helpful and inspiring. There’s no need to silence these conversations as long as they are thoughtful.
Mental illness can be hard to understand because it’s easy to hear about one and find similarities in your own life. You too may feel depressed sometimes, or uncharacteristically nervous on occasion. Every emotion in mental illness can be something every person has felt.
But there is one glaring difference and that is the ability to move past it and the number of times it occurs. People with mental illness struggle every day, all day and it can feel very exhausting.
These statements trivialize a very real disease that a lot of people are fighting. Let’s try get rid of these stereotypes, OK?