Stop Using Mental Illnesses As Adjectives

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of using social media to avoid responsibilities. Instagram just knows how to suck you in with that Explore page; I’m almost embarrassed of how many of those “satisfying” videos I’ve watched. What I’m more embarrassed of, however, are the comments under these videos like, “I’m so OCD! These videos are AMAZING!” and “This video cured my OCD!”

While these comments can be trivial, the theme of making light of mental illnesses can be damaging because, well, mental illnesses aren't adjectives.

Identifying and using mental illnesses incorrectly seems to be a trend - one I’ve seen super often on Twitter. I’m just going to say it: you don't have depression JUST because that guy doesn’t like you back. Being sad and being depressed are totally different things. Sadness can be a symptom of depression, but it’s so much more than that. Often times, there’s the emptiness. The indifference. The hopelessness. Depression is literally a chemical imbalance in your brain. It can be temporary. It can be life-long. However, it's not the result of a single inconvenience, and it’s sure as hell not a term for you to throw around as an adjective.

We see this with the term “bipolar” all the time, too. Your boyfriend’s mood changed fairly easily, and now you’re ranting in your group chat about how “bipolar” he is.

You get distracted during class and suddenly you have ADHD.

You have a test coming up, and you mistake the stress for an anxiety disorder.

You have a bad day and make a joke about wanting to kill yourself.

These are real problems that people face, and they’re not something to take lightly. What may seem like a harmless Twitter joke easily turns into part of a bigger stigma. When we joke about mental illnesses or use them incorrectly, we make it harder for people with actual illnesses to step forward and speak out. Getting help takes a hell of a lot of courage, especially if you’re worried about not being believed. When we become desensitized to these issues from reading/hearing incorrect usages of the terms, it becomes harder to believe those who really are struggling.

I think there’s a fine line in this argument because there can absolutely be situational aspects to mental illnesses. Take depression, for example. If you lose someone you love, you can spiral into depression. This is real and this is valid. However, as a society, we need to separate REAL depression from the “I had a bad day so I must be depressed” fad. Similarly, are there people with OCD who like watching artists draw perfect circles? Sure. Does liking that video mean you have OCD? No.

Nobody’s illness looks the same, and we certainly don’t need to make it any harder for anyone to feel validated. So, let’s start to educate ourselves on what mental illnesses really are and how careless comments can affect those who suffer from them. Let’s choose our words more accurately and sympathetically. Let’s be mindful of how we use social media and encourage those who do suffer from mental illnesses to seek help.