“OMG, She Is So Bipolar!” There's a Better Way to Say It


It has become commonplace for people to use mental health conditions as dramatic labels for aspects of everyday life. Terms like “OCD,” “Bipolar,” and “depressed” have been co-opted in the common usage to mean perfectionistic, chaotic, or bummed out. People say, “I totally had a panic attack when she told me she was dropping Algebra,” when what they mean is, “I got really anxious,” or “I was in a state of disbelief.”

Using terms this way harms people with mental health problems. This kind of language minimizes the seriousness of the conditions named, while in effect, making fun of the disorders and the people who have them.

"This past year was so bipolar."

Better said: This year was dramatic, chaotic, and stressful.


"I wish my OCD would kick in."

Better said: I wish my perfectionism would kick in. 


"Stop being so OCD."

Better said: Stop being such a rigid perfectionist.


“He’s Schizophrenic.”

Better said: He’s all over the place, jumping from one idea to another.

Just to name a few. Instead use chaotic, organized, unorganized, uncertain of things, grieving, experiencing many emotions, etc.

“You look so Anorexic.”

Better said: You’re looking thinner that usual.

Even better: Don’t comment on people’s body style, weight, or shape. Most of us have very little control over how our bodies look and it isn't usually helpful to comment on appearances.


“You are so retarded.”

Better said: You are being silly, weird, and ridiculous. Knock it off!


"The Spurs lost, I'm so depressed."

Better said: The Spurs lost. I’m bummed out and disappointed.


"I almost had a panic attack watching the last 3 minutes of the game."

Better said: The last 3 minutes of the game were so intense. I got really worried the team might lose.


"I didn't get to sleep till really late, my insomnia is so bad."

Better said: I didn’t get to sleep last night because I had too much on my mind.


"You don't look depressed."

Better said: I’m sorry you’re suffering. It’s amazing how well you hold your head high and keep going each day.


"Don't scare me like that. You'll give me PTSD."

Better said: Don’t scare me like that. It’s not funny.

There are tons of terms that reference mental health symptoms and conditions: Mentally ill, crazy, psycho, schizo, schizophrenic, lunatic, nuts, insane, whack-o, bonkers, bananas, cuckoo, disturbed, fruitcake, flakey, loco, basketcase, demented.

Some better words to use: Temperamental, moody, inconsistent, indecisive, unfocused, fickle, impulsive, unpredictable, down, sad, unhappy, bitter, upset, blue, uneducated, not knowledgeable, intense, on edge


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Posted on January 28, 2018 .