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Mental Illnesses are NOT adjectives!

(Part one to my Mental Health Awareness post)

Today I am going to talk about how using Mental Illnesses as adjectives is wrong. This is in fact a topic in which I feel strongly about so I do have a lot to say, which is why this post will be a two-part.

Almost every day I hear someone use a mental illness as a figure of speech - not out of hostility, but out of ignorance and frankly it is so wrong. When you decide to take a mental illness and thoughtlessly describe something such as a behavior, personality or anything at all that hasn't a relevance with the disorder itself, please understand that you are blatantly treating the illness as if it is unimportant and this takes the severity away from something that is a serious struggle for many people.

I asked my followers on Twitter about this topic as I was very much interested in their opinions. Every one of them who answered had a very similar answer, that using mental illnesses as descriptors is:

  • 'unacceptable'
  • 'insulting' 
  • 'disrespectful'
  • 'takes the seriousness away which creates a misunderstanding around them'
  • 'it's a shame that it's 2015 and mental illnesses still aren't taken seriously enough'
  • 'It could make someone suffering from a mental illness feel like they and their illness aren't taken seriously, like people are joking around about it - which sadly is the case most of the time'. 
  • 'As someone that has dealt with and is still dealing with depressive and anxiety/panic disorders, I find it pretty upsetting when someone says things like "my concert is over, i'm so depressed" or "I seriously just had a panic attack" when they've never experienced depression or panic attacks before in their life. They make it seem like depression and panic attacks are no big deal when they really are'.
This is just a handful of answers, all in which I will agree on.

We always hear 'Oh, that's so depressing', or 'I'm depressed about..'. As well as, 'oh that gives me such bad social anxiety', 'you are so bipolar' or even 'my OCD is kicking in.' etc.


The only time we should be talking about mental illnesses is when we are talking about the illness and the people who are impacted by it, not as descriptors.

Here is a list of words that should be used instead:

1.) Depressed

Some people think that this is just having a bad day, tired, or stressed out.

For example, "I'm so depressed today, I hate school", or "Ugh, this is so depressing'.
This isn't how it is. Depression isn't feeling sad for one or two days, it is a long term illness.

Here's a small list of more accurate words that can be used:

  • down
  • sad
  • unhappy
  • upset
  • disheartened
  • blue
2.) Bipolar

Some people think that this is being happy one hour, then being really sad the next. 
For example, "My teacher can be so bipolar sometimes."
Again, this isn't how it is. Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, means that you have periods/episodes of depression and mania, not happy one hour then sad the next.

Here's a small list of more accurate words that can be used:
  • volatile
  • difficult
  • moody
  • sensitive
These are just the smallest of examples. There are SO many more accurate words that could be used and for different mental illnesses, yet people still choose to use mental illnesses as a way to describe something.

Please reconsider your choice of words.

"Mental illness is unique in that its presence in a person often goes unnoticed. This means that the person to whom you jokingly use these words may be one of many people who grapple with the harsh realities of mental illness everyday. The bottom line -- it's important to be sensitive about the words we use in a casual conversation. These are real diagnoses, not flimsy adjectives to be thrown around carelessly." -- http://theodysseyonline.com/michigan/motion-stop-using-mental-illnesses-adjectives/110522

There is a huge lack of awareness surrounding mental health, too many people are uneducated and because of this, mental health is misunderstood which makes it so much harder for a sufferer to be open and honest about it. We should not be trivializing mental illnesses, instead we should be encouraging helpful conversations about mental health while raising awareness and creating a safe and secure environment in order to make sure that people are able to talk about their mental illness. It really is a case of "whether you have opened or closed the door that allows them to speak up." 

Don't be the one to close the door.

Note: If you are suffering from a mental illness, please know that there are always people who can help. Please don't be afraid to reach out for help, You are not alone, no matter how much you think you are. 

Thank you for reading, if you have anything to add to this post or would like me to add, please comment or tweet me. My main Twitters are @giventhewrld @crimjnalminds @zappedlouve

- T .x



  1. I totally agree with this. We were given an assembly in school a while ago about this, but they took it the wrong was and said that anxiety wasn't an adjective, which wasn't really the way it was meant to be said, but it came out as that and everyone got confused because of the two meanings.
    Katie xxx

  2. I read your blog frequently and I just thought I’d say keep up the amazing work!


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