Mind your words
“He’s so bipolar, one minute he’s happy and the next he is mad”. “I’m so OCD, I want things to be in order always”. “Gosh, you’re so ADD, why can’t you just finish your sentence”.
Have you heard people say these things? Maybe you yourself have said them? I know that before I was educated in the true meanings of these words, I sure did. After working for 5 years now with people who struggling with these disorders, to name just a few, and struggling with PTSD and anxiety disorder myself, I work hard to not use them. Why is it potentially damaging? Mental illness carries such a negative connotation in our society and any misuse of these words can only persist the ignorance of the masses.
As a part of my practice, it is imperative that if and when I give a client a diagnosis, I educate them on what is going on and what the words mean. It is not to be used against them, to label them, or to give them a sentence. People who struggle with and live with these and other mental illnesses go through ranges of psychological, physical, emotional, relational and social side-effects on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. We would throw around the words cancer, down syndrome, blindness, and diabetes for instance as if they carry no weight or are not potentially insulting, at the least bit, sensitive for many people.
Millions struggle with mental illness to some degree and as I have said before, the brain is the command center of our entire bodies. Therefore, it deserves care, focus, attention and respect. Just as we are talking this day in age about being careful what we say and to whom about things we can see on the outside, let us also be mindful about what things we cannot see. You never know what someone is going through, what their story is, what choices they are wrestling with. Education is the key to the abolishment of ignorance and fear that is associated with mental illness. It is not scary, violent or malevolent. It is complex, and difficult, yet treatable.
So what is bipolar disorder? What is OCD? And what does ADD truly look like? Well I will attach links to some amazing articles from the mayo clinic to help you begin your research. I will tell you what they aren’t. People with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder do not present as angry one minute and happy the other. It is characterized by major depressive episodes that last for at least 2 weeks and manic episodes that appear with an elevated mood. People in a manic episode may appear happier than normal, as if they can do anything and are unstoppable, they do not sleep for periods of time and can even make irrational and impulsive decisions. Just because someone likes to be tidy does not make them “OCD”. People who struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are plagued with serious levels of anxiety, coupled with the insatiable desire to get rid of it and try to prevent the disasters their anxiety is telling them is going to happen by repetitive behaviors. At times this makes people not be able to get out of the house for hours at a time because if they do not finish their ritual, or they miss one step in cleaning their hands for instance, they must start over. So it is not kind to just throw that phrase around. It is a debilitating illness. And ADD is not just a word that we use for someone who gets distracted easily. There are many reasons some may become distracted…but people with attention deficit disorder will have racing thoughts, uncontrollable movements with hyperactive portions, and can have a lot of trouble with jobs and in school because of it.
All of these illnesses are treatable with talk therapy as well as medication. They are not at all a death sentence, and those who struggle are beyond the strongest people out there.