A Common Way Mental Illness Is Minimized

Most of us have used terms like, “That drives me crazy!”, claimed something gave us a “panic attack” when all it did was startle us, or even described a moody person as being “bipolar” even though that moody person wasn’t diagnosed with the disorder.  Phrases like this have been part of the way people talk for God only knows how long.

I believe there is a problem with using these phrases though.  By using these phrases so freely, they dilute very serious mental health disorders.

Claiming something drives you crazy makes insanity sound like an annoyance rather than a serious mental problem.

Panic attacks are also much more than being startled.  They can feel like you’re having a heart attack.  They are physically & mentally debilitating.  After I have one, I feel very emotionally drained & exhausted for quite some time after.

Saying a moody person is bipolar makes Bipolar Disorder seem much less serious than it is.  Those with Bipolar Disorder aren’t simply moody.  Manic episodes can involve some very risky & even dangerous behavior.  The down side is seriously bad as well.  The depression can be so severe as to include suicidal ideation. 

If you think I am over thinking this situation, then consider this.  As a victim of narcissistic abuse, doesn’t it offend you when someone carelessly describes someone’s selfish behavior as narcissistic?  You have seen narcissistic behavior up close & personal.  You are all too aware that it is extremely different than someone doing something without thought or consideration of other people.  It is more than selfishness.  It is abusive, malicious, cruel & dangerous to your mental & physical health.  Lumping someone who simply was thoughtless in a momentary lapse of judgment in the same category as someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is deeply offensive to anyone who has seen the unmasked narcissist first hand.

I really don’t think most people are being malicious when they say something “drives them crazy” or some other phrase related to mental illness.  These phrases have become so common place, no one really thinks twice when saying or hearing them.  They simply have become an everyday part of our vernacular.  The problem with that is over time, very subtly, they reduce the meaning of real & serious mental disorders.  Sometimes, even make them laughable.  This just should not be the case!

If you realize you use such phrases, please reconsider doing so.  On behalf of my fellow “crazy” people, I ask you to stop it.  I know what I live with having C-PTSD & there is nothing laughable or trivial about it.  Having to fight your own mind to get through the day is serious & an incredibly difficult way to live.  It isn’t something I’d wish on my worst enemy.  Having my mental health trivialized or turned into the butt of a joke is insulting. 

What makes this situation even worse is mental illness is seldom believed.  If a person wears a cast on their leg, people see this person obviously broke their leg.  They offer that person sympathy.  Mental illness doesn’t have a glaring piece of physical evidence that is undeniable proof of the mental illness.  Those who suffer with it often aren’t taken seriously because they look “normal.”  Living with that then the trivialization of our illness is extraordinarily hard.  Proverbs 18:21 says the tongue has the power of life & death.  Please remember that & choose your words wisely!

12 Comments

Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health

12 responses to “A Common Way Mental Illness Is Minimized

  1. I personally think the term “Bipolar Disorder” minimizes the devastation of manic-depression. Like you’re just “disordered” … like your hair is a mess or your shoes are untied or something. Not what it really is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. It seems to me over the years, the terms used to describe mental illnesses are softened. Bipolar Disorder being a great example of that. Manic Depression sounds much more harsh, which fits since it’s such a devastating disorder. PTSD is another example. It was first described as Shell Shock. It later became Battle/Combat Fatigue, then Post Traumatic Stress Disorder & now some even drop the Disorder part. Post Traumatic Stress sounds like something mildly upsetting rather than the horrific disorder it really is.

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  2. I read this post early on Saturday morning and I have been thinking about it ever since. I’m thinking that I need to change the title of the memoir I am writing. Instead of Growing Up Crazy, I believe I will title my book Diary of a Scapegoat. What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that title! Diary of a Scapegoat is a fantastic title!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you! My daughter, who became a licensed therapist about 3 years ago, said the same thing. ❤❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • Good morning Cynthia. Or afternoon, where you are. 🙂

        I have been thinking a lot about my idea of changing my book’s title. Several people, including my husband, have urged me to keep the Growing Up Crazy title. Also, when I tried to reserve a WordPress blog site under the name Diary of a Scapegoat, I found that there already is a blog by that name. I could still name a book by that title, but I would like to have a WP blog with the same title as my book, one that I can reserve now, and activate when my memoir is ready to publish.

        After a lot of consideration and prayer — and also after reading this excellent post of yours again — I have decided to give my book this title: Growing Up Crazy, A Scapegoat’s Memoir.

        During my prayers about this, it occurred to me that using the word ‘crazy’ in my title, is not in any way minimizing that word, like you talk about here. I did, in fact, grow up very crazy, in every sense of the word. Especially considering that my abusive parents, after making me their primary scapegoat, then went against my doctor’s advice and committed me to a horrible state insane asylum as a way of getting rid of me when I was just fourteen years old. Yes, it was all very crazy — and the complex, developmental PTSD that I have as a result, is no trivial matter, as you know!

        I still think, like you do, that Diary of a Scapegoat is a terrific title for a book. However, I just don’t believe that it fits my story quite like Growing Up Crazy, A Scapegoat’s Memoir, does. That title says it all.

        I just wanted you to understand my reasoning for changing my mind again about my title. I know that ultimately, since I am self-publishing, the title will be up to me. And who knows, I could even change my mind again before my book is published, although I doubt it. But right now, my primary focus needs to be on finishing writing my story, and getting it edited, so it can finally be published. It’s going so slow, sometimes I worry that it will never be finished. I keep praying for God’s help and for His will to be done. If it’s His will for me to publish my memoir, then it’s going to happen. If it’s not His will, then I don’t want it to happen. I have gained a lot of healing and insight, just from writing my story!

        Everything you said in this post is very true, Cynthia. After the things that people like us have gone through, it really is a slap when people minimize mental illness by turning it into a joke. And I just want to thank you — because this post got me thinking and praying so much about my book’s title, I believe my title is now much better than it was before! ❤

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  3. Anji Prater

    This is a great article! I haven’t thought about this topic before. You make a lot of excellent points. Thanks for sending it over. I hope things are moving along with the house and hope you have a great week ahead. 😊

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  4. I have a similar problem where I tell people I have depression (clinical, inherited depression) and some people say “oh I had that for a few months after my last relationship ended.” I try to not get frustrated and thank God for the opportunity to educate that person about depression and what it really is. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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