10 Stigmatizing Phrases to Stop Using Right Now!

Last Update on August 10, 2023 : Published on September 4, 2021
Stigmatising phrases to stop using

“Nothing’s going right, I feel so depressed!” “This play is making me feel suicidal” ever used these statements? Have you casually claimed to have an OCD regarding something very general?

I plead guilty! I have always taken mental health very seriously, at least I’ve tried to. But now that I think of it there are so many times that I’ve used mental health terms very casually. There are many of us who are using mental health terms in a very, very general way.

We should understand the gravity of mental health terms. If we use them to convey general information, we are misusing the terms. By saying a few words without realizing the severity of mental health term will contribute to mental health stigma.

Also read: 10 Ways to Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health

Are you still confused about what we are doing wrong? Let’s look at some phrases that are perpetuating stigma…

Phrases that Perpetuate Stigma

1. “You look Anorexic baby, please eat something”

There are so many people who can’t help but comment on someone’s weight. And there are others who do not wish to body shame, but, out of concern, accidently make a similar mistake. There is a difference between being lean and being anorexic.

Make sure you do not use it to address someone who is lean or generally doesn’t enjoy food. Use it only for someone who has a medical condition.

2. “Can you please straighten the book, my OCD can’t handle it”

Claiming to have OCD is so common. Every fifth person will come and say I have OCD about something or the other. The irritating feeling that you get when things aren’t in accordance with you is not OCD.

OCD is so much more than just feeling uncomfortable compulsion about something. Use different words to express your obsession/compulsion. You could say, “I appreciate symmetry, can you please straighten the book for me?”

3. “Our coach/Ex/teacher/friend is Psychotic!”

How many times have we called people psychic or psychotic? Whoever behaves in a way that’s away from the societal bracket of being normal, we call them psychotic. That’s wrong! Let’s not reduce the weight of this word by blurting it out however we please.

They are not psychotic unless they pose potential harm to themselves and others and are clinically diagnosed. Make sure you do not use this word in a fit of anger.

4. “Are you crying or laughing? You’re giving me bipolar vibes”

Calling someone or something bipolar just because they are switching moods is not right. People who go through bipolar disorder really struggle a lot. Using this term casually will make their struggle seem small.

We jokingly use this word and don’t realize that we are only perpetuating the stigma. Everyone has a mood, they can display it however loud or soft they want.

5. “Ugh! My boyfriend gave me PTSD

However funny this sounds, it’s wrong to reduce PTSD to a bad date. PTSD can unwind someone’s life. Let’s all understand the gravity of such conditions. We shouldn’t call unpleasant experiences a trauma.

Call it unpleasant, irritating, horrifying, shocking, etc. to address unlikable situations. If it’s not PTSD, do not call it one.

6. “I’m depressed! I broke my phone”

“I am depressed” how easily we say it on our slightest of lows. 60% of people have been through depression but that doesn’t mean that slight feeling of sadness is not depression. I know you are aware of the difference between feeling sad and being depressed.

So, try not to casually claim to be depressed when you are going through a sad phase. Use words like sad, unhappy, feeling low, etc. so that you don’t ignore the depth of depression.

7. “This show is making me suicidal

How many times have you jokingly said you’re feeling suicidal? Or do you sometimes  feel like ending your life? Like I said before, if you’re not happy with something, express it by calling it painful and not suicidal.

Suicidal tendencies are a very serious issue. Don’t use it for anything and everything.

8. “Keep your ADHD aside and pay attention”

Whenever someone displays lack of focus, we don’t even take a minute to tell them that they have ADHD. Lack of focus is just one part of ADHD and of the entire thing. Lack of focus can happen because of various things.

Try to say things like they are and not under the umbrella of a bigger issue. Call them out but use proper words.

9. “Stop being Paranoid

Someone called my sister paranoid only because she was being overly cautious and analytical about Corona. And that stuck in my mind. Being paranoid and being critical or analytical about something are two different things.

I’ve heard so many people use ‘paranoid’ so casually. Paranoia is a symptom of many mental health conditions. Let’s not simply give it away.

10. “I am having a panic/anxiety attack

Saved the worst for the last. Claiming to have an attack is so, so common. At the slightest of stress and palpitation we begin to say, “I am getting anxiety, or having an attack”

Learn to draw a line between anxiety and general stress and use the term correctly.

End note…

There are many more phrases that we use, often unintended, that are in a way contributing to the mental health stigma and misunderstanding regarding the same.

Things like, ‘he has multiple personalities’, ‘you’re an addict,’ ‘you need therapy,’ and many more such statements that we simply use. We should take care of what we are using in terms of words.

Words have power and we should use them responsibly. If we use mental health terms so casually, it is only going to reduce their weight and importance. Let’s correct ourselves and others when mental health issues are associated with normal encounters of discomfort.

Keep these phrases in mind and make sure you do not contribute to perpetuating stigma.

Being aware about mental health is good but now we should try and reduce the stigma and misunderstanding attached to mental health. We do not know how the other person perceives our statements. Take care that you don’t accidently reduce the severity of mental health conditions.

I hope this article helps you get an insight about your statements and how you choose your words.

Do tell me, in the comment section below, if you are guilty of using these sentences and are ready to correct yourself!

Thanks for reading!

Take care! Stay safe! And use your words wisely.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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