Friday, January 17, 2014

wording - is a qualitative difference indicated by whether or not the title of a mental illness is used as an adjective or a noun?

It's a Friday night, and I can't quite bring myself to not stay up late. Silly, really, and I even know it. But oh, well.

Only, I should go to sleep soon, because I'm supposed to be somewhere by noon tomorrow, however I first need to take my car to the shop. It took up making this absolutely horrible sound whenever I put on the brakes. Which still braked, so don't panic. It just sounded really bad. So I plan to actually get up early (i.e. on time) tomorrow to see if I can get it fixed.

But I just remembered that I have neither oatmeal nor cereal for breakfast. Terrible.

Anyway, I really did have a point.

The informal OCD blogging community has been discussing wording, stigma, and mental illness. So I thought I'd chime in.

When a noun that labels a psychiatric disorder is used as an adjective, it seems to me it is usually being used in the casual, careless way. "You are crazy." "That's crazy." "Crazy kid." In my experience, these don't mean clinical craziness (if there even is such a thing).

But the same thing goes with depressed and OCD. "I'm OCD about keeping my house clean" typically doesn't really mean clinical OCD. "I'm so behind at work, I'm depressed," possibly means clinicly depressed, but more likely means someone is feeling a bit down.

Depressed happens to legitimately hold both a clinical meaning and a non-clinical, every-day meaning. Thus, if I just say, "I'm depressed," people tend to think of the every-day casual meaning. So instead, I say, "I have depression."

Similarly, I might say I struggle with OCD, or I have depression and OCD.

And while I'm pointing out wording, "Behavioral Health" drives me crazy, in the casual, every-day meaning. Leaves me feeling like a naughty person who never learned to behave as a child. Who now is working on "improving" my behavior. And it just seems to encourage the idea already there that if we just did the right things, we would be healthy again. Thus, I'm very strongly in favor of sticking with "Mental Health," even if someone somewhere decided "behavioral health" was kinder to those of us needing such services.

Conclusion: Ha! You can draw your own. PS. I wonder if it is some minor compulsion that makes me want to wrap up all I'm trying to say. Or if it is merely evidence of my superior writing skills. :) My wanting to perfectly wrap up a day, mentally conclude it somehow (there is, of course, no known way to actually completely satisfactorily do this), that probably is one of OCD's deposits on my life. So let me hurry to bed in an imperfect state now. And don't you love the irony of trying to go to sleep mid-exposure? Because planning to cut a potential ritual out of your bedtime routine feels pretty risky, at least on the planning side. (I usually find exposures are much easier to actually do than I expect, with the exception of major issues.)


  1. I try to say that I have OCD and depression, rather than 'being' those things, as I think it helps to remind ourselves that we are more than just our disabilities.

    I like wrapping up days too, by trying to get some feeling of progression or success from a story I'm reading or watching, which ends up keeping me up later than I should be. I wasn't sure it was an OCD thing, but it would make sense that we feel compelled to wrap things up before we sleep.

  2. I'm not thrilled about the Behavioral Health title either. I guess we're just naughty children! Ha ha