Mental Illnesses Are Not Adjectives

Carolina Soto

More stories from Carolina Soto

Artwork by Carolina Soto

Artwork by Carolina Soto

“You’re so OCD!”

“I’m going to kill myself”

“You’re so bipolar!”

“You look so anorexic!”

“Cute, but psycho”


Mental illness disorders are being used daily by people who are not aware of the effect these mental illnesses have on people diagnosed with them.

Some of these disorders, which find their way into daily slang, include manic depression, also known as a Bipolar disorder; depression; anorexia; psychosis; and Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, also called OCD.



In the medical world, according to The National Institute of Mental Health, a Bipolar disorder is a “brain disorder that causes unusual shift in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.”

However, in the slang world of our daily lives, when you’re having a bad day that consists of you having various types of moods that may include you being happy to completely furious and ending up on the verge of tears, it could lead to people automatically calling you “bipolar”. The term is also frequently used when people are constantly changing their minds.



Doctors say depression is the most common disorder that’s used as a slang by people due to the simple myth of thinking it only means being sad, yet there is so much more to the health condition. Depression affects the relationships between the person’s friends and family. It’s more of an experience that affects how you think, feel, and handle daily activities, such as working, school, sleeping and eating. The illness changes everything a normal person would do on a day-to-day basis even if it is just a task as simple as showering or getting out of bed.

Your friends might be having a bad day, and they’ll most likely say they’re “depressed”, or when they’re feeling overwhelmingly stressed, they will have the habit of saying, “I’m going to kill myself”.



In the medical field, anorexia nervosa is a mental illness and eating disorder that causes the person to obsess about what they eat or their weight. Anorexia consists of constant math in a person’s brain due to calorie counting every bite of food they have consumed, having an unhealthy obsession towards weighing themselves on a daily with the fear of gaining weight, making themselves exercise in an overly unhealthy way, glamourizing and obsessing over their ribs and collar bones being visible, and intense feelings of fear and guilt of eating.

In the world of slang, the term would be used by people as another description for being naturally thin. If a person sees another person that’s thin, they will target them and tell them they’re “too thin” and call them “anorexic”. Another occasion where the term is used is when a thin person isn’t hungry, people will immediately react by saying, “Eat! You’re so anorexic.”



Psychosis, according to, is a term that describes symptoms of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia whose sufferers struggle to distinguish between what is real and what is imaginary. Psychosis result in “strange or bizarre thinking, perceptions (sight, sound), behaviors, and emotions.” The disorder can become better or worse depending on the environmental factors, drug use and stress.

Psychosis enters the world of slang when people label themselves or others as “crazy” and say they’ll be capable of doing anything over a silly situation, which causes many to say the most commonly used phrase, “You’re being psycho.”



Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, also called OCD, according to, is “a pattern of unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress.” OCD gradually becomes a cycle of “ritualistic behavior” over time.

OCD is used as a joke when a person doesn’t like the way something looks. Usually when it has to do with good organization or cleanliness people will say, “You’re so OCD.”


Is it okay or is it wrong?

     To me, using mental illnesses as slang is wrong. It makes the disorders sound less serious than they really are. These mental illnesses consist of many visits to therapy, medication, and constant battles with your own mind. It is not as simple as just a word or what people without these illnesses describe it as.

Using mental illnesses as slang also stigmatizes the whole concept of what having a mental illness really is like. It adds more stereotypes the disorders already carry, which are certainly not true. Anorexia is more complex than just being thin. OCD is more than just having a clean room. Depression is more than just being sad.


4 Ways to Avoid Using Mental Illnesses as Slang In your Vocabulary

  1. Imagine yourself with one of these illnesses
  2. Be aware of the impact these illnesses have on the people that have them
  3. Be educated on what the illnesses really mean
  4. Think about what you’re really trying to say and replace the illness words with something else