On the Casual Use of the Term “Depression”

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Hope y’all had a good weekend! If you’ve been as busy as me, you probably needed the break.

Besides playing way too much Fortnite (xchilphilx on XBL) and bumping new Travis Scott way too loud…I’ve been working on a few things behind the scenes. While those are cooking, I wanted to stop by and have a quick (but important) discussion on a topic that’s been on my mind for a while.

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How y’all doing?

Several weeks ago, Instagram began providing an option for users to ask questions on their story and have them answered by their followers. I’m always looking for topics to continue the mental health conversation, so I decided to ask my peeps if there was anything they wanted to read about. One follower and good friend (thanks, @theycallmetap) in particular started a conversation about whether or not I think mental health words and terms such as “depression” and “anxiety” are overused (spoiler alert: I do), and before too long this post was born.

You’ve probably experienced it in your daily life. Someone says “Ugh, this weather is depressing,” or “Have you seen the latest episode of X, so depressed Johnny died,” or “this traffic is giving me anxiety.” Regardless of the situation, it’s becoming (at least to me) a disturbing trend – both in my day-to-day life and social media. Trivializing and colloquializing (had to double-check the spelling on that one) mental health and its terms have unfortunately become a norm – more often than not, it seems, by people that just don’t seem to understand mental illness.

Using something too much, like a word or a term, can dilute it and remove the significance of its meaning. “I’m depressed” these days has really become equivalent to “I’m a little sad.” “This gives me anxiety” really means “I’m just a little stressed about it,” and so on. I once read that we would never use a serious physical illness (like cancer) to mean “a little sick”, so why do we use mental illnesses this way?

Did watching an episode on Netflix make you have trouble breathing, or make you want to lock yourself in your bedroom and spend the rest of the night under covers? Did a little bit of rain give you heart palpitations, sweaty palms, or make you feel you don’t deserve to live? I’m not here to police language or take away from your experience, but I’ll put a few dollars on “probably not”.

In my experience, using terms in this way really takes away from those who are going through serious mental health struggles…and it isn’t fair to us as a whole. In addition, it can further add to the stigma of mental illness by contributing to its misunderstanding and making anxiety, depression, etc. seem less serious or important. Mental health and mental illness are serious issues, so we should treat them that way.

So, all that considered, the next time we choose to use a term such as “depressed”, “anxiety”, or “OCD” and the like, I hope we all consider what those terms may mean to someone else.

What are your thoughts?  I’d love to hear them.

Here for you always,

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Phil.

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