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Many words in the mental fitness field are overused and misused. Take, for example, depressed and depression. These words, when used properly, describe a feeling that is completely overwhelming and generally horrific. Depression is a serious condition that often requires a doctor’s treatment. Yet, most people use them to describe how they feel after their favorite sport’s team loses a game, after a breakup, or when having to move to a new city. The same can be said of the word anxiety. People also throw this word around loosely – but, clinically speaking, it can be very serious. Clinical anxiety can disrupt one’s life as much as any illness.
While I can’t say for certain, since I don’t have first-hand experience, I would imagine that individuals who do live with actual anxiety and depression would be greatly annoyed with everyone’s misuse of the terms. To a lesser degree, as an asthmatic who has often fought (literally) for breath, I’ve often wanted to say something when someone gets halfway through a smoker’s cough and bemoans their “asthma.”
You can certainly add Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder and paranoia to the list of mental health disorders that are used far too often. It seems that people want to give a grand name to even the smallest feelings and issues, but sometimes they’re just that – feelings and issues. Feelings and issues that will pass, unless the individual invites them to stick around by feeding them and naming them.
When you feel down, make a point to say JUST THAT: I feel down. When something negative rolls into your life, label it as the intruder, not yourself as its victim. It’s important to keep the negative attention on the occurrence and not the individual. After all, the occurrence will pass, or at least lessen it’s grip, in time.
Never, ever, ever sign on to be anyone or anything’s victim. Bad things happen each and every day – to all of us. We all know disappointment, discouragement, and even disaster. But few of us, thankfully, actually know the depths of depression.
More times than not, those who say, “I am so depressed.” are actually simply experiencing a depressing situation – and the cloud will lift in a day or two. Those who try to give more weight to the fact that they are simply a nervous type person will often refer to their anxiety disorder. Yet if they had to trade bodies with an individual who actually lives with an anxiety disorder, they’d RUN back to their own body.
To me, the dangers of throwing these terms around too loosely are the following:
- First of all, I believe it lessens a lot of people’s understanding of and compassion for those who truly suffer from mental or emotional disorders. Take for example a woman who, rightfully, seeks a doctor’s help for her severe depression. Another person may scoff and say, “I handle my own depression.” It’s highly doubtful that she even has mild depression, let alone severe depression.
- Labeling yourself with a disorder is dangerous. What we think of ourselves, for better or worse, affects who we actually are. If one tends to paint themselves, consistently, in a negative way – they’ll begin to live up (or down) to their expectations.
- Third of all, labeling yourself with an improper mental disorder can keep you from seeing what the REAL problem is. I knew a woman once who was convinced that she suffered from depression. Any and all symptoms she experienced, she chalked up to her depression. At a routine doctor’s visit, it was discovered that she was diabetic and had been for some time. The doctors were amazed that she was even alive and that she had not gone into a diabetic coma before being diagnosed. They told her that if it had been caught earlier, she could have been treated differently and would not require daily shots of insulin. No one will ever know how much damage was done to her body during the time she did not seek help for the way she felt. Most of her doctors believe that the damage to her heart during this time was profound. Ironically, a few years ago, it was heart failure which killed her.
- Lastly, it may sound harsh, but many people use these terms as crutches. What they actually ARE isn’t terribly appealing, so they simply grab an “excusable, respectable” term from the medial field and think they’re excused for their behavior. Yes, many people have anxiety disorders – but some are just nervous and drink too much coffee! Absolutely there are some people who have personality disorders, but some are just loud mouthed bullies who never left their emotional schoolyard. Granted, some individuals suffer from the legitimate attention deficit disorder, but many are simply lazy and undisciplined. Which do you think is easier for a parent to live with?
When it comes to using these disorders, especially depression, as a crutch, many people fall into the rut. It takes will power and strength to pull yourself up out of a rut. It’s simply easier to lie in the rut feeling sorry for yourself and excusing your behavior. But it’s also extremely dangerous – for the individual as well as others. Realize that some people simply feel sadness, tension, anxiety, and anger to different degrees than others. This doesn’t make them ill, it makes them an individual.
Not every person who blows things out of proportion and has temper tantrums is manic depressive or has a personality disorder. They could just have a nasty temper! Not everyone who cries easily is depressed, she could simply feel things more than others feel them. That, if you ask me, isn’t always a bad thing. If a child has trouble concentrating in the classroom, he may simply need to spend more time away from the television or video games.
Remember the importance of words, especially the words we call ourselves and others. I’d love for people to use the following:
- She has a horrible temper instead of She’s a psycho.
- I feel down today instead of I’m depressed.
- This is my son, John, sometimes he has trouble sitting still instead of This is John, he’s hyperactive.
- I need to help my daughter with her attention span instead of My daughter has ADD.
- That was a nerve wrecking experience instead of I’m having an anxiety attack.
Bottom line: Labels stick – so be very, very careful how you label yourself and twice as careful how you label your child. Ask yourself the hard questions. Is it a mental disorder or could it simply be a lack of discipline, focus, and will power? Have you succumbed to a label you stuck on a long time ago? If so, why not take it off today?!
I’ve got a new label for you: FIGHTER. You’ve been through 8 long rounds, but you’re willing to get up off the mat, dust yourself off, and get back on your feet. You’ve learned from your mistakes and want to see the view from this position from now on. The view from the mat sucked fermented cabbage through a straw.
You won’t be seeing the mat again anytime soon. After all, you’re a fighter. The label says so.
Make each moment count double,