I have always believed that words are extremely powerful. That’s one of the reasons I love to write so much – because I believe that by writing down my thoughts and sharing them I can make an impact on this world.
Recently I’ve been bothered by seeing so many people using words in such as loose, casual way when it comes to mental illness. I wrote a post a while back on OCD, and how people use the term just to mean that they’re a perfectionist. Another one that is commonly used is bipolar – people will describe someone else as bipolar when they really mean that they’re moody.
But I can’t emphasize this enough: OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER AND BIPOLAR DISORDER ARE REAL MEDICAL DIAGNOSES. OCD is not synonymous with perfectionism. Bipolar is not synonymous with moody.
It’s similar to the idea of people using “gay” or “retarded” as synonyms for bad or stupid. It’s super offensive to equate someone’s very being with a negative meaning. Remember this epic commercial with Hilary Duff explaining why saying “that’s so gay” is not ok? It’s so on point. And when I was in high school and interning at LABBB (a program for high schoolers with special needs) I participated in Spread the Word to End the Word (a campaign to end the use of the word “retarded”) each year.
What someone is (as in gay or retarded, although that is an extremely outdated word – now one would day someone with special needs or intellectual disabilities) or what someone has (as in a mental illness like OCD or Bipolar Disorder) should never be used to describe something offhand. It is extremely offensive to people who actually have those conditions.
And especially when it comes to using mental health diagnoses as synonyms for things like perfectionism or moodiness, it really downplays the experiences of those who actually have OCD or Bipolar Disorder. These people have real issues that interfere with their lives every day, and their diagnoses should not be minimized.
On a slightly different, but very much related, note: as I have immersed myself into the online health/wellness community, I have been troubled by the casual use of words relating to addiction (yet another mental illness). Specifically, the words “junkie” and “addict/addicted.”
As I mentioned in my post, what I am seeing is people saying things (via usernames, hashtags, captions, etc.) like “addicted to fitness/sweat/yoga” and “self-care/self-love junkie.” While I realize that they are trying to use these words in a positive light, by saying they can’t get enough of living their healthy lifestyle, I am really bothered by the use of them. I can’t help but feel like we should not be taking someone’s experience with addiction and diminishing it by using words like “addict” and “junkie” nonchalantly.
Probably the most prominent example I have seen is the Spirit Junkie movement. Gabrielle Bernstein (a very influential and well-respected life coach, motivational speaker, and author) has a book titled Spirit Junkie, an app with the same title which will give you daily affirmations, and a Masterclass training in which you become a “Spirit Junkie Level 1 or Level 2.” If you look on Instagram, there are hundreds of thousands of photos hashtagged with #Sprit Junkie.
Now, I also know that Bernstein is a recovering addict and that she created this movement after getting clean. I assume her thought process behind the term “Spirit Junkie” was that it was a way to reclaim the word “junkie” and give it a positive spin. But is this really appropriate? Perhaps because she is a recovering addict and I am not, so I shouldn’t even be questioning it. But as a person with other mental illnesses, it always makes me cringe to see potentially triggering words used so casually.
(And as a side note, I totally ship Gabby. I think she’s a cool lady who’s bringing a lot of good energy into the world. So if you ever happen to see this post – which I would totallyyyy fangirl if you did – this is nothing against you! I love your vibe and I know that everything you do is done out of love. I am just genuinely curious as to whether people ever considered the use of the word “junkie” to be inappropriate).
Now, I am all for trying to live a healthy lifestyle. But we all know that too much of anything isn’t a good thing. Take orthorexia nervosa, for example. This is an eating disorder in which people become obsessed with eating healthy to an unhealthy point. One of my fav bloggers, Jordan Younger of “The Balanced Blonde,” has experienced this and you can read about it here.
So my point is – too much of a good thing isn’t good anymore. And yes, those are Sam Smith lyrics. But for reals, an addiction to anything isn’t healthy, and I truly don’t think we should be using words related to addiction to describe our health and wellness passions. Living a healthy lifestyle is about balance, and balance and addiction do not go hand in hand.
Maybe I’m overly sensitive or thinking in too much of a politically correct manner, but anytime I see a mental health related word used out of context it rubs me the wrong way. I’d love to know what others think – is it ok to say you’re a self-care junkie? Or that you’re addicted to sweat? Let me know in the comments!