It is amazing that so many celebrities and public figures are opening up about their struggles with mental health, and making strides to stop the stigmatization around mental health disorders. However, this has also led to people trivializing mental health disorders; some have even gone so far as to say having anxiety or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is trendy. People are flashing fake mental illnesses as if they were fashion accessories. This is unacceptable because mental illness is not something that should be joked about. We don’t want to diminish the significance of mental health disorders to those who are actually suffering from one.
People often make statements like, “I am so OCD” just because they like to clean and keep things organized. This is insulting to people who struggle with hours of OCD rituals every single day. People use excuses like “I have Social Anxiety Disorder” to avoid going to a party, when their actual excuse is that they just wanted to watch Netflix in bed or excuses like “I have Bipolar Disorder” if they are told they are acting moody. These excuses are insulting to people who won’t leave their rooms to go to the grocery store because they actually have Social Anxiety Disorder, and to people who are in real states of mania. Claiming “I’m having a panic attack” when you are a little bit stressed is insulting to those who suffer from real Panic Disorder. “I have OCD” has turned into a way to say “I’m organized”. “I have Social Anxiety Disorder” has turned into a way to say “I’m an introvert”. “I’m Bipolar” has turned into a way to say “I’m moody”. “I’m going to have a panic attack” has turned into a way to say “I’m overwhelmed’.
Clearly, it makes sense that people actually suffering from debilitating mental health disorders feel that the severity of their illnesses is being minimized. Their symptoms of mental illness are not being taken as seriously as they should be. Physical illness is never trivialized in the same way. For example, people with sore legs from working out don’t say that their leg is broken. We need to start thinking about mental health like we think about physical health.
Society must stop trivializing the suffering of those with severe mental health disorders, and we need to develop an increased understanding of mental health. There should not be a stigma surrounding mental illness, but having a mental illness is also not something to joke about. Take the time to educate yourself in honor of Mental Health Month this May.
O’Connor Professional Group provides private mental health care coordination and support services for individuals and families impacted by mental illness. Contact us online or call 617.910.3940 for more information and to schedule a consultation with a member of our caring team.