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Rethinking how we talk about mental disorders

Think about what these statements might have in common:

"I'm so depressed about having to work this weekend."

"I was so nervous about that speech I almost had a panic attack."

"I think my boss is bipolar because he is so moody lately."

These are all common examples of ways people use serious mental disorders to explain more trivial moods or experiences. It might not seem like a big deal to say things like this, but the truth is dismissing these conditions as being inconvenient or fleeting in casual conversation can make it difficult to appreciate just how devastating mental illnesses can be.

Let's look at the differences between what people say about a few mental disorders and what the disorders can look like when they are disabling.

  • Depression: People might identify brief sadness, frustration or disappointment as depression. However, someone with disabling depression can experience serious physical problems, find it impossible to participate in necessary daily activities and even be suicidal for extended periods of time.
  • Anxiety: For some people, anxiety describes nervousness or apprehension about a difficult or undesirable situation. For people with a disabling anxiety disorder, it can mean being unable to leave the house, being paranoid or engaging in compulsive or obsessive behaviors.
  • Personality disorders: You might assume someone has a personality disorder if they are uncomfortable or inappropriate in certain situations. However, disabling personality disorders can make a person impulsive and dangerous, aggressive or isolated to such an extent that they cannot leave their home or function well in social situations or daily living activities.

It's almost like referring to a stubbed toe as a broken leg. Both are painful, but one will require medical treatment and extensive recovery efforts. If people continue to use the wrong term to describe a condition, the line between what is and is not serious can get quite blurry.

Now, if you are someone who is suffering from a severe mental disorder that is affecting your daily life and making it impossible to take care of yourself and do things like go to work, it is crucial that you not dismiss or downplay it. In many cases, it may be considered a disabling condition for which there is legal, financial and medical help available such as Social Security Disability benefits.

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Southeast Disability Advocates
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Destin, FL 32541

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