4 Psychological Terms That You’re Using Incorrectly


At some point, you’ve probably heard someone
call their emotional ex-boyfriend a psycho. Or maybe they said that their tidy roommate
had OCD, or their unpredictable neighbor was totally schizo, or their moody sister was
bipolar. We do this a lot…and let’s stop. Think about it this way…if your friend doesn’t
like sugar, you aren’t like “Ugh, he’s such a diabetic.” Just imagine saying “Oh!
My ex was a TOTAL cancer patient. He was sick ALL THE TIME!” Ughh! Many mental health professionals point out
that using diagnostic terms as misplaced metaphors for odd behavior, personality traits, or even
changes in the stock market ultimately minimizes serious conditions, and the people who have
them. So we’re here today to help clear up some
of these definitions, and explain why the weather isn’t schizophrenic, and how your
ex probably isn’t actually a psychopath. [Intro] First off, it’s important to understand
what “psychological disorder” really means to the experts. Psychologists define a disorder as a deviant,
distressful, and dysfunctional pattern of thoughts, feelings, or behavior that interferes
with a person’s ability to function in a healthy way. Now, let’s break that down: Deviant doesn’t
mean something like dastardly or raunchy — it just means something that’s different from
your general social norm. And that can be pretty broad; like, serial killers are deviant
from the norm, but so are geniuses and Olympians. So, to be classified as a disorder, those
deviant thoughts or behavior need to cause the person, or people around them, actual
distress, which pretty much means a feeling that something is… off. And that distress can turn into a harmful
dysfunction if it limits a person’s ability to live and work. Take anxiety, for example. It’s something
that we all have to some degree — getting the jitters before a first date or a big speech
in front of a crowd – totally normal. But being so distressed at the thought of
interacting with others that you actually can’t leave your house … then that’s a
disorder. So, your roommate does not have obsessive
compulsive disorder, or OCD, just because she can’t bear to have dirty dishes in the
sink. But she very well might if her compulsions are interfering with her ability to live a
healthy and happy life. OCD isn’t about being neat, or particular,
or just deciding that you really like the color orange and want to wear it a lot. It’s a serious, often debilitating condition
characterized by unwanted repetitive thoughts, which can be known as obsessions, and when
they’re accompanied by actions, those are called compulsions. For people with OCD, compulsive behavior can
be a way to try to relieve the intense anxiety that comes with obsessive thoughts — like
a fear that, say, if you don’t walk over and touch that light switch exactly four times,
something terrible is going to happen. Kind of puts the dirty dishes in perspective. And bee tee dubs, if you don’t wanna wash
your dishes and your roommate is mad at you, that is not their problem, because CLEAN YOUR
DANG DISHES, JEREMY, AND WOULD IT KILL YOU TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH ONCE A YEAR! Another term I’m sure you’ve heard — and
heard used incorrectly — is “schizophrenic.” Really not a suitable way to describe your
moody neighbor, just because he called the cops last week when your music was too loud,
but then came back a few days later with leftover birthday cake. That is not being schizophrenic — that’s
just a person being nice to you one day, and not nice another. True schizophrenia is pretty rare — affecting
only about one percent of the global population — and it’s probably the most stigmatized
and misunderstood psychological disorder of them all. And that might be why the term is so often
misused. We see the term “schizophrenia” used in the media all the time, to describe
political flip-flopping and fluctuations in the stock market, even eccentric celebrity
style choices. One study of the terms “schizophrenic”
and “schizophrenia” in US media found that 28 percent of references to the condition
were casual metaphors…usually about someone or something seeming to have multiple personalities. And guess what….schizophrenia has nothing
to do AT ALL with having multiple personalities. This myth may have its origin in the fact
that schizophrenia literally means “split mind”, because the condition is marked by
thoughts and behavior that are out of sync with a person’s actual surroundings and
situations. Their mind is split with REALITY…not with itself. People suffering from schizophrenia often
suffer from delusions, either of grandeur, like thinking you’re the Queen of England,
or of extreme paranoia and persecution — like thinking the CIA and the mafia – or both – are
out to get you. People who have schizophrenia are also likely
to suffer from hallucinations — that is, to see or hear something that isn’t there,
while lacking the ability to reliably judge what is and isn’t real. So, “schizophrenic” is not a synonym for
“inconsistent.” It’s a devastating disease and one of the leading causes of disability
in the world. Now, speaking of mood swings — as well as
things we shouldn’t use to describe superficial things, let’s talk about bipolar. You may
recognize it by its older name — “manic depression.” But like depression, bipolar is a type of
mood disorder. Our moods are basically long-term emotional
states that are pretty subjective and hard to pin down, but they usually fall within
two broad categories with very fancy technical names — good and bad. Mood disorders are marked by emotional extremes
and problems in regulating moods. So, the symptoms of depressive disorders include
prolonged feelings of hopelessness and lethargy, while bipolar disorders are typified by alternating
among depressive, manic, and what you might call more normal or stable phases — often
between phases multiple times a month, week, or even a single day. And keep in mind that mania isn’t about
being super happy, or energetic. A true manic episode is an intense period of restless and
often overly optimistic hyperactivity, during which your estimation of yourself and your
ideas and your abilities can often get really skewed. A person experiencing a manic episode might
start feeling awesome, but quickly start to show some seriously poor judgement as they
empty their bank accounts on shopping sprees. When they come down off that sleepless high,
they often fall, hard, into sometimes suicidal lows. Which brings us to our final, and perhaps
most popular psych term, mis-used since the days of Alfred Hitchcock: Psycho. Psychopathy is another outdated term — it’s
more often called sociopathy these days, but professionals know the condition more technically
as antisocial personality disorder. It’s probably the most extreme and severe
type of personality disorder, which are some of the most difficult disorders to diagnose
and, frankly, to live with. That’s mainly because, unlike most disorders,
people with personality disorders often aren’t aware of their condition. Sometimes, they
think it’s everyone else who’s got the problem. People with antisocial personality disorder
exhibit a lack of conscience, even towards friends and family members. Their destructive
behavior surfaces in childhood or adolescence, beginning with excessive lying, fighting,
stealing, violence, or manipulation. They basically don’t care about any negative
consequences of their actions, and because they lack the capacity for empathy, they don’t
give a dang about you, or anyone else. So even though we really love Benedict Cumberbatch,
his Sherlock Holmes was flat-out wrong when he described himself as a sociopath. I mean, just look at how he and Watson get
along. It’s adorable! Now, just what causes antisocial disorder
or any of the other disorders I’ve mentioned is complicated, and honestly we have a long
way to go in understanding it. Some conditions seem to be pretty clearly
linked to biological factors such as genetics and brain chemistry, while others seem to
stem from specific situations, or environmental factors, like stress or trauma. And some cases appear to have roots in both
causes: People could have a genetic predisposition to a condition that tends to run in families,
like schizophrenia, but may only have symptoms if they’re triggered by their surroundings.
If you want to learn more about these disorders and other scientific aspects of your mind,
you can head over to Crash Course, where we’ve been studying psychology all year.
But in the end, we’re not here to tell you how to talk — or, for that matter, what to
be offended by — we’re just all about understanding the world around us, including people. And
it’s probably fair to say that using clinical diagnoses to describe haircuts or dishwashing
habits only fuels the misunderstanding of mental illness. A final note…in general, when talking about
people with medical disorders, try not to let the disorder define them. Instead of saying
that someone is a schizophrenic, say that they have schizophrenia. It’s hard enough
to try not to become your disease when your disease is inside your brain; it’s even worse
when it’s inside everyone else’s too. So next time someone is annoying or alarming
you with their behavior, allow me to suggest a thesaurus. Thanks for watching this SciShow Infusion
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