Terms like “bipolar”, “autistic” and “schizophrenic” are often used in jest to describe character traits. But how harmful is it to bandy the names of such conditions about?
It’s a common form of hyperbole. The neighbour who keeps his house tidy has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). A socially awkward colleague is autistic. The weather isn’t just changeable, it’s bipolar. Such analogies are so familiar they surely qualify as cliches. They are also inaccurate and, to many, deeply offensive.
As Mental Health Awareness Week begins, campaigners are targeting what many say is an increasingly common practice - deploying the language of clinical diagnosis to describe everyday personality traits.
Using these terms metaphorically is just a joke, not to be taken seriously, argue some. Others, however, warn that this serves to further obfuscate conditions that are widely misunderstood and stigmatised.