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Psychology Terms You're Probably Using Wrong

"Ugh! I'm so antisocial rn!" But really...Are you really?

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What you probably mean: Being introverted and/or socially anxious and shy.

What it actually means: "anti" literally means "against," so "antisocial" is related to Antisocial Personality Disorder (AKA psychopathy). Do you want to kill people? Probably not. You probably just don't want to be around them.

What to use instead: ASOCIAL

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The prefix "a-" implies "without," so by using this word you say "I'm without sociability," which is just a fancy way to say, "I don't want to interact with people."

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

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What you probably mean: you're a perfectionist, very organized, or don't like messy situations.

What it actually means: OCD can be a very debilitating disorder where your life is literally ruled by obsessions (preoccupations with an idea that may include/induce anxiety) and/or compulsions (the irresistible urge to behave a certain way). You might say, "Well I have obsessions and compulsions sometimes," and you would be right, but in this context I don't think you mean that you check that the door is locked 15 times before leaving the house because you are that distressed about it.


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Please don't lessen the pain and distress of someone who actually has a very significant case of OCD. Instead, describe it as it actually is instad of exaggerating.


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What you probably mean: I hear a lot of people use this in confusion with Dissociative Identity Disorder (split personality) or simply to describe a state in which you are experiencing mood fluctuations.

What it actually means: To meet criteria for an actual diagnosis of Bipolar I or Bipolar II Disorder (yes, there are two), you have to experience a manic episode or a hypomanic episode with a depressive episode. Just like Depression is a debilitating disorder, so is this. You might think, "Oh, I've been manic before..." and maybe you have, but I don't think so. A manic episode looks like one to several weeks of not needing to sleep, racing thoughts, impulsivity, grandiose ideas, etc. It's almost like having a two-week long hit of cocaine without the actual cocaine.


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Having a variety of mood changes throughout the day or feeling as though you may have multiple facets to your personality is a regular human experience. Only when this becomes debilitating does it need attention from a professional. Again, the goal is to not diminish the experience of those actually suffering.


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What you probably mean: much like incorrect usage of "bipolar," many people use this to mean they have a split personality (AKA Dissociative Identity Disorder). Or, they will use it to replace "bipolar."

What it actually means: While schizophrenia can look like the person has many personalities or his/her/their mood is fluctuating more than normal, schizophrenia is a very complex and unique disorder. It is characterized by positive and negative symptoms (not positive or negative as in good or bad). The positive symptoms may look like a manic episode and include things such as hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech/behaviors. Negative symptoms may look like depressions and include things such as apathy, social withdrawal, low energy, or catatonia.



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Because people use "schizophrenic" for a variety of incorrect things, the only way to know how to describe what you're talking about is to learn the term for what you're talking about. And if you don't know, say that you don't know because it'll look better that you're trying to be respectful of those suffering than to dress up in their pain.


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What you probably mean: Someone did something that seems incredibly odd or abnormal to you. I don't know how many times I've heard someone describe their ex as a psycho.

What it actually means: "Psycho" is short for "psychopath" which is very much like Antisocial Personality Disorder. A psychopath is someone who does not feel any empathy, whatsoever, for another person. Thus, if you are legitimately "antisocial" and also have some psychopathic tendencies, you're not going to feel bad for someone that you victimize.

What to use instead: if anything, just call someone ABNORMAL, but whatever you do DON'T USE "CRAZY," OR "INSANE" TO REPLACE "PSYCHO"

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Don't be a dick: don't call people crazy or insane really, ever. Though insane is a legal term, it's not ever used in psychology and neither is crazy. So don't replace psycho with crazy or insane.


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SYMPATHY: This is simply feeling pity or sorrow on behalf of someone else. You can feel bad your friend's dog died without actually understanding her pain. It's characteristic of statements like, "I'm sorry," or "My condolences" and actually can lead to interactions that disconnect the person who is sympathizing to the "sympathizee." In that case, you might try to put a silver lining on a situation, which is showing that you're not actually taking the perspective of the suffering person, only trying to give advice. Good intentions aside, sympathy alone can sometimes only make someone feel worse.

EMPATHY: This is exactly what psychopaths don't have. It is the ability to not just feel bad for someone, but to attempt to understand their experience from their point of view and feel with them. With empathy, you not only feel bad your friend's dog died, but you do so because you are attempting to see it from her perspective. So instead of saying, "I'm sorry," you would say "I'm sorry, that is really hard," or "I'm here for whatever you need, I feel your pain." Though you may not have experienced what they are experiencing, you can attempt to and that goes so much further than simple pity.

If you want to watch Hank Green explain it better than I can, here's a video:

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