Pathologising the Human Experience

By Caroline Harroe (Harmless CEO)

In recent years, the use of mental health diagnoses has become increasingly prevalent in our everyday language. It is not uncommon to hear someone say they are ‘depressed’ or ‘anxious’ when feeling down or worried. Similarly, people may describe themselves as ‘a bit OCD’ if they like things to be organised in a certain way. While these phrases may seem harmless, they can contribute to a broader cultural narrative that pathologises common human experiences.

One of the primary concerns with the overuse of mental health diagnoses is that it can lead to a skewed understanding of mental illness. When people use these terms to describe normal emotions or behaviours, it can make it difficult to distinguish between genuine mental health conditions and everyday experiences. This can be especially problematic for people who are experiencing mental illness, as it can lead to feelings of isolation and misunderstanding.

Additionally, the overuse of mental health diagnoses can contribute to a broader cultural pathology of the human condition. By framing common experiences such as sadness or anxiety as mental illnesses, we may be inadvertently reinforcing the idea that these emotions are inherently abnormal or pathological. This can lead to a sense of shame or stigma around these experiences, which can be harmful to individuals who are struggling with their mental health.

It is important to recognise that mental health diagnoses serve an important purpose in the medical field. They allow clinicians to identify and treat mental health conditions, and can be a crucial tool in promoting mental wellness. However, it is also important to be mindful of the language we use when discussing mental health. By reframing our language to focus on the universality of human experiences, we can work to reduce stigma and promote a more balanced understanding of mental health and wellness.