“I have depression”, “I am OCD”, “I get a lot of panic attacks”…. These phrases might seem familiar to you, either because you have heard it from someone within your social circle or you might have said it yourself amongst your friends as an icebreaker! But guess what? Mental illness is no joke and we need to talk about it!

Let us first start by explaining what is a mental disorder? The definition of a Mental disorder in Invitation to Psychology by Carol Wade is “Any behavior or emotional state that causes a person great suffering, is self-destructive, seriously impairs the person’s ability to work or get along with others, or endangers others or the community”.

If we look closely at this definition, we might understand that mental disorders are not as simple as having the flu. In fact,  the definition clearly shows how serious it is. Then why do some people use these terms carelessly? Why does this behavior occur? In my personal opinion and based on what I have seen from working with young adults, there could be a lot of reasons that I will address below.

1- Too much knowledge

The great exposure to limitless knowledge has helped to increase the awareness about mental health, especially among educated young adults. This increase in knowledge has two sides. A constructive side, where there is an increase in the level of awareness, empathy and a better understanding of people. Then, there is the negative side where symptoms of a certain disorder start becoming “cool” or appealing that might make people start acting the disorder and even self-diagnosing.

2- Media and entertainment

The learning school of psychology tells us that human beings learn by observation and many kinds of research showed the impact that media has on people’s behavior and personality development. To better understand that point,  if you make a list of the “trendy” series, movies, TV shows, and even songs. You will most probably find the theme of mental health in at least one of them. The charismatic serial killer, the beautiful depressed girl, the genius introvert, or even the talented singer who just committed suicide.

3- Normalizing the jokes!

It takes only one joke about suicide to glorify it! It takes one insensitive “meme” about mental problems to make it cool. If you can make jokes about cancer, you can make jokes about psychological problems and mental illness!

4- Identity crisis

Coming up with an identity is never an easy thing. It is a bumpy road where the person has to go through stages till they reach an identity achievement. Teenagers specifically keep on exploring their self-hood till they find out who they really are. The process could be unpleasant which might lead to many negative feelings, several mood swings and even sometimes a hostile attitude towards their surroundings. Psychological disorders could be a safe harbor from this confusion where lost adolescents could finally identify and find themselves.

5- Fake and unethical practitioners

Like any other field, sometimes unqualified practitioners find it easy to put a label on a person by giving a random diagnosis to the client. Some might find comfort in the diagnosis and they start acting upon the symptoms even if they were not real.

6- “If you cannot beat them… join them”!

Finally, the surroundings, as well as peer pressure always have a huge impact. The need to belong to a certain group might make a person fake a disorder just to fit in.

The above reasons surely are not the only ones and the topic needs further discussion and educating, but the least we could do is not to take mental illness and disorders lightly.

Lastly, if you doubt that you or someone you care about could be suffering from a mental illness or disorder, seek the right kind of help and get a professional opinion. Do not wait!

Noha El Nahas, MA. is a professional psychologist who has been in the field since 2006, she started her journey in public hospitals , receiving intensive trainings in various psychological assessments, then worked as a clinical psychologist with prof Ahmed Okasha . After that she moved to the AUC counseling center to start counseling students.Then, she moved to Paris for 2 years where she worked in an organization that helps managing family problems. After coming back she spent a couple of years as a school counselor then became a senior counselor at the office of student well-being at AUC. Noha is a member in the American Psychological Association (APA) and PSI CHI (International Honor Society in Psychology) . She is also the founder and owner of Heal Counseling Center as well as an Adjunct Faculty in The Psychology Department at AUC.