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To the People Who Use 'Depressed' as a Synonym for 'Sad'

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Day in and day out, we use a lot of different expressions, like, “You gave me a heart attack!” Did this person really experience a myocardial infarction? No way, they just got really scared. Or when we say, “Break a leg!” do we really wish for this person to break their bone? Of course not. We’re just wishing them good luck.

Many expressions like this are used in our everyday life with no extra thought, but the one expression I see used often, and usually out of context, is “Ugh! I am so depressed!” Now, does this really mean you’re depressed? Or are you just feeling sad? You see, these are two very different terms. One is a normal feeling for a human to experience from time to time, the other can be a mental illness that affects millions of Americans.

Let’s think about this for a minute. If our blood sugar dropped and we felt clammy and light-headed, would we say “I am so diabetic!” No. We don’t use other medical diagnoses loosely, so why are mental illnesses not the same? I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “Oh my goodness, you are so bipolar!” Or how about, “My OCD is kicking in!” when you’re talking about being organized? These are just a few of the many illnesses many of us have thrown around in daily conversation with no extra thought.

Now, I’m not trying to discredit anyone who’s said this and actually is depressed, but I am trying to advocate for the use of this term only when you’re truly experiencing it. As someone who lives with depression, I take offense when a peer thinks they are “depressed” because their boyfriend ignored them for a day or they received a bad grade on a test. Depression doesn’t just go away when we make up with our significant other or do the extra credit to raise our grade. Depression lingers for weeks, months and sometimes years. Maybe what you are feeling is stress, sadness or fatigue, but please do not use a serious medical diagnosis I fight every day as a synonym for sadness.

Each time depression, or any other illness for that matter, is used in place of sadness, I feel the mental health community gets a little less credit, like our diagnosis is equal to your everyday sadness, or like the demons we face aren’t really demons at all. It makes me feel like I’m just not as strong as you. I can assure you that I’m stronger than I’ve ever been because of my depression. So please, next time you catch yourself thinking you are “so depressed,” try to think of another way to describe how you truly feel.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: February 15, 2016
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