Commonly Misused & Overused Terms
The term codependent is probably a word you’re familiar with as you may have used it yourself or maybe heard someone else refer to either themselves or a partner being perhaps ‘clingy, needy, or even overbearing’’. Due to this overuse of the term, it suggests a negative trait for someone who has needs in a relationship. When an individual is codependent, it comes from a place of anxiety and needing to rely on the reassurance of their fears onto their partner (or their non-romantic relationships). In the human experience, we are social beings and are meant to be interdependent and seek support towards other people especially when experiencing life’s stressors and/or feeling distressed.
In relationships, codependency can bring partners closer. However, if one partner is more dependent than the other, it becomes more of a one-sided relationship where one takes on the role of the ‘giver’ and the other being the ‘taker’. If the roles are not reciprocated, then the partner that keeps on giving may sacrifice/give up on their own needs in order to provide their partner’s needs. This can then create a pattern in the relationship where there is unequal giving and taking of needs, thus being in a negative codependent cycle. One way of finding out if you’re in a codependent relationship, you can ask yourself why you or your partner are doing these behaviors? This can help identify the reason behind needing the reassurance and anxiety that may come up for you or them.
“I’m so OCD when it comes to cleaning my house and keeping my space neat.” This term is commonly and casually used to describe needing to keep things ‘orderly/organized’ in certain areas of your life. However, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition when an individual has unwanted, intrusive, and distressing thoughts that can be alleviated by completing certain behaviors/tasks in a particular way and if they do not perform those tasks, they experience an irrational fear of potential consequences because of it. The Center for Anxiety and OCD has beautifully summed it up, “it’s not OCD if you like it.” If you enjoy having an orderly, organized, neat space and it brings you pleasure from it, it’s not OCD.
“She’s so bipolar, one day hot the next day cold” Being bipolar is a term that is casually used to describe when someone experiences/displays mood swings. When a person suffers from Bipolar disorder, they are experiencing depressive lows and manic highs and it’s much more severe than just mood swings. During a bipolar episode, a person can experience a state of mania (feeling of euphoria) for weeks at a time and may take serious risks without having the fear of consequences. Once that state diminishes, they can also experience depressive episodes associated with symptoms of decreased energy level(s), intense sadness, poor concentration, and even thoughts of suicide.
Our last term that we commonly hear is the word ADD and casually used in ways to describe being “all over the place” or “scatter brained”. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) is a mental health condition that is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Meaning, in order to meet the criteria for having ADD/ADHD, you need to meet more than 5 signs such as having some symptoms before the age of 12, symptoms interfering with two or more settings (acadmic, work, social, other activities), and symptoms must occur often. Signs for inattention (with no hyperactivity) may include: making careless mistakes/lacks attention to detail, difficulty sustaining attention, does not seem to listen when spoken to directly, fails to follow through on tasks and instructions, exhibits poor organization, loses things necessary for tasks/activities, easily distracted (including unrelated thoughts), Is forgetful in daily activities. For hyperactivity/impulsivity, symptoms may include: fidgets with or taps hands or feet, squirms in seat, leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected, experiences feelings of restlessness, has difficulty engaging in quiet, leisurely activities, is “on-the-go” or acts as if “driven by a motor”, talks excessively, blurts out answers, has difficulty waiting their turn, interrupts or intrudes on others.
We may find ourselves forgetting things, not being able to focus for long periods of time, or sometimes having difficulty doing more than one thing at a time. We may have a lot going on in our day to day lives and can get in the way of the smallest tasks we set ourselves to do, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have ADD/ADHD.
* If you find yourself having consistent and frequent symptoms that get in the way of your day-to-day life from what was mentioned in this post, below are some resources for additional support *
Psychologytoday.com (website for behavioral research, practical guidance on relationships, mental health, addiction, and therapist/psychiatrist finder).
Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 988
American Psychiatric Association. Attention-deficit and disruptive behavior disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.