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The trivialisation of mental disorders


User ContributedHealth & BodyFashion

Using the names of mental illnesses in products is no joke for actual sufferers.

During a recent Saturday out with my friend, I chanced upon a design that caught my eye at Typo, a popular gift and stationery shop amongst youngsters. There was a cup imprinted with the letters OCD, for Obsessive Caffeine Disorder. I was appalled that such a distasteful design was actually sold publicly. 

OCD, which actually stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is one of the top 10 debilitating conditions as ranked by the World Health Organisation. It is classified as a type of anxiety disorder in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association's classification and diagnostic tool for mental disorders. 

The challenges of living with OCD are a daily struggle. As a sibling of someone with OCD, I should know. Each day, it pains my heart to see my loved one struggling with intrusive thoughts and being stuck in a cycle of performing the same task over and over again.

The cup's representation of OCD trivialises the disorder, and perpetuates a general societal attitude that makes light of the struggles that individuals with this disorder face. 

In a similar case in the US, TESCO released a jacket with the acronym "OCD" for Obsessive Christmas Disorder to much uproar. However, TESCO did not remove the jacket from its shelves. 

OCD is one of the more common mental health conditions that has been used loosely and carelessly by the general public. We often hear of people telling their friends: "Don't be so neat can? So OCD sia!" In a similar way, many use words like "depressed" and "anxiety" to describe our own moods when receiving our grades.

But there is more to a disorder than simply one characteristic, and our flippant usage of such terms to describe emotions that humans normally experience as part of life needs to stop. As of now, even businesses have jumped on the bandwagon and produced items that continue to trivialise disorders. 


Terms were created to succinctly describe something. Depression describes an extreme change in mood that affects a person's ability to function and it lasts for more than two weeks. Anxiety disorders describe a condition involving extreme worry or fear about future events, often accompanied by physical symptoms. 

Trivalising mental health disorders makes it harder for sufferers to come clean about their condition. They can't simply say "I am diagnosed with depression" and expect their loved ones to know that depression is more than just feeling down. If we were to be a more inclusive society, our language towards those struggling with illnesses needs to change too. 

Honestly, I do not think that it is too difficult to simply find another word to describe how you feel, instead of using a term for a disorder. Small changes like this can signal to businesses that trivialising and insensitive marketing are not accepted. 

May consumers like you and me be discerning and not support insensitivity. 


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