The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

The Language Perfectionist: A Metaphor to Avoid

List of psychiatric medications
Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a short article I received in an online newsletter called, Early To Rise.  This is interesting in that this newsletter is about success, investing, health, but not about mental illness.  This just shows you how pervasive the stigma is in our society.

The information here is accurate and useful, so I hope you will enjoy reading it.  I am often irritated when I hear others misuse the term “schizophrenic” to imply dual or split, so imagine my amazement when I found this article.

What other language can you think of that spreads the stigma of mental illness because it is used so regularly?


By Don Hauptman

Consider these passages, found via online search:

  • “Is it any wonder that there are so many problems in America today when there is such contradictory, schizophrenic behavior in our society?”
  • “Any vote would take place in a state where attitudes toward marijuana border on the schizophrenic.”
  • “David Letterman’s seemingly schizophrenic first 15 minutes of tonight’s Late Show spanned the spectrum from funny to serious….”

The word schizophrenic is frequently used, as in the above examples, to mean split, opposed, or contradictory.

But this metaphorical usage should be avoided. Schizophrenia is not synonymous with a “split personality,” as many assume. Rather, it’s a psychosis characterized by “incoherent, hallucinatory, delusional thinking,” as one psychiatrist defines it.

But that’s hardly what most people mean when they use the word to indicate two things that are different or in opposition. More appropriate words for this purpose are dual, dichotomous, and contradictory.

Finally, advocates for the mentally ill point out that schizophrenia is a serious affliction. They frown upon the use of the word in casual and trivial ways. The authors of a study on the widespread misuse of schizophrenic note that “these inaccurate metaphors in the media contribute to the ongoing stigma and misunderstandings of psychotic illnesses.”

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals
how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

This article appears courtesy of Early To Rise, a free newsletter dedicated to making money, improving health and secrets to success. For a complimentary subscription, visit

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February 12, 2010 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. How could I have missed this blog! Its awsome. Your design is beautiful, its like you know exactly what to do in order to make people come to your blog! I also like the perspective you brought to this subject. Its like you have an insight that most people havent seen before. So great to read a blog like this.

    Comment by Vergie Stones | February 25, 2011 | Reply

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