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A Piece of My Mind
February 11, 2009

Person, Place, or Thing

Author Affiliations

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2009;301(6):580. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.114

As a psychiatrist, I have a strong negative reaction when I hear psychiatric diagnoses used as nouns or even adjectives to describe human beings. I cringe when I hear people described as “schizophrenics,” “bipolars,” “depressives,” and similar terms. It is also suboptimal to state “bipolar women” or “schizophrenic men,” with the psychiatric descriptor so “integral” to the person. While it requires more words to write and speak, the more dignified placement of the psychiatric term is worth the effort. There is more dignity in stating “a woman with bipolar disorder” or “a man with a diagnosis of schizophrenia” or “an individual with a depressive illness.” The care we use with language around any diagnosis imparts an impression of how we feel it either affects or defines individuals.

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