What people think it means: A word used to describe someone who is shy, doesn’t like to be around people or make friends. It can also be mistaken to describe someone who is introverted.
What it actually means: The term “antisocial,” when used by mental health professionals, is used to describe someone who the public would typically regard as a psychopath. Antisocial is used in the context of the diagnosis “Antisocial personality disorder,” which is characterized by someone who lacks remorse for wrongdoing, manipulates others through lying, aggressive behavior, conning others, and engages in behaviors that complete disregard consequences, including the safety of themselves or other people.
Key difference: An antisocial person is not shy, and often enjoys being around people. In fact, they know how to use their social skills to manipulate others, to get them to believe their lies, and use them to get what they want. They are anything but shy usually. People who have clinical problems with shyness or lack of interest in people would have different diagnoses.
What people think it means: A word used to describe an instance of inattentive behavior.
What it actually means: If you have ever met anyone diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, you know the frustrations if it is not appropriately managed. ADHD consists of symptoms such as forgetting to turn in work even though it was completed, forgetting conversations or important items (keys, wallet, etc.), restlessness and fidgety behavior, impatient and impulsive behavior, inability to focus at work or school that causes performance problems, and difficulties following instructions.
Key difference: We all can have attention problems. In fact, there are a lot of research out there that claims the average human attention span lasts 11 minutes. The difference for individuals with ADHD is that it affects EVERY aspect of their life with severe consequences. It causes relationship problems with their spouse or family, it causes performance problems at work or school, it can cause medical problems if they can’t adhere to what they need to remember and do to take care of themselves or their dependents, and it limits their ability to maintain their household because they may not remember to pay bills, for example. If you took a medication for ADHD, like ritalin or adderall and it really helped you, it’s not necessarily because you have ADHD. These drugs help EVERYONE, which is why they are commonly dealt on college campuses to help with performance.
What people think it means: A word used to describe an instance of behavior that shows excessive organization or things that a person wants done in a certain way.
What it actually means: Individuals with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can display a variety of behaviors that relate to obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors, or both. They usually know these thoughts or behaviors are completely irrational, but cannot stop them. Obsessive thoughts are ideas, imagery, or beliefs that produce fear in a person. Examples may be someone who is so concerned about their mother dying that they cannot let them get their blood drawn, get in a car out of fear of a car wreck, or go to shooting range. Compulsions are behaviors that people perform in order to relieve their intense anxiety. Examples include counting items correctly, hand-washing, or lock-checking around the house at night.
Key difference: What most people think of as “OCD” would actually be more accurate to Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). Someone with OCPD can have obsessive tendencies with cleanliness and tidiness, as well as perfectionism and needing things done in a certain way to be satisfied.
What people think it means: A word used to describe a very moody person, or someone that goes from happy to sad or angry suddenly.
What it actually means: Bipolar Disorder is a diagnosis that has two states: depression and mania. Most people are familiar with depressive episodes and what they look like - chronic depressed mood, lack of interest, feelings of guilt, low energy, etc. Mania, on the other hand, is a little different from just being happy. In a manic episode, a person can stay up all night for days or weeks, for example, not needing any sleep because they have so much energy. They also make really impulsive or reckless decisions that can have a major impact on their lives, like taking all of their savings to the casino because they are feeling lucky. They can have a delusion that they are a kind of “all powerful” being, that just knows the numbers are going to go their way, for example. They also can be incredibly focused, getting a lot of work done since they don’t need to sleep.
Key difference: Someone who actually has bipolar disorder is not moody in the sense their emotions shift moment to moment. Bipolar disorder is diagnosed when someone spends multiple days and more likely weeks in each type of episode for the entire time. Someone does not shift from mania to depression in a moment, and then back again in another moment that same day. Someone who has problems with a rapid shifting mood would have a different diagnosis.
What people think it means: Often confused with Dissociative Identity Disorder (Formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder), in which a person displays behaviors a shift in character or personality, or someone who has diverse personality traits that can shift rapidly.
What it actually means: Schizophrenia can be a presentation of wide variety of symptoms, with the most prominent being hallucinations, delusions, and disturbances in cognition. Schizophrenia is a highly inheritable disease, and individuals with the diagnosis typically have lower levels of gray matter in the brain than the average person. Symptoms usually need to be managed with medication, and individuals with schizophrenia can lead normal lives. Schizophrenia was portrayed by Russell Crowe in the popular movie “A Beautiful Mind,” based on the true story of Nobel Prize-winning Mathematician John Nash.
Key difference: Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) involves shifts in person’s consciousness, with a person having multiple identities within their mind. Those who have had DID for a long period of time have an easier time shifting personalities, often without other people even noticing. These other identities can usually speak to one another in their mind, and there is typically one personality that is the more “dominant” one. DID is most commonly seen in individuals with a history of childhood trauma. Since children have limited coping mechanisms and little control over their environment, it is thought that some will “split” their personalities in order to deal with the stress of their surroundings. Think of it like distributing a large, heavy load (trauma, in this case), to multiple people. The more people (i.e. personalities) you have, the easier the load. If you have ever had an “out of body” experience, or a time when you felt you were “not there,” it is the mind dissociating to get away from a stressor in the environment.
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