Maybe We Should Stop Using Clinical Words to Describe Our Emotions

Etymology could help us to understand why

Photo by Toni Koraza on Unsplash

I am lucky enough to have a lot of friends, and I am not that lucky to suffer from anxiety.

These two facts might seem unbound, but they are not. Let me start with my anxiety.

Some years ago, I faced my first panic attack. So, I went to see a doctor and I was diagnosed with an “anxiety disease with panic attacks”. I was given therapy, which helps me a lot, and now I live a mostly desirable life, in which anxiety is not a problem anymore.

It did not disappear. It is a characteristic of mine: it made me empathetic and sensitive, but I can manage it and prevent it to become a limit in my life. I can travel, work, practice sports and enjoy my spare time with my friends.

My friends…

I love them, and I love spending time with them. They are lovely, smart people with many conversation topics. But they often make the mistake to speak about their feelings using clinical words. Anxiety is a clinical term, which identifies a very specific discomfort.

If we go back to Latin and check the etymology of these sorts of diseases, we find that anxiety derives from the verb: angere which means: to shrink In fact, who is experiencing an anxiety attack is feeling his heart shrinking and his breath shortening. A panic attack symptoms are very similar to a heart attack (without pain, luckily). The word depression too has a very important etymology. It derives from de -premere which means: pushing down. A depressed person feels a huge weight that is loaded on his shoulders and nothing seems able to ease it.

So, when my beloved friends are using the two words anxiety and its twin depression as a lightly altered status of their mood, I am feeling a little bit frustrated, because it is like joking on a very sensitive matter.

We would not use words such as “broken” when we say we should be more careful about our financial expenses. We would not use words like “paraplegic” to describe we feel too tired even to lift a postcard. So, why could not we assembly sentences like I am feeling worried, or I am a little bit troubled, instead of: I am anxious about the mess I will find in the tube! Isn’t it hyperbolic? In the same way, we might say: I am frustrated, I am not happy or pleased, instead of: I am depressed for my exam’s grade.

I am not suggesting that we all should change our common way of speaking. It is nice to add sometimes some hyperbolic sentences to underline our mood, it makes it easier to share our feelings. I am just wondering if the use of clinical words should be taken as normal. I am just feeling frustrated by the fact that using these words to describe a little altered mindset might trivialize a real disease, which should be considered exactly as it is. I am not aiming at been seen as sick; I am just wondering if we could be more inclusive about people’s nervous diseases, without fearing them, nor ignoring them for what they are.

By the way, panic derives from the name of the ancient Greek god Pan, who lived in the dark, wild and mysterious labyrinths of forests, from where he scared wayfarers. A panic attack is the definition of an apparently supernatural power that terrifies an anxious person. It is a very ancient word. And it has no clinical tag.

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