Thursday, April 4, 2013

misleading medical metaphors

I'm not a medical doctor,but I still cringe when someone misuses a medical term, often as a metaphor for a policy problem. "Schizophrenic" appears frequently nowadays and seems to mean inconsistent, switching between opposites, or two-faced. That's not how the disease manifests itself. Bipolar disorder, quite different from schizophrenia, is a closer metaphor because of its associated mood swings, but it's still misleading.

Using these medical metaphors tends to trivialize the illness as well as compounding public ignorance about its nature, causes, and treatments. I have a writer friend who refuses to use "suicide" as a term for political self-destruction because a close family member committed actual suicide. I have close friends who are alcoholics or gambling addicts -- at best, they admit they are only "recovering" -- and I cringe at dramas that make light of such serious problems. I also have known people with real schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and the difficulties faced by their loved ones.

My point is that mental illnesses are too serious to make fun of and too important to use as misleading metaphors.

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