I have heard the word “psycho” used to describe a number of people. Ex-girlfriends, serial killers, people with too many cats. (Who are you kidding? There’s no such thing as too many cats!) Don’t you people know that using “psycho” as an insult is really, incredibly gross? Listen, your ex probably isn’t psychotic at all. I know she dumped your full bottle of mountain dew on your Xbox One, and that was a sad moment and you cried about it for years, but that’s not the defintion of psychosis. (PC gaming is superior anyway, you fake nerd boy. She did you a fucking favor.)* I don’t know, if I was dating someone who regularly used ableist slurs, I might dump soda on their console too.
*I don’t actually think PC gaming is superior to console gaming. That was a joke.
Psycho: What everyone seems to think it means.
- That person I dated who called me 18 times a day.
- That guy who shot up a movie theatre.
- A criminal
- Someone who makes me uncomfortable.
Those definitions are ableist. Also, they’re inaccurate. Incredibly so.
To be honest, I’d advise against calling anyone a “psycho.” A “psycho” is indeed someone who experiences psychosis, but you probably shouldn’t call someone a “psycho” anyway. Call them a person. They are a person who experiences psychosis, and it’s not a pleasant experience. Don’t define a person by their disorder. They are not an extension of their disorder. They are a person who happens to experience psychosis.
“Okay, that’s cool, Mea. But what is psychosis? What do you mean the 52nd text from this creep isn’t psychosis?”
Psychosis is defined by abormalities in one or more of the following five domains: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, disorganized or abnormal motot behavior (including catatonia), and negative symptoms.
Delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in the light of conflicting evidence. Their content may include a variety of themes (e.g., persecutory, referential, somatic, religious, grandiose). Persecutory delusions (i.e., belief that one is going to be harmed, harassed, and so foth by an individual, organization, or other group) are most common. Referential delusions (i.e., belief that certain gestures, comments, environmental cues, and so forth are directed at oneself) are also common. Grandiose delusions (i.e., when an individual belives that he or she has exceptional abilities, wealth, or fame) and erotomanic delusions (i.e., when an individual believes falsely that another person is in love with him or her) are also seen. Nihilistic delusions involve the conviction that a major catostrophe will occur, and somatic delusions focus on preoccupations regarding health and organ functioning.
Hallucinations are perception-like experiences that occur without an exernal stimulus. They are vivid and clear, with the full force and impact of normal perceptions, and not under voluntary control. They may occur in any sensory modality, but auditory hallucinations are the most common in schizophrenia and related disorders. Auditory hallucinations are usually experiences as voices, whether familiar or unfamiliar, that are perceived as distinct from the individual’s own thoughts. The hallucinations must occur in the context of a clear sensorium; those that occur while falling asleep (hypnagogie) or waking up (hypnopompic) are considered between the range of normal experience.
Disorganized thinking is typically inferred from the individual’s speech. The individual may switch from one topic to another (derailment or loose associations). Answers to questions may be obliquely related or completely unrelated (tangentiality). Rarely, speech may be so severely disorganized that it is nearly incomprehensible and resembles receptive aphasia in its linguistic disorganization (incoherence). Because milidy disorganized speech is commin and nonspecific, the symptom must be severe enough to substantially impair effective communication.
Disorganized or abnormal motor behavior may manifest itself in a variety of ways, ranging from childlike “silliness” to unpredeictable agitation. Problems may be noted in any form of foal-directed behavior, leading to difficulties in performing activities of daily living.
Negative symptoms described in the DSM in regards to psychosis include diminised emotional expression, decrease in motivated self-initiated purposeful activities, diminished speech output, and decreased ability to experience pleasure.
Not once in any of this rambling does it mention a person who calls you too often, who ruined your Xbox, or who was remotely violent at all. Psychosis does not make someone violent. It alters how they experience reality. I don’t doubt there are people who are indeed violent and also have a psychotic disorder, but there are also people who are violent and have green eyes. I would also like to make a gentle reminder that mentally ill people are more likely to be abused than they are to be abusers themselves.
So next time you try to call someone a “psycho,” think about what you’re actually saying. What statement are you making to those who are truly experiencing psychosis? It’s a slur. Stop using it.