If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know I’ve used the term “OCD sufferer” quite a bit. I felt it was a more respectful way to describe someone with OCD, as opposed to “an obsessive-compulsive” which always makes me cringe. I have noticed, however, that a good number of bloggers I follow who have OCD refer to themselves as “obsessive-compulsives” or “OC’s.”
So what’s correct, respectful, appropriate??? Obviously, it depends who you ask.
Recently, Lorre Leon Mendelson, who is a reader of my blog, introduced me to the concept of People First Language, which simply put, is about putting the focus on people first, not their disability. Attention is given to the whole person, who of course is much more than his or her disability. So, using People First Language, I would say, “the person with OCD,” instead of “OCD sufferer.” Another point Lorre brought up is that not everyone with OCD is suffering all of the time, and being labeled a victim or a sufferer might “imply a lesser position in equality to people without OCD.”
My guess is some people would say I’m splitting hairs here, and as long as we are well- intentioned and treat people with respect, our choice of words shouldn’t matter much. But I do think the words we use, and how we use them, matter. I am a writer after all, and writers are always searching for the right words to use at the right time. Over the years, I’ve blogged about the choice of words, from the misuse of the term OCD, to my recent post on using the term mental illness. Perhaps the post that best illustrates how powerful word choices can be is this one, where we see how the word “the” changes everything.
I have started to use People First Language in my posts, and so far am pleased with the change. I do think this language has the potential to affect the way we view people with various disabilities or illnesses. And better yet, it might just have the power to change the way people see themselves.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and word preferences, on this subject!