The word mental illness has been widely used in a way that is both dehumanizing and stigmatizing, says psychologist and author, Dr. Joanna Johnson.
She has published several books and articles on mental illness and is the founder of the website, Mental Ill Health Research.
But, she says, it is not only people who have mental illness who have used the term “furry” to describe their experience with it.
“It is also very common in social circles for people to say, ‘Oh my god, I just got diagnosed with mental illness,'” Johnson says.
“The word ‘furry’ is used in the same way in many different ways.
It is not just the use of it by a bunch of kids who are obsessed with it, it’s also a very common way people talk about other things, like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, eating disorder symptoms.”
Johnson says it is often the case that people with mental illnesses often experience things like anxiety and depression as a way to describe how they feel.
“People are really afraid of being diagnosed as having a mental illness,” she says.
Johnson says that while the word is often used in social contexts, it has a very specific meaning in the medical community.
“I would say that it is more about identifying the symptoms and diagnosing,” Johnson says, “so that you know when someone is at risk for getting into an unhealthy mental health state.”
In her book, The Mental Illusor: How to Recognize Your Mental Illnesses, Johnson explains how the word mental health has been used in many ways to dehumanize people with a mental health disorder.
“Furries are often used to describe mental illness in a similar way that the term mental illness is used, which is dehumanizing,” Johnson writes.
“When someone describes themselves as a furry, or a ‘fursuit’, they are referring to the physical appearance of their body, not their mental illness.”
The word “furries” is used to refer to a group of people who are often depicted in a negative way and who are perceived to be inherently “fuzzy” or “messed up.”
For instance, in a 2012 study, researchers found that about half of furries were diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and about half were bipolar disorder.
According to Johnson, “the word ‘furries’ is a way for people who identify as fursuited to describe something that is not normal.”
She adds that this use of the term has been around for decades, and the way people use it is actually very different than it used to be.
“Before I started researching the word ‘mental illness’ and started writing the book, there were no words that people used to label mental illness like ‘furry,’ ‘foggy brain,’ or ‘fuzz’,” Johnson says of the way in which the word has been developed.
“Now, people use the word to refer only to certain types of mental health conditions, like depression, anxiety, and psychosis.”
Johnson argues that the word “mental illness” is also being used in this way to define what people with certain mental illnesses actually experience.
“Some people are actually diagnosed with depression and other types of anxiety, while others have bipolar disorder,” she explains.
“And that is a very dangerous thing because, if someone is diagnosed with a depressive disorder, the stigma of that diagnosis is still attached to them, even if they are actually suffering from a normal mental health condition.”
Johnson believes that people use “fursuiting” to identify themselves with mental health disorders and that this is an example of the kind of mental illness stigma that can cause people to isolate themselves.
“If you are depressed, and you are on a medication, and there are other people around you who are also depressed, then the stigma attached to that diagnosis can be incredibly harmful, and it can be very difficult to seek help,” Johnson explains.
She adds, “So it is really important that we change the language we use to refer in general to mental illness so that we can better understand it and be better equipped to help people who may be in need of help.”