Consider the name of our field: behavioral healthcare. We all should also know that names and terminology in our field can have powerful psychological and attitudinal ramifications. As such, they can potentially help or harm our patients or, if you prefer, our “consumers,” or our “customers.”
Recently, I’ve questioned whether some terminology needs to be updated. One area is within psychiatric medications. A group of prominent psychopharmacologists feels that such commonly used terms as “antidepressants,” “antianxiety agents,” and “antipsychotics” can be misleading For instance, antidepressants also generally can help anxiety, which confuses patients who are told they are being prescribed a well-known antidepressant to reduce their anxiety.
Advocates in substance use treatment seem concerned that such terms as “abuse,” “addicts,” and “dependency” are too stigmatizing. Why not say “overuse” instead, I wonder?
Or in my own profession, I dislike the term “shrink” being applied to psychiatrists. Our goal is to expand one’s mind, not shrink it. And we certainly are not practicing the ancient tribal ritual of severing and preserving the heads of our enemies, which is where this silly word comes from.
There is no official body that determines these sorts of names and terminology in our field, so it is up to us. In your settings, do you discuss and decide what terminology to use and why? Would you change the names and terminology for medication and substance abuse problems? If so, to what, and why?
My professional name is H. Steven Moffic, MD. The “H” stands for Hillard, my given first name, and Steven is my middle name. I didn't like Hillard growing up, but have come to embrace it later in life. Although my absolute favorite name is “Hey-Hey,” which is what my oldest grandchild calls me.