There's a wide array of unfair, offensive insults that people casually throw around without thinking — and many of them are applied to women more often than men. A prime example of this practice is describing a woman as "psycho," simply because she dares to do things like express her emotions or stand up for herself. To be clear, no one should be labeled as "crazy" or "psycho;" not only are these derogatory terms insulting to people who actually suffer from mental illnesses — it's also a huge cop-out to call someone "psycho" just because we don't get their behavior. Their actions may seem irrational to us, but we need to be mindful that people have histories and sensitivities that we know nothing about. But there's no denying that women in particular seem to end up on the receiving end of these insults quite often — both because we tend to be more open about our emotions, and because there's often a societal punishment for women who demand respect or fight back.
Telling women that certain behaviors make them "psycho" is invalidating. In fact, in extreme cases, it can become a form of gaslighting — a kind of emotional abuse which invalidates a person's emotions to the point that they begin to doubt their own perceptions of reality. But even if when these insults don't escalate to emotional abuse, we still need to be aware of how damaging it is to throw them around. They encourage women to suppress their emotions and to walk on eggshells out of fear that simply expressing how we really feel makes other people uncomfortable.
The following behaviors decidedly do not mean a woman is "psycho" — and, in fact, some of them are even signs of emotional health.
1. Standing Up For Herself
Despite Amy Dunne's famous claim in Gone Girl — that guys want to date a "cool girl," because "Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want" — this is a huge generalization. There are plenty of sensitive, caring guys out there who do want to know how their partners feel and don't want to date a woman who's a doormat. Those are the guys who are worth our time.
But there's no denying that cultural conditioning makes many women feel hesitant to stand up for themselves, lest they earn the dreaded labels of "crazy" or "irrational." A woman isn't being "psycho" when she stands up for herself by calling someone out for inconsiderate behavior. If a date consistently keeps you waiting for 30 minutes when you have plans, it's not crazy to tell them that they're disrespecting you and your time. If someone disrespects you through any actions or words, standing up for yourself is not only the right thing to do; it's also the healthy thing to do. If a woman feels disrespected in any manner, it is neither crazy nor uncool to be assertive and stand up for herself. And any man or woman who doesn't respect that can hit the road, because we don't need them in our lives.
2. Feeling Depressed After A Breakup
There's no getting around it — breakups are tough, and ending a long or serious relationship elicits all sorts of painful emotions. Everyone is different, and some people take it harder than others. If a woman needs to crank up her sad playlist, cry it out, and eat a pint of ice cream — she should be able to do that without judgement about her overall emotional wellness. And if you find yourself shedding a lot of tears after a break-up, that's actually not a bad thing — it's been scientifically proven that crying is healthy because it can improve your mood and reduce stress. And research shows that suppressing negative emotions is decidedly unhealthy, both in the short-term and the long-term.
Of course, harping on a breakup for too long is unhealthy, as it prevents you from moving forward with your life — if you find yourself hung up on an ex, it might help to get out, be active, and find healthy distractions. But we don't need to do that the day after a long relationship ends — by all means, cry it out without fear that someone will label you "crazy" for it. You'll be in a better position to move forward after you do.
3. Being Sensitive About Certain Things
We all have our insecurities and things that we're sensitive about. Again, these vary depending on the person. Just because someone doesn't understand a woman's reaction to something, isn't an excuse to dismiss it as an "overreaction" because she's "psycho." If a woman is upset about comments pertaining to her body, her diet, her family, her wardrobe, or anything else, she isn't the one at fault — and we'd all be better off it we'd apologize rather than invalidating her emotions.
We never know someone's history — playfully poking fun at someone "thin" for eating a huge burger can be upsetting for very legitimate reasons that you don't understand. (Take it from me, a recovered anorexic who craved a burger for a solid ten years before I allowed myself to eat one.) The bottom line is that no one's emotions or sensitivities should ever be invalidated. We all make mistakes and inadvertently hurt feelings — so the best thing to do is apologize and make a mental note to be more sensitive in the future, rather than dismiss what seems like an overreaction as "psycho."
4. Expressing Strong Opinions
When a woman cares strongly about a certain belief, cause, or opinion, she should be able to express herself passionately without being labelled a "psycho." When Bernie Sanders vents his frustration about the current state of our country, it's considered charming and endearing. But if (heaven forbid) Hillary Clinton conducted herself in that manner, odds are high that many Americans would hold it up as proof that she's "too emotional" to be president or blame it on "hormones" rather than passion.
In any debate, things may get heated and people will passionately express their views. If a woman gets emotional when she's discussing, for example, the current war on reproductive rights — can you really blame her? Being passionate and emotional is not only perfectly normal human behavior — passion gets us places, and a woman should never be shamed or labeled "psycho" for having a strong opinion.
Suppressing our emotions is unhealthy — but do you know what is healthy? Shedding a few tears. According to Medical Daily, crying helps get rid of chemicals that increase cortisol, the stress hormone. Other benefits of crying include improving your mood, relieving stress, and improving communication in a relationship.
Gloria Steinem, the tough-as-nails feminist icon, recently spoke out about why it's important to cry when we need to. As she told Lena Dunham in an interview with Salon: "We try to stay in control too long and then burst out. Instead of saying what we’re angry about in a reasonable way, suddenly we just explode."
6. Actually Having A Mental Illness
I hope it goes without saying that no one, male or female, should be labeled "psycho" or "crazy" due to suffering from an actual mental illness, whether it's anxiety, depression, or anything else. Using this terminology perpetuates dangerous myths and stereotypes about what it means to have a mental illness — and it's another reason that we should eliminate the word "psycho" from our lexicon. People with mental health issues are coping with an illness to the best of their ability — they are not psycho.
Remember that anyone who invalidates your emotions or dismisses them as "psycho" isn't worth your time. It's inevitable that sometimes people aren't going to understand where you're coming from and accuse you of overreacting. But you deserve to be surrounded by individuals who ask compassionate questions and try to understand your actions and emotions, rather than invalidating them.