For Ms. Chavis, people repeat the language they learn from social media, where people, especially women, swap tips on how to recognize signs of potential manipulation. Sometimes, these come from actual therapists; Often, someone with a front-facing camera can give advice.
Dr. Jesse Gould, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Communication, isn’t surprised that psychological language has crept into everyday conversation. “In some ways, it has always been the case that people are using the terms in ways that a therapist would,” she said. Speaking up about mental illness, in general, can help defuse conditions like anxiety and depression, she said, and being vulnerable with a new partner can be good.
However, there is a clear downside to learning medical terms through TikTok videos or memes, namely that non-professionals can get it wrong. The term “trauma bonded,” in particular, is tossed around to indicate joining someone over shared struggles; The clinical definition of the term refers to a specific pattern of abuse.
This language can also provide a convenient excuse to dismiss someone. “I find a lot of times, it kind of levitates people,” said Edward Nyamenkum, a 29-year-old art director in Montreal. “It makes people feel okay when they ghost someone, like, ‘They’re obviously toxic,’ without giving them a chance.”
And when people misuse these words, to deploy a weighty term like “gaslighting” to describe the everyday upheavals that come with dating, those who actually experienced abuse have a voice less. Happens, Dr. Bandinelli said. This “explosion of clinical language”, as she called it, provides blanket, simple language for the often complex and specific puzzles that come with modern dating.
“It makes sense that the use of pseudoscientific jargon somehow strengthens our argument,” Dr. Bandinelli said. If someone acts like an idiot, that said, it may just be one person’s opinion. “But if you’re ‘gaslighting me’ or ‘bombing me,’ then it becomes objective,” she said.