Toxic boss lighting you up? What these psychological terms really mean

Language is alive, dynamic and constantly evolving. Today\’s language is not the same as it was 100 years ago, or 50 years ago, or even five years ago. Concepts from different professions flow into everyday language and we end up using these terms often.

Social media and TV shows play a big part in this, and if you spend even a small amount of time online, chances are that psychological concepts have entered your everyday speech and you may not even have noticed any.

All it takes is just one viral TikTok video.

One of the most prominent examples of this is the word \”gaslighting\”. If you don\’t live under a rock and have been on the internet at least once in the last year, you\’ve no doubt come across this term.

It has penetrated so deeply into our daily lives that the word was named \”Word of the Year\” by Miriam Webster\’s dictionary.

Depression in children and adolescents is on the rise, how can we help them? (credit: PEXELS)

Words have power because they shape consciousness and ultimately shape reality. This is because careful choice of words can help shape the narrative and public opinion.

For example, consider what is happening between Russia and Ukraine. Is it a \”war\” and \”invasion\” or a \”manoeuvre\” or \”special military operation?\” Are the proposed changes to the Israeli judicial system a \”reform\” or a \”coup\”? Are the recent IDF actions in the West Bank an \”operation\” or something else?

What words are used matters because those words can shape public opinion.

But when it comes to professional jargon, its use by the general public isn\’t always correct. This can lead to the dilution and devaluation of the meaning of these concepts.

Also, because words have power, using them incorrectly can have devastating consequences. In psychological terms, it can have particularly significant consequences in how it affects people\’s lives.

Frequent and incorrect use of professional terminology can strip away nuance, derail serious conversations, and create social stigma. For this reason, it\’s important to understand what these words mean and how (and when) they can be used correctly.

Here are some words that are used every day and are usually used incorrectly:

Gas lighting

A concept that has permeated everything from professional studies to pop culture in an extremely profound way. This term is used to describe insensitivity, lying or sometimes simply expressing opinions that differ from our own.

This word is heard all the time, both in the professional field and outside it. It is usually used as a form of blaming someone, describing the lighter as someone who does not take responsibility for their actions and behavior.

However, it\’s actually much darker and more insidious than lying or being insensitive.

Gaslighting is a manipulative process used to cause the victim to question their perceptions, memories, sanity, and reality. It\’s not just a white lie.

Gaslighting is a feature of many abusive relationships, as seen in the 1944 film Gas lightwhere the term comes from.

For example, someone may repeatedly insist that something didn\’t happen, even though it did, and tell the victim that they are misremembering or just making it up.

The goal of gaslighting is not to get away with doing something bad. Rather, it is to create confusion, sowing seeds of doubt in one\’s perception of oneself and of reality. It is a violent and violent act of coercion and control.


Even before Facebook and Netflix, Britney Spears was asking people, \”Don\’t you know you\’re toxic?\” Since then, anything that makes people uncomfortable and frustrated is considered \”toxic.\”

Your boss is toxic, your friends annoying and toxic, even the poor barista who took more than a minute to make you coffee is toxic.

But not everything that frustrates us is truly toxic. Sometimes it\’s good to know how to contain your frustration without blaming everyone, and it\’s best to leave the accusation of toxicity to when someone is intentionally doing harm.

If someone in your life is causing you emotional harm on purpose, that\’s toxic.

Someone who isn\’t right for you or is hard to get along with isn\’t necessarily toxic. Calling them toxic is wrong, unfair, and can be hurtful and hurtful.


Internet users\’ favorite diagnosis is probably labeling someone a narcissist, which has been used to describe anyone who appears to be self-centered.

This term is used lightly and is sometimes only used to describe someone with traits we don\’t like.

A narcissistic personality disorder is a clinical diagnosis in which one has an exaggerated sense of talent and self-importance; a perception of one\’s own power and appearance bordering on the fantastic; a tendency to exploit others; a deep need for praise, attention, and admiration; and an inability to cope with criticism.

Contrary to popular belief, people with narcissistic personality disorder don\’t actually love themselves. Rather, they are suffering from a severe ego bruise and are trying to compensate for their own insecurity.


Slipped on the stairs at your work entrance and now everyone in the office saw you fall? What a trauma!

If you bring this up in therapy, your therapist will sympathize with you (and if they don\’t, it\’s probably time to walk away) but use words like \”embarrassing,\” \”awful,\” or \”disappointing.\” Not \”traumatic\”.

Trauma is a deep, serious, and chronic condition that can affect not only the mind but also the nervous system. People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience extreme stress and strain from anything that reminds them of their traumatic experience and may even end up reliving it.

They suffer, among other things, from nightmares, impatience, anxiety and aggression. In some cases, they even attempt to commit suicide to stop the pain.

Describing sliding on stairs as a trauma makes the actual trauma seem trivial and meaningless.


If, like me, you need your beer glass tilted or it bothers you, it doesn\’t mean you have OCD. Maybe you\’re just a little weird.

Even if you\’re not sure you\’ve locked the door when you leave, even if you need your house extremely clean, even if you can\’t go to bed until you\’ve finished folding your laundry – none of this means you have the obsessive compulsive disorder.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is something much more complex. It is an anxiety disorder based on an extreme need for control, in which things are done in a certain way – and only in that specific way – to calm the anxiety by establishing a sense of control. It\’s not just an inconvenience or wanting to finish chores before bed so you don\’t have to do them in the morning.

Rather, it is a deep and grave fear and anxiety that if these things are not done in a specific way, there could be catastrophic consequences.

Outwardly, the behavioral aspect is the only visible part. However, this behavior is an attempt to compensate for a cognitive aspect in which someone with OCD suffers from intrusive, anxious thoughts and cannot control them.


Do you have a friend who never wants to go to parties and just wants to stay home? Okay, fine, but it would be wrong to think he\’s antisocial. he might just be an introvert.

The word antisocial began to refer to a reluctance to be with or around others. However, it is also a personality disorder that manifests itself as a repeated disregard for the feelings of others.

It\’s a diagnosis that manifests as impulsive behavior, a lack of empathy, and a lack of awareness of how your actions affect those around you.

People with antisocial personality disorder will often be characterized as neglectful, manipulative, and cheaters.

Traumatic bond

This is a term that has only entered pop culture relatively recently and is probably the most overused term.

The assumption (and it\’s not unreasonable) is that trauma bonding is what happens when two people share traumatic experiences and it brings them closer together.

A concept that would describe this type of situation sounds good, but that\’s not quite the case. In reality, the term is more akin to identification with the aggressor.

Trauma bonding is what happens when an abuser and victim form some sort of connection or attachment. An example of this is Stockholm syndrome, where the victim begins to empathize with the abuser.

A traumatic relationship is a real emotional attachment that the victim develops towards his abuser. This connection can often appear in abusive relationships, when the abuser exhibits intense transitions between loving and abusive behavior, and the victim\’s mind and body learn to depend on whatever displays of love and affection they get.

This can end up creating a scenario where the victim can be mistaken and think they need the abuser to receive these displays of love and affection.


This term is also used incorrectly in many cases, especially when used to describe \”split personality\” when someone switches between identities such as Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde. It was once known as multiple personality disorder and is now known as dissociative identity disorder (DID).

The word schizophrenia comes from the Latin and means \”split mind\”. But it doesn\’t refer to multiple personalities. Rather, it refers to a disconnect between different functions of the mind.

Symptoms of schizophrenia are varied but to be diagnosed, one of the following symptoms must be present for at least a month:

  • Hallucinations (perceptions of sensory stimuli such as sights, sounds, and smells that don\’t exist)
  • Delusions (false thoughts and beliefs)
  • Disorganized speech

In this context, pop culture has had a great influence on how this condition is perceived. Now, the primary image of someone with schizophrenia in the collective public consciousness is that of particularly violent serial killers – who probably, if anything, suffered from antisocial personality disorder. However, the vast majority of patients with schizophrenia are non-aggressive and suffer from both a mental disorder and severe public stigma.

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