Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last ten or so years, you’ve probably noticed an emerging trend on the internet as well as on TV. The portrayal of characters with mental disorders. The obsessives, the compulsives and the attention defic-… oh, look something shiny.

But have you ever wondered if this is what it’s actually like for people who live with these disorders? Do you want to find out? Then keep on reading.

1. Depression

Dr. Gregory House – House. 

At a time when everyone and their grandma were trying to make medical dramas, there was one show which stood head-and-shoulders above the rabble. That show was, correction ‘is’, House. It didn’t take long before Hugh Laurie’s name became synonymous with House.

Throughout the show, House is portrayed as the living manifestation of dry wit. Almost every word that comes out his mouth is iconic. But behind that massive intellect and cantankerous demeanor, Gregory House is clinically depressed. It’s a facet of his personality that recurring theme of the show. Yet it’s these very tendencies that have become his USP. We love House not because he’s a medical genius but because he’s prickly in just the right way.

Now lets take a look at how we actually treat depression. Is it most commonly associated to wit? To being cool? No, it’s associated to shame. Mostly everyone who suffers from depression deals with the shame of having it. Is the point that House is a bad show because it treats depression like a super-power?No, House is a great show. But we forget how often pop culture trickles into reality and begin to romanticize what is, for a lot of people, a crippling disorder.


2. A.D.H.D

Shawn Spencer – Psych. 

Psych is a show not a lot of people have seen and I think the reason was that it was absurd beyond it’s time. It takes a very in your face with it’s self-referential humor, delivered through the medium of Shawn Spencer, Private Detective and Psychic.

The show follows the adventures of Shawn and his best friend and partner, Gus, who solve crimes using Shawn’s impressive powers of observation that are a result of his severe A.D.H.D and training he received as a child from his retired-Detective father. The show parodies police dramas, and itself, down to a tee and Shawn Spencer is the central attraction. One of the antagonists describes him as “a thick-tufted boy genius who ice skates through life on polished blades of snarky eloquence.”

What it’s really like…

Living with A.D.H.D is like not being able to remember what you’re forgetting, but all the time. Remembrall anyone?

Anyone who has lived with mild A.D.H.D will tell you one thing; it is NOT a superpower. For most people who live with A.D.H.D, academic life is pretty much an uphill trial and it’s not because they’re dumb. Imagine being unable to sit long enough to get through a movie that you want to watch because you keep feeling the urge to get up and move around. In more severe cases, people report constantly forgetting what they decided to do a few minutes ago. For a lot of people, if it is never diagnosed, they live their lives believing that they’re incapable of performing even the simplest of tasks.


3. O.C.D

Sheldon Cooper – The Big Bang Theory. 

The Big Bang Theory is a show that a lot of people love because it’s quirky and it’s lighthearted and it’s a show that a lot of people hate because it unintentionally represents nerd culture inaccurately. But whether you love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it.

The most iconic character of this show is Sheldon, a caricature of O.C.D so exaggerated that it’s almost funny. Almost. Throughout the show, his obsessive compulsive behavior is the center of many gags. He has a spot on the couch where he MUST sit, he HAS to knock on Penny’s door three times while calling out her name and he has a label maker to label everything in the house. Including the label maker. But his O.C.D, combined with his intellect, makes him a brilliant scientist even if he can be a straight up pain in the ass.

What it’s really like…

Except that’s not what O.C.D is actually like. As someone who has lived with O.C.D, the disorder doesn’t manifest itself so overtly and it is rarely if ever helpful. In it’s milder forms, it takes the form of being overly organized (Monica Geller) or overthinking. At it’s worst, it can almost entirely disrupt a persons life. It manifests as an inexplicable and undeniable urge to do something repeatedly. Like scrubbing your hands till they bleed because you’re not convinced they’re clean. Which has actually happened.


4. Asperger’s Syndrome

Abed Nadir – Community.

Abed is a whimsical child in the body of a grown man and he’s the most lovable character in the show because of it. Which, by the way, is because of his Asperger’s.

Community was one of the most popular shows on TV for a reason. The plot is simple, the characters are interesting and the treatment is unique. Never before has a show been so self-aware while doing the most absurd things imaginable.

Abed is one of the most lovable characters on the show. Why is he lovable? He’s the inner child inside all of us, the one we wish would stay with us forever and make our lives magical like he does for the study group. He’s also extremely self-referential and makes it a point to narrate things as they happen in front of him. The other characters indulge and accept him, taking part in his fantasies and adorably misconstrued logic. He often remarks on his own inability to understand and connect to humans for which he uses pop culture as a medium.

What it’s really like…

Growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome is like watching people communicate in a language you cannot speak or understand; emotions.

Asperger’s is a syndrome which falls on the Autism Spectrum of Disorders. It begins to manifest itself in children, around the age of two. Contrary to popular opinion, individuals with Asperger’s are just as intelligent and creative as those without. What makes the disorder disturbing is the inability to understand human behavior and social interaction, which often leads to people with Asperger’s becoming alienated and ostracized. 


5. Antisocial Personality Disorder

Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock.

Sherlock says it better than I ever could, “I’m not a psychopath, I’m a highly functioning sociopath.”

There have been many adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, but we’ll focus on BBC’s Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the role of the super-sleuth in a modern rendition of Sherlock Holmes which is as good as it as bad.

The show keeps drawing our attention to his morally questionable actions. Keeping his inhuman intelligence aside, Sherlock approaches his cases by putting his humanity aside which makes him capable of taking decisions that us mere mortals just wouldn’t be able to. It is essentially what makes him such a great detective and such an impressive character.

What it’s really like…

In reality, sociopathy is a lot more complicated. A sociopath is an individual who lacks shame, remorse or guilt. They can and usually will use any means at their disposal. They can be charming, they can lie without batting an eye and have a complete and utter lack of empathy. The last thing that would cross your mind if you ever met one would be impressive. Be scared. Be very scared.


6. Schizophrenia

Phoebe Buffay – F.R.I.E.N.D.S. 

The fact that Phoebe is weird and a little bit crazy has been a recurring gag throughout the show. But a lot of her behavior can be categorized as symptoms of schizophrenia.

If there’s a show that deserves the title of iconic, it’s F.R.I.E.N.D.S. It cuts across generations and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of it.

Phoebe was the flaky one. The one with the crazy ideas. She thought that she was possessed by an old woman’s ghost, tries to raise a box of rats, was convinced that someone dies every time she goes to the dentist and occasionally heard voices in her head. These were her quirks. They are what made her lovable in the show and they are also the symptoms of schizophrenia.

What it’s really like…

Schizophrenia is one of the most severe mental disorders that exists. From visual hallucinations and hearing voices in their head to being obsessed with the idea that someone or something is out to get them, schizophrenics tend to lose touch with reality. To put this into context, what if someone you’ve known and been close to for years were just a figment of your imagination? Fucked up, isn’t it. Well, that actually can happen.


7. Social Anxiety

Raj Koothrappali – The Big Bang Theory.

Since we’ve already mentioned The Big Bang Theory, lets move on to the character.

Raj is the quiet one of the group. He has trouble talking to people he doesn’t know and when he does eventually say something, it turns out to be hilariously awkward. Or better, hilariously offensive. When it comes to women, he can’t even speak unless he’s had alcohol. Great message to kids, by the way. But Raj is adorkable. Everyone likes Raj. Be like Raj.

What it’s really like…

Social anxiety isn’t that specific. It’s something that affects every area of your life, sometimes to the point where people don’t leave their house for weeks at a time.

Social anxiety isn’t exactly like the makers of TBBT would have you believe. While it comes in many shapes and forms, social anxiety generally manifests itself as avoiding situations where one has to deal with people or going blank if they have to. It’s funny, even cute, to look at but it makes the simplest things a monumental effort. Imagine if every time you had to attend a meeting it made you feel as nervous as if you were about to jump into a pit of cobras.


8. Alcoholism

Charlie Harper – Two and a half men. 

If I were to sum up the show in a few words, it would be a show about assholes written by assholes starring one of the worlds biggest assholes. And it’s fucking hilarious.

Charlie lives with his intolerable brother Alan and his adorable nephew Jake, and his maid Berta who is arguably the best character in the show. Throughout the show Charlie gets drunk and has sex or occasionally has sex and then gets drunk. In fact, Charlie drinks so much that he sort of boozes his way out of every sticky situation and lives the kind of life we all wish we had; filled with sex, laughter and luxury. He’s sort of a legend for the kind of shit he manages to pull off

What it’s really like…

Alcoholism doesn’t make you a smooth-talking playboy with a sharp wit. It makes you violent, barely coherent and completely incapable of taking decisions. Find anyone who has had to live with an alcoholic and they’ll tell you stories that you’ll lose sleep over. Alcoholism is bad for the person suffering from it, but it’s absolute hell for anyone unfortunate enough to have to live with them.


Life isn’t like pop culture. It’s cool to look at on screen and, to be honest, I enjoyed watching these characters as much as the next guy. But reality is just wee bit different than what you might believe.