We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Psychobabble?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Psychobabble is the use of psychological words, especially popular buzzwords, by people who are not really using the words in their proper context, and/or who don’t have the appropriate education and credentials to accurately use the terms. The rise in psychobabble can be connected to the earliest diagnostic terms in psychiatry and psychology that were captured by non-professionals and then misused. Self-help books, though they can be useful, have also done their part in contribution to psychobabble, since true diagnostic terms are often taken from them and used freely without any legitimate diagnosis or confirmation from a professional in psychology.

The term dysfunctional, for instance, has almost lost meaning and become one of psychobabble’s strong buzzwords. “I come from a dysfunctional family,” could be interpreted in numerous ways, without specifically defining the dysfunction. The statement may be correct if abuse or true mental illness existed in the family, but the term dysfunctional is often misused to mean any family where the going occasionally got rough.

The term also begs the question as to what defines a “functional’ environment, but may be so vague that it simply means some aspects of the family were problematic. A dysfunctional family could be anything from an environment where a mother or father occasionally yelled, to an environment where one of the parents had schizophrenia or severe and untreated alcoholism. The term is psychobabble because it has been jargonized and lost its original meaning and is now open to interpretation. It is overused and misused. Other terms that are bandied about in this matter include words like codependent, depression, inner child, and empowerment.

In some cases, people use the term psychobabble pejoratively, either to espouse negative opinions about people who use such terms without true understanding of their definitions, or to speak negatively of the mental health profession. When new terms derive from mental health professionals attempting to describe mental illnesses or destructive states of being, people may merely dismiss these as psychobabble: “It’s just psychologists, making up terms.” Though many of these terms do in fact describe states of being accurately, reluctance to accept a wider field of things as possibly mental illness can lead to prejudice against the whole field of psychiatry and psychology.

People wonder if shyness is really social anxiety disorder, and if the baby blues are really post-partum depression. They may take one of two directions and either diagnose themselves, or dismiss these diagnoses as made up. Both tactics are problematic. Dismissing a newly identified illness as psychobabble may not account for instances where such an illness really and truly exists. Self-diagnosis may lead to too much dependence on chemical solutions when these are not really needed. A person who is shy and claims social anxiety disorder may receive medication they do not need, and a person who dismisses post-partum depression and actually suffers from it may be at risk.

Lastly, such babbling may also describe those who use heavily jargonized psychological terms without really defining their meaning or context. This may be the case with certain motivational speakers and with writers of self-help or New Age books. Since the terms seem somehow powerful and scientific, they may lend credibility to ideas that are not thoroughly proven or that make the writer or speaker seem more intelligent or rational. It should be noted that many books of this type are written with the best intentions and don’t contain pseudoscientific terms, jargon or buzzwords.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon107973 — On Sep 01, 2010

what is the difference between scientific research findings and psychobabble?

By anon42359 — On Aug 20, 2009

but how is the self-diagnoser going to get the medication?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.