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The ‘Take a Chill Pill’ Comment: Funny or Offensive?

Chill pill!Has anyone ever told you to “take a chill pill”?  (I thought this phrase went out of vogue years ago, but I still catch it now and again. Oh, and it’s…it’s apparently a $52 pajama set for young girls, too. Thanks, Google.)

Or, maybe you’ve found yourself in the company of a co-worker who rolls her eyes at Susan, the office grouch, and laughingly whispers something to you about how Susan must have forgotten to take her meds today.  (Whatever happened to using the expression “waking up on the wrong side of the bed”?  Isn’t that a bit less likely to cause insult?)

And tech nerds everywhere are familiar with the phrase “there’s an app for that” from the iPhone commercials.  But before apps, there were pills.  And “there’s a pill for that” is still a common punchline.  The last time I heard it, I was in the elevator at my day job listening to two graphic artists joke about how their workflow system was down.  One guy said he was getting antsy because he couldn’t get any work done until the system was back up.  The other guy, of course, told him that there’s a pill for that.  (For being antsy, I presume.  Not for correcting enterprise-level system failures. Sorry, hopeful IT folks.)

Sometimes, mental health humor is funny.  Sometimes it’s not.  On a good day, hearing “take a chill pill” wouldn’t bother me — but, then again, would someone really be telling me to take a chill pill when I’m already having a good day?

Likely not.

On a bad day, such a comment would probably get on my nerves.  My latent Debbie Downer would emerge from my guts and deliver a brief little speech that goes something like this:

“Take a chill pill? Actually, I took chill pills for a few years.  They came in a bottle labeled Paxil. Side effects included sleepiness and anhedonia. Withdrawal effects included nausea, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, depression, and electric-shock sensations in my head and neck.  So, as kind as your ‘chill pill’ suggestion might be, I’ll pass.”

And then, this sound would pipe out of thin air: whaaa whaaaaaaa.

Of course, such a monologue would be grounds for a round of “okay, now you really need to take a chill pill” comments — this time from everyone within earshot.  But when anxiety is a daily struggle for you, it might be difficult to withhold a defensive reaction.  Especially if you’re trying to manage your anxiety without the use of pharmaceuticals.

How would you handle a “chill pill” joke?  Would you be offended?  Would you laugh it off?  Would you pull out your bottle of Xanax and give it a little shake?  Would you use it as an opportunity to teach others about your anxiety disorder?

And how much does the context of the comment matter?  Would your reaction be the same if you heard the “chill pill” comment at work and then later at night at a party?  If someone who also deals with a mental health disorder (like Chato Stewart in his Mental Health Humor blog) cracks a medication-related joke, does that make the joke more tasteful? Easier to handle? More appropriate?  Most importantly, why?

I really hope to read your answers in the comments section tomorrow morning.  Until then, I think I’ll wind down for the night and then go to sleep.

I think there’s a pill for that, too.

Creative Commons License photo credit: mirjoran

The ‘Take a Chill Pill’ Comment: Funny or Offensive?

Summer Beretsky

Summer Beretsky enjoys writing about her experiences with anxiety, panic, and Paxil. She had her first panic attack as an undergrad at Lycoming College and plenty more while she worked toward her M.A. in Communication from the University of Delaware. She contributes to the World of Psychology blog here on PsychCentral and has written for the Los Angeles Times. You can follow her on Twitter @summerberetsky.

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APA Reference
Beretsky, S. (2011). The ‘Take a Chill Pill’ Comment: Funny or Offensive?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2018, from


Last updated: 30 Sep 2011
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Sep 2011
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