My Word of the Year for 2021 is Instability. What’s Yours?


What word best describes 2021 for you?




This is the time of year, after changeover, when there is often a quest to find the best word to describe the prior or upcoming year. The New York Times is doing so in regards to 2022, as announced in the January 6, 2022 article, “What’s Your Word of the Year?”1 The results are scheduled to be revealed sometime later this week.

At Psychiatric TimesTM, we did something like this from the psychiatric perspective back in March 28, 2021, as presented in my posting “The Pandemic Project: Our Readers Describe the Year of COVID-19.”2 This word quest was to cover the first year of COVID-19. Personally, I chose BEWARE because it related to March 15th, the Ides of March, a day when Julius Caesar is reported to have ignored the warning of a seer, with disastrous results. Could that have been true of our President’s administration?

Among our readers, the most popular word was INTROSPECTION, both from clinicians and patients. What word could be more appropriate for our profession than that in a time uncertainly and extreme risk?

Moving further along, what is my word for the calendar year of 2021? It is INSTABILITY. There were so many unstable areas, such as:

-An unprecedented invasion of our Capitol on June 6th;

-A disputed transition to a new President;

-A surprise cold climate instability disaster in Texas in February;

-A chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and our War on Terrorism in August;

-The new worrisome and different COVID variants, Delta and now Omicron;

-Health care workers praised as heroes, and then villains; and

-Personally finding out that I had an asymptomatic arrhythmia putting me at risk for sudden death, leading to a pacemaker on December 23rd.

What I would hope for, even radically hope for in 2022, is a transition to the opposite: STABILITY. Come to think about it, isn’t the transition from instability to stability often a desired outcome of our clinical care?

In the spirit of the word search, what 1 word would you pick for 2021 in regards to yourself, your profession, or society? Let us know.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.


1. Parker-Pope T. What’s your word of the year? The New York Times. January 6, 2022. Accessed January 11, 2022.

2. Moffic HS. The pandemic project: our readers describe the year of COVID-19. Psychiatric Times. March 29, 2021. Accessed January 11, 2022.

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