Dying Daily #62: On Diagnosis

I have quite a few people walk into my office wanting a diagnosis, or having already diagnosed themselves.

There seem to be a few more popular ones as far as what people are looking for or what they have already labeled themselves with. PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder are two, and more than a few people have come in thinking they might be on the autism spectrum.

I blame Tumblr, WebMD and Reddit, in that order.

I really don’t diagnose as a counselor. This is a luxury I am allowed because I don’t take insurance. This is good, because I have a hard time understanding how we manage to diagnose many of the things people are supposed to have. It seems like we take a series of trends and tendencies or ways of living life and we attach a label to the whole thing. We only do this to things that are problematic for the person or society. I have yet to see a diagnosis for chronic compassion or relentless positivity.

Diagnoses often seem to be given in response to ways of behaving or dealing with something that are completely logical.

szasz

A woman goes to see her doctor for a routine check-up, he asks how she has been doing, she says her mother recently died and has been a little down. So a healthy response to losing someone she cared deeply about, right? Not at all, situational depression (adjustment disorder, more specifically).

A kid is neglected, starved, physically assaulted and sexually abused. He grows up angry, defiant, and mistrusting of authority. Makes sense? Nope, makes for Oppositional Defiant Disorder (and later, Antisocial Personality Disorder).

You know who I really worry about? The people who don’t have a logical reaction to the things they experience.

Look, I get it, diagnoses serve a purpose, and they are probably necessary to a degree. They are definitely necessary if you want to work with insurance companies, and I meant it when I said it is a luxury that I am allowed to avoid this.

But we have to remember that a lot of the psychological diagnoses they offer us are theoretical constructs, not actual things.

They may tell us something about our behavior, or maybe what we are struggling with, but nothing about us as people. Often, they do not even tell us about the appropriateness of our response to our struggles or the skillfulness of our behavior.

Some are MUCH more sound than others, I see this. But many seem to simply be the result of not adhering to what society has decided is right and normal and beneficial for society. The fox building the henhouse.

Who are you without the labels and diagnoses you have had imposed on you by other people?

What gives them the right to define you?