You Are Not Your Diagnosis - The Life You Love

You Are Not Your Diagnosis

You are not your diagnosis. There, I said it. Blog post over because you’re officially cured and have no negative feelings towards your diagnosis, right?

Oh, wait... That’s not how this works.
Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

When I was diagnosed with depression several years ago, I said, "Nah, I don't want that."  Those are the actual words I said, as if being diagnosed with depression was going to somehow cause the symptoms that I already had.  Y'all, I clearly already had the symptoms of depression... I just didn't have a word to put to them and my therapist didn't have a good starting point to provide treatment.  But I didn't want people to see me as weak or incapable of taking care of myself.  I didn't want to admit that I needed help.  And I certainly didn't want to be labeled as depressed. 

But remember what I said before?  YOU ARE NOT YOUR DIAGNOSIS!

A diagnosis is just a starting point for mental health providers and it’s a quick way for you to tell your provider or others what you’re going through. When you say, "I'm depressed," or, "I have depression," it gives people a general idea of what's happening.  For your therapist or counselor, that means they have an idea of what treatment may be most effective for you and know where to get started.

A diagnosis is not "one size fits all." Anxiety that you experience may be totally different than anxiety that I experience. For example, I wake up feeling anxious and it quickly fades. Other people are anxious right before they fall asleep. Both are symptoms of anxiety.

A diagnosis is the way that mental health providers can bill your insurance company so you can continue to receive (hopefully) affordable services.  We can't bill without that diagnosis.  It is possible, however, to see a therapist and not use your insurance, if you prefer not to have a diagnosis.

Photo by Heather Ford on Unsplash

A diagnosis is not necessarily forever and it isn't set in stone.  You know how most physical health problems are diagnosed with a swab, test, or x-ray?  You can't do that with mental health.  The best we can do is give you some questionnaires and use our DSM 5 to diagnose.  Sometimes we get it right immediately,  sometimes we begin treating your mental health problems to find that there are some symptoms we hadn't previously uncovered.  That means your diagnosis and your treatment may change.  Plus, some diagnoses are meant to be temporary.  Depression, for example, may be caused by a specific event and may resolve with treatment and time.

A diagnosis does not mean you will absolutely act or feel a certain way.  Remember, mental health symptoms can vary among people and your diagnosis might change over time.  Be objective and honest with yourself when evaluating how you feel and reporting it to your mental health provider.

My point is that your mental health or even health diagnosis is simply a word that quickly tells people what you may be going through.  It's a label that helps you and your providers discuss and understand what's going on.  It does not define who you are or predict how you'll feel or act for the rest of your life.  For more information about diagnosing, I recommend looking on the National Alliance of Mental Illness's website.

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