[Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

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[Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by The Wisp on Fri Dec 05, 2014 3:53 pm

This is something I've gone back and forth on and I'm wondering what you all think of it. 

On the one hand, I find being able to put a label on what's going on to be liberating in a way. I have a short-hand to describe what's going on to others, and I don't have to feel like my problems are the result of bad character, laziness, or some other personal flaw. Also, it helps to clarify what's going on in some ways.

On the other hand, viewing yourself as Person With Depression/Social Anxiety Disorder/Borderline Personality/etc. can be self-limiting. It can start to overshadow other parts of one's personality and make a lack of improvement more likely. It can also hide from view the individual nuances and complexities of what's going on for you. It can make the feelings seem like a whole unchangeable part of yourself.
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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by kleenestar on Fri Dec 05, 2014 6:22 pm

I find it liberating, because it lets me accept it as part of who I am instead of as something that I should be able to change. In turn, that lets me focus on changing how it manifests and how I react to it, instead of trying to change something fundamental about myself that I can't plausibly hope to affect. Yes, I'm someone who will always have to manage her anxiety. I will never not have an anxiety disorder. But I can be someone who has an anxiety disorder, great coping skills, and a happy life - and knowing that I don't have to try to change the anxiety disorder piece frees me up to focus on the rest.
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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by InkAndComb on Sun Dec 07, 2014 7:14 pm

The Wisp, you've totally explained something I've been trying to put my finger on. On one hand, knowing I have MDD/Anxiety/ADHD really explains a lot of the complex emotions and issues I have to work with.

I struggled a lot throughout childhood pushing away any sort of diagnosis. I just wanted to be NORMAL, dangit! So in this way, refusing my diagnosis spurred on change.

This didn't work outside of highschool though, and the tools I had for depression didn't help me when anxiety became much larger and looming.

Recently I feel like my diagnosis can make me...lazy? Like, I know I have these issues but I'm not fighting tooth and nail against them. Then again, it's hard to do that when it feels like each decision to get out of bed/be social/approach a conflict without freaking out and explaining/talking too much is it's own battle and war.

Tl,dr; I agree with you pretty much. I also think diagnosis from an untrusted or unreliable professional can be hugely detrimental. Recently had a psychiatrist try to diagnose me as Bipolar because "It would be so much easier if it were that, and not depression/adhd". Long story short, he is not a professional I see anymore.
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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by Guest on Sun Dec 07, 2014 8:08 pm

I had a similar discussion with a friend of mine who has been diagnosed with a few disorders.

I've suspected for a while I have some sort of mental disorder - I just feel like there's something not quite right, along the lines of an Anxiety disorder or BPD. I have a sneaking suspiscion I lie on the autistic spectrum, at the very least.

Essentially, I was stressing out about thinking of all this and needed to vent, so she offered to listen. Part of the vent was one of the main questions on my mind - is it worth getting diagnosed at all? (as in, me getting diagnosed - not generally). As much as there may be something going on in my head, it's not like I haven't coped by myself thus far, so maybe diagnosis won't really do me much benefit anyway. It's not like I feel comfortable seeing a therapist in the first place, so what good would it do? But, still, I didn't want to just go "There's nothing wrong with me that I can't fix" because that's just outright denial.

Anyway, she brought up the fact that being diagnosed *in theory* can be detrimental to a career. Which is one of the big stoppers I've always had. I'd rather not run around feeling like I have a secret I need to hide from future employers or current ones. I'd also rather be able to be open about whatever I could be diagnosed with if I went through with it.

So, as it stands, as someone who is not diagnosed (and could very well not have anything wrong him, despite his suspicions), I would probably consider them self-limiting in the end but not in the same way as you describe, Wisp.

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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by LadyIkaros on Sun Dec 07, 2014 8:18 pm

Nice. The one and only time I've seen a therapist - got sent there because I was a mess - she kept pushing anxiety on me, because apparently that goes with depression. I really don't have anxiety; in fact I think I might well be a below-average anxious person.

To answer the question, for me acknowledging that there's faulty brain chemistry at work has helped with the self-disgust that's part of the depression package, which in turn has made me better at managing the whole thing. It also helped me accept medication for a while, getting me out of the big, black hole I was in.
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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by LadyIkaros on Sun Dec 07, 2014 8:46 pm

In reply to Mapwater:
No clear cut answers here(and I'm kind of 101 on this, so if I stick my foot in it I will shut up). If whatever's going on in your head is making you miserable or causing other problems, I guess a good therapist might help you with some tools for how to handle it better? OTOH there's the risk of pathologising something that's just a little out of the norm.

But being on the autism spectrum is definitely different, I think, from being depressive or bipolar or anxious, in that I do more or less experience depression as an invasive disease that tries to take over my brain, whereas autism would be a more integral part of your basic make up as a person and not the enemy who must be fought with fire.
So again, I guess it comes down to wether there are things you think you might benefit from getting a professional perspective on.
(I do understand your reluctance. Like I wrote above, I've never sought out therapy myself, just a GP and some pills when things were really bad).
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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by Guest on Sun Dec 07, 2014 9:58 pm

LadyIkaros wrote:In reply to Mapwater:
No clear cut answers here(and I'm kind of 101 on this, so if I stick my foot in it I will shut up). If whatever's going on in your head is making you miserable or causing other problems, I guess a good therapist might help you with some tools for how to handle it better? OTOH there's the risk of pathologising something that's just a little out of the norm.

But being on the autism spectrum is definitely different, I think, from being depressive or bipolar or anxious, in that I do more or less experience depression as an invasive disease that tries to take over my brain, whereas autism would be a more integral part of your basic make up as a person and not the enemy who must be fought with fire.
So again, I guess it comes down to wether there are things you think you might benefit from getting a professional perspective on.
(I do understand your reluctance. Like I wrote above, I've never sought out therapy myself, just a GP and some pills when things were really bad).

That's essentially what my friend said - if it's making you miserable or it's seeping into other facets of your life, then getting some kind of help is a good idea. I'll clarify that I actually err towards thinking I'm on the autistic spectrum more than having a disorder, if only because the issues I have seem so pervasive and exemplary of some forms of autism that it's most likely. That being said, I'm not a doctor or qualified to diagnose myself so I avoid latching onto the idea.

It's tricky to really say if there's a benefit of being official diagnosed as on the spectrum at this point. I'm already in my 20s and have managed pretty well thus far, with my family always making room for what issues do arise with me. Within reason, of course.

The only recent issues I have are the fact relationships require intimacy my self-made walls don't allow for. I don't know if it's totally related to any actual disorder I could have or if I sat on the spectrum somewhere, but it's certainly a thing.

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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by The Wisp on Tue Dec 09, 2014 3:25 pm

I thought of another benefit of having the label: People will be more likely to be tolerant and compassionate rather than annoyed or judgey about your issues.
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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by reboot on Tue Dec 09, 2014 3:45 pm

For me, getting an official diagnosis for PTSD and comorbid depression made me pull my head out of my ass and start addressing my symptoms, instead of just shrugging them off as a work related hazard. It also forced me to recognize that my marriage had been abusive and was contributing to my problems as much as everything else. It also made me realize that I did not have to try and fix this stuff on my own and that a professional could teach me coping skills I would likely not figure out how to do on my own.

I found it neither liberating nor limiting and can not say it changed my self perception much because on some level I always knew the problem. I was just too stubborn and over confident to ask for help.
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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by caliseivy on Wed Dec 10, 2014 3:47 pm

The Wisp wrote:I thought of another benefit of having the label: People will be more likely to be tolerant and compassionate rather than annoyed or judgey about your issues.

I think this is not often the case with many people. I hope it is for you, but in my experience the label can bring on increased judgment (from some, not everyone) and have the opposite effects.
I can see how a formal diagnosis would be limiting for people. In my personal experience, however, getting my diagnosis was fairly liberating; learning that all the thoughts and feelings weren't my fault and the absolute lows weren't just because I wasn't trying hard enough to be happy/well lifted a huge weight. I hadn't had any experience with anyone who had a formal diagnosis, mental illness was never talked about in my family so I compared my depression to everyone around me and concluded I was lazy and pathetic, and severe crying spells were just how I was supposed to be.
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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by username_6916 on Fri Dec 12, 2014 4:35 pm

In my own experience, such labels can do nothing to help you, but can do a lot to prejudice people against you. There was once a study where they mixed up the records of elementary school students so that previously good students got the records of 'bad' students and vice versa. The teachers had so much confirmation bias that records from that year matched the previous records given to them, not the student's past preformance. 

Having an IEP or "Special Ed" designation over your head is a sure way to draw this sort of negative attention to yourself.

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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by InkAndComb on Fri Dec 12, 2014 8:25 pm

username_6916 wrote:

Having an IEP or "Special Ed" designation over your head is a sure way to draw this sort of negative attention to yourself.

This is the worst part of it, imho. When I went through all of elementary, I had "ADHD" hanging over my head the whole time. I got shunted into disability-based classrooms, severe behavioral disorder classrooms...for talking too much and not being able to stay focused on my homework. I spent 8 years trying to be "normal' to get out of these classes, but people would constantly refer to my 1st or 2nd grade experience (Even going into jr high!) when I was trying to fit in with my peers (which was already difficult, given the age and issues that come with it).

I have found more cathartic experiences in accepting my diagnosis as an adult, so I can form a proper treatment regime. It was NOT very comforting beneath the age of 19.
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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by Kiskadee on Fri Dec 12, 2014 11:09 pm

I can imagine that the experience of having a formal mental health diagnosis would be very different depending on whether or not you were a child at the time of diagnosis. In general, if you're an adult, you should have the privacy to only disclose your medical information when you wish to, or to health care professionals. If you think a person would be judgmental towards you for your mental health issue, you don't have to tell them about it (and maybe you should consider whether or not you want them in your life?)

A diagnosis can be empowering, in a way, as other posters have described. From a practical point of view, I think it's easier to make time to take better care of myself knowing that my depression is something I need to address rather than just wishing it away. I can see it having the opposite effect, though, if you were inclined to take the diagnosis as evidence that things really are hopeless.
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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by username_6916 on Sat Dec 13, 2014 4:39 am

There are very big exceptions to that however. The government can demand such information under penalty of perjury under lots of circumstances. I know that FAA asks questions of this nature when you go for your medical certificate to get a pilot's license, and that seeing a therapist can be a disqualification. I'm told it's the same way when seeking a security clearance.

The same could be said about public and private universities and their own counciling services. FERPA can be safely ignored if you can come with some justification to share such records between departments, and there nearly always is one. Moreover, their affiliation with the University creates a conflict of interest. Take a look at this example


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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by reboot on Sat Dec 13, 2014 11:04 am

username_6916 wrote:There are very big exceptions to that however. The government can demand such information under penalty of perjury under lots of circumstances. I know that FAA asks questions of this nature when you go for your medical certificate to get a pilot's license, and that seeing a therapist can be a disqualification. I'm told it's the same way when seeking a security clearance.

The same could be said about public and private universities and their own counciling services. FERPA can be safely ignored if you can come with some justification to share such records between departments, and there nearly always is one. Moreover, their affiliation with the University creates a conflict of interest. Take a look at this example. [url=yaledailynews.com/weekend/2014/01/24/we-just-cant-have-you-here/][/url]

FAA can ask for mental and physical health records for specific positions if you apply for a job there or a pilot's license. Various law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic agencies can do the same for potential employees. They also do full medical exams because certain health conditions mean you can not work there. For some federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies they also do background checks of varying levels of extensiveness. Obviously, anyone who is uncomfortable with such scrutiny should probably not apply for a job there.

There are also good reasons for doing this. The State Department is the one I am most familiar with and they screen because they are on the hook for your medical care when you are posted, so of you have respiratory problems you can not be assigned to Peru or Ethiopia because if altitude, those with mid to severe anxiety can not be assigned to Afghanistan or Yemen, those with specific physical disabilities can only go to the ADA compliant embassies. There are also things that will dictate your security clearance level, but those tend to be related to your financial situation (high debt=risk), addiction issues (addict=risk), marital strife (lots of problems=risk), etc. because it makes you vulnerable to being flipped. Mental health, except for perhaps any paranoia/persecution type issues, do not prevent getting a security clearance. Anyone who does not want their life examined, though, should stick to applying for low level security clearance jobs or avoid the whole diplomatic-security-intelligence-law enforcement career path.

Universities are weird because they still have a bit of the in loco parentis and with all the school shootings they now do not treat student records like other adults. I am still on the fence about the efficacy and necessity of this.

Otherwise, diagnosis as an adult is between you, your therapist, and your insurance company (if you have insurance). No one need know unless you tell them. A goodly chunk of people know my diagnoses because I do a lot of anti- mental health stigma talks. If I did not do that only 5-10 people might know.
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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by username_6916 on Sun Dec 14, 2014 6:59 pm

The folks who demand such information might have good reasons to do so, but it doesn't change the fact that such demands are seldom to your benefit. If you want one of these jobs, or if you want a PPL (as I do) then it is to your advantage to avoid a formal diagnoses.

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Re: [Disc] Formal mental health diagnoses: empowering or self-limiting?

Post by reboot on Sun Dec 14, 2014 7:25 pm

username_6916 wrote:The folks who demand such information might have good reasons to do so, but it doesn't change the fact that such demands are seldom to your benefit. If you want one of these jobs, or if you want a PPL (as I do) then it is to your advantage to avoid a formal diagnoses.  

Most of those jobs involve mental health assessments. You often end up with a diagnosis anyway, it would just be considered a new one. And any suspicion that you are trying to game the assessment kicks you right on out of the applicant pool because it shows a deceptive and dishonest streak and that you are hiding something. Just an FYI if you go for it. A diagnosis for something like depression is not an immediate exclusion, but trying to hide mental health problems is
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