More Miss Treatment: On Labels

What good are diagnoses, labels, categories? **blows raspberry**  Not much. I suppose they’re a necessary evil for insurance purposes, but in other ways, they probably do more harm than good. In the U.S., diagnoses are too frequently turned into nouns—diabetic, schizophrenic, alcoholic, depressive, etc. Do you really want your identity to be defined by what’s “wrong” with you?

The most valuable thing I learned in pharmacy school was this: Treat the patient, not the numbers!  This could also be said: Treat the patient, not the diagnosis. Even when people have the same diagnosis, their difficulties and needs may be vastly different. So not only can these labels have a negative effect on self-image, they can complicate the very problem they’re intended to solve: how to HELP the person in question.

In addition to different people with the same diagnoses presenting very differently, when it comes to so-called mental health labels, different evaluators often give different diagnoses for the same presentation. One provider may call a set of symptoms “dysphoric mania” while another calls it “agitated depression,” for example. And the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) they typically use for diagnosis is little more than a work of fiction, not an objective guide. (I imagine there will be more ranting about this later.)

So, what do we do for help? The person paying the provider, i.e. the patient/client, is the boss and the provider is the employee. I am responsible for telling my providers what’s troubling ME, what I want help with, specifically. A term like depression could mean just about anything and a professional might focus on aspects that really aren’t of concern to me. If a provider is not addressing what I want addressed and especially if he’s trying to address something I don’t even see as a problem, I can redirect (to use “their” terminology) the provider or, if he’s non-compliant (again, to use their terms), I may fire that one. And I let them keep their diagnostic codes to themselves and the insurance company.

Cure mental disorders: Burn the DSM!