As I go through the process of becoming a full practice registered psychologist, I have had to think about whether or not I am competent enough in my ability to diagnosis and whether or not I want this responsibility. I also have mixed feelings on some of the diagnoses in the Diagnosis and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM V) and wonder if the mental health profession is creating something out of nothings in some cases. Are we making individual differences and quirks abnormal? What is normal, besides a cycle on the washing machine?
At this time, I view diagnosis as somewhat of a double edged sword. With some psychological disorders it is absolutely essential to be properly diagnosed in order to receive the right medical treatment. As I type this schizophrenia is a disorder that comes to mind. In other situations, I wonder if health care professionals can be too quick to put label on someone without necessarily thinking of the psychological effects that may arise as a result of the label. Or if in haste to make a diagnosis, if the right label is being applied.
For some individuals, receiving a diagnosis can be a relief. They have been aware for quite some time that something wasn’t right and now they have an answer, a reason that they have been feeling the way they have. For others, receiving a diagnosis can be extremely upsetting and may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Clients may start experiencing certain symptoms or acting a certain way because of the diagnosis. I have also seen it turn into an excuse. Clients may behave a certain way and blame it on the diagnosis when the two may not be related at all.
I also wonder about Canada’s mental health care system and its ability to diagnose patients and provide them with the correct course of treatment. Should a family doctor be able to diagnose an individual with an anxiety disorder or depression? Do they have the proper assessment tools and training? Or even time? Should it be the responsibility of a psychiatrist, the true experts in mental health? With ridiculously long wait times to see a psychiatrist, is it in the clients best interests to wait that long? So many questions, no answers. Hopefully with continued discussion and public awareness of mental health, such as through Bells Let’s Talk campaign, we will start to get some answers.