Diagnosis: Clarity or Clutch?

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.

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2 thoughts on “Diagnosis: Clarity or Clutch?

  1. I have been in the mental health care system before and dont get me wrong they have a great number of programs for people but the wait to see a psychiatrist or psychologist is horrendous and I myself know first hand that they need to have people such as yourself on access for counseling or to properly diagnos someone just not push pills on them because that’s not always the answer I am saddened by the fact that doctors in this profession think that this is the only way to treat depression. I spent six years in a mental health care home because they the system thought I could not take care of myself but yet in these homes they do not teach the necessary tools to get out on your own so that you stay dependant or reliant on someone because you feel you can’t and you have low self esteem because society looks down on you because they think you are crazy unless they have gone through what your going through or because they are educated. I to this day try and remain strong because i feel I dont live as a normal adult should being sheltered as I was but I am doing ok.

    • Hi Candice,
      I think your experience highlights that there is a lot of room for improvement in how we diagnose and treat individuals with mental health disorders. On Jan 28/14 it was Bell Let’s Talk Day and these sorts of public campaigns are really encouraging as they show that society is trying to draw attention to mental health. However, talking about mental health one day a year isn’t going to result in the change that is needed in our health care system and in society. It is a start though. There are so many misconceptions about mental health issues and I think individuals, such as yourself, who are able to share their stories are incredibly brave, and are the true driving force to create change in our system.

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