Mental Disorder is another word for â€śMental Illnessâ€ť. If you have been diagnosed with a â€śmental disorderâ€ť or â€śmental illnessâ€ťâ€”what does that mean about you in relation to people who do not have a diagnosis?
The truth is that the diagnosis is only a tool to help you understand what you need help with.. A diagnosis can open the door to help you get insurance reimbursement for treatment.Â It also can help identify which treatments might be most effective for your situationâ€”based on research done with people who have a similar cluster of symptoms.
Did you know you can have a mental disorder and good mental health at the same time? Diagnosis is about your condition. Mental Health is about how you will cope. The diagnosis identifies something about your mental disorder, but tells us nothing about your mental health.
Diagnosis Can Help You Get Better. Stigma Can Help You Stay Sick.
Sometimes, the only difference between someone who has a diagnosis of a mental disorder and someone who does not is whether or not they have seen a doctor or therapist.
Even the mentally healthiest of persons will have hard times when they will experience one or more symptoms of mental disorder.Â Perhaps they will be irritable, or have difficulty with concentration or attention.Â At what point do we say there are enough symptoms to constitute a â€śmental disorderâ€ť ?
The current classification system, found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV-TR, uses number of symptoms as well as whether or not those symptoms have created significant impairment in oneâ€™s functioning or social relationships as the criteria.
In other words, a diagnosis is always somewhat arbitrary and subjective. It focuses on â€śwhat is wrong with youâ€ť, rather than â€śwhat is right with youâ€ť.
A diagnosis is a very good thing if you use it as a tool to practice good mental health. It can be a bad thing if you accept the stigma that a mental disorder is â€śnot normalâ€ť and maybe even â€śbadâ€ť.
What to Expect If Stigma Keeps You From Getting Help. . .
Too frequently, people who could benefit from the help of psychiatry and/or therapy avoid getting it because they are afraid of finding out they have a diagnosis. They are afraid because our culture has unfairly given mental disorders a stigmaâ€”A stigma that has made a fairly normal situation (that of having a mental disorder) seem like a character defect.
You can choose to understand the stigma for the silliness it is; or allow the stigma to rob you from having the mental health and well-being you deserve.
Letâ€™s think about this by comparing Janet with Jill:
Janet and Jill both have difficulty sleeping at night. They both feel sad and joyless most of the time. Both have wondered quite often, lately, whether or not life is worth living. They get upset so easily that they are having difficulty at work and in their relationships.
But how they approach their struggles is different.
- Janet does not go to the doctor because she does not want a diagnosis. She believes only weak people get psychiatric medications and/or therapy. She blames the people in her life for making her miserable.
- Jill knows that she is not acting and feeling like herself. She makes an appointment with a psychiatrist.Â The psychiatrist tells Jill she has Major Depression and refers her to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, where Jill learns to identify and correct thoughts that had been keeping her awake at night. She has also started taking medication that helps her sleep better at night, so she feels more refreshed during the day.
Nine months go byâ€”Jill is no longer thinking life is not worth living. However, she still does not feel much joy, and continues to be irritable around others.
Jill, in contrast, was symptom-free after three months of treatment. She now enjoys being with her family and colleagues, and has no problem sleeping at night.
Jill practices better mental health than Janet. Jill used her personal strength to accept that she had a mental disorder and do something about it. She feels supported by family, friends, and her providers.
Janet was too afraid of social stigma. She wishes people cared more about herâ€”maybe she would feel better if people would just careâ€”and stop being so stupid!
What are You Doing About Stigma and Mental Health?
The comparison of Janet and Jill sheds light on the healthiest approach to social stigma.
Ask yourself, who has better mental healthâ€”People who see physicians and therapists about mental disorders, or people who do not? It depends. . .
But it is pretty evident that people who use social stigma to make their decision about how they will act and think about mental health need a little adjustment.