Why Getting A Diagnosis Can Matter And What It Means
Getting a diagnosis for a mental health condition can be intimidating for a lot of people.
When you have struggled with something so severe and personal for so long, the prospect of ‘getting better’ or putting a label on it can be quite intense and scary to say the least. For example, those who suffer from anxiety may have a paralysing fear of the unknown and could be so used to feeling anxious that they don’t know who they are without those feelings.
The prospect of ‘getting better’ and the thought of not being on edge all the time can feel foreign and like entering ‘the unknown’, often resulting in the sufferer avoiding help or even a diagnosis. No matter how scary it may seem, getting a diagnosis can sometimes change your life for the better. Not only that, but it may also save your life and positively impact the lives of all your loved ones.
Getting a diagnosis
Everyone is different, and feelings regarding a diagnosis may vary from one person to another. Some may feel relieved to have everything explained about their mental health issue, leading to optimism for their future now that they know how to manage their specific type of health condition. Others may feel resentful at the prospect of a diagnosis or the thought of having a mental health disorder.
Many mental health conditions carry lots of negative stereotypes or damaging misconceptions that some people don’t wish to be associated with or don’t want to be ‘seen’ as something they suffer from. Then there are some people who think that a diagnosis doesn’t carry that much weight as they are ‘just words’ which don’t necessarily encapsulate the spectrum of emotions they feel. Whatever your feelings are about getting a diagnosis, they are all valid. However, getting a diagnosis can sometimes be the first step to getting better. For example, if you are diagnosed with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), you will have a solid idea of certain triggers that exacerbate your symptoms and can be given medication to help alleviate them.
Simply getting a diagnosis isn’t a ‘cure’, but it is the start of getting better as it can silence thoughts such as “Why do I feel this way?” or “What is wrong with me?”. You can consult detailed research about your illness and truly understand the symptoms, causes, and, most importantly, how to manage it in a healthy way. You can also communicate this information with employers.
A diagnosis can be beneficial for you and your doctor, as they can then discuss the treatment options available to you and any future health risks that you should be aware of.
How disorders are diagnosed
Unlike other conditions such as diabetes or cancer, there is no real medical test that offers a detailed diagnosis for mental illnesses such as mood, anxiety or personality disorders. However, it is fairly common for a doctor to conduct a physical exam and recommend blood tests in order to ascertain whether you have any underlying medical conditions that could be causing the mental health symptoms – for example, diabetes can cause depressive symptoms.
After any medical conditions have been ruled out, your doctor will ask you questions about certain feelings, behaviours, and physical symptoms to try to gauge how your mental health is.
If you report experiencing feelings of low mood, constant anxiety, fatigue, insomnia or panic attacks, then your doctor may perhaps diagnose you with a type of anxiety and/or depression. For less common and more complex mental health conditions such as Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), you may need to be referred to a mental health specialist. Complex disorders like these are harder to identify, and psychiatrists usually like to see patients over a longer period before giving a diagnosis.
Why getting a diagnosis is important
For some people, getting a diagnosis isn’t very substantial. Many sufferers don’t like to be labelled and ‘put into a box’, but it can help to improve recovery. Everyone experiences mental illness differently in their own unique way; two people who share a diagnosis of OCD won’t necessarily experience the same symptoms in the same way, and what helps one person cope and stay healthy may not work for someone else. In the grand scheme of things, a diagnosis only makes up a minor part of your identity. However, there’s no negating how beneficial, and even lifesaving a diagnosis can be for some people.
Having the language to explain your mental health condition can be an incredibly powerful tool. A diagnosis may be useful for accessing the right treatment. For example, if you are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), counselling may not be the easiest path forward. Instead, you may find psychotherapy, or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) a better option. A mental health diagnosis can also ensure you access the right medication, which is crucial, and it can be helpful for other people to understand your mental health issues so they can help you. Making loved ones aware will help them understand your behaviour and how to offer their support.
Ultimately, a diagnosis is what you make of it.
If you are open to receiving the right help and medication (should you decide that’s the right course of action for you), a diagnosis can be the first step you need towards recovery. Not only will you have a solid understanding of your condition, but you can also implement coping mechanisms that help alleviate your symptoms to see what works best for your own situation. This can help make you feel part of a community, and understand how others cope as well.
Together, I can help get you to get on the path to recovery. Visit my website today to book a consultation. Whether you need an online appointment or would prefer one in person at my Warrington clinic, I offer both setting to provide a perfect solution for you.