Mental Health Diagnosis and You

In this job, and in life in general, I’ve noticed a persistent desire for clients and professionals alike to categorize, judge and label oneself or others. It seems that the need to name our suffering or the suffering of others is so strong and enduring, that it creates a whole world of anxiety and stress on its own. In the mental health system in North America, and around the world at this point, the means of labelling or diagnosing is through the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (Fouth Edition). This Manual and it’s mental illness labels, as Dr. Paula Caplan explains , is not and are not based in science. Which means that there is little to no sound research backing up these diagnoses.

In our society, the number of formal and informal diagnoses that are handed out on a daily basis are mind blowing. It seems that in terms of mental health, we are living in a world slanted towards “dis” order, “dys”function, and “dis”ease. Which lends itself to many real harmful effects to the people of all this “dis”ing diagnosing. One salient effect that I have seen time and time again in my own practice, is the usage of psychotropic medications which were prescribed based on these diagnoses; medications that are potentially harmful in and of themselves. For more info about the potential harms of mental health diagnosing, please visit

It is so imperative to really stop, think, research and weigh out all the potential benefits and harms of a diagnosis, before applying one to yourself or others. Otherwise, before you know it, even happiness will be construed as a disorder. As Dr. Richard P. Bentall states in his critical article, “A Proposal to classify happiness as a psychiatric disorder” : “Happiness meets all reasonable criteria for a psychiatric disorder. It is statistically abnormal, consists of a discrete cluster of symptoms... This would place it on Axis 1 of the American Psychiatric Association’s ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual’. With this prospect in mind, I humbly suggest that the ordinary language term ‘happiness’ be replaced by the more formal description, Major Affective Disorder, pleasant type... once the debilitating consequences of happiness become widely recognized it is likely that psychiatrists will begin to devise treatment for the condition and we can expect the emergence of happiness clinics and anti-happiness medications in the not too distant future.”

*Please note that I realize that this is one side of the story, represents one stream of thought, and that there are stories where certain mental health diagnoses have in fact benefitted or helped an individual and/or family. Please feel free to list them here.