My doctor asked me if I'd ever been diagnosed with a mental illness? No, why would I want to be? Are there any advantages to being diagnosed?
My hunch is there aren't. If I label a person schizophrenic what do you envisage? A person who has voices in their head and is dangerous to society. PTSD? A soldier returning from war who is now unable to function. If I say I'm mentally ill, depressed, anxious what do you think of me?
Human beings with mental health challenges aren't labels, they're people who have their own individual stories and challenges.
And yet I'm often forced to refer to myself as someone who has Developmental Trauma Disorder, or Complex Trauma Disorder. To say I was abused as a child is not enough. I have to qualify why I may not be doing as well as those who weren't abused during the crucial developmental stages of their life.
My man of the moment, Bessel Van der Kolk, has attempted to get Developmental Trauma Disorder included in the psychiatric bible DSM 5. For more on that click here.
His reasoning is under the current system children (and adult survivors) who experience Developmental Trauma are being misdiagnosed. Abused and neglected kids (and adult survivors) end up having a diagnosis applied that is closest to their symptoms. How stupid are we?
Would you treat a broken leg with a stent? Hemorrhoids with a steel pin and brackets? Of course not, so why do we treat childhood victims of violence, sexual assault and emotional abuse with systems and drugs designed for different disorders? I believe Van der Kolk acknowledges the DSM-5 is far from being a helpful system. But currently it's all we have.
Not having an 'authenticated' diagnosis can have implications for reimbursements on medical costs, more importantly it can negatively impact opportunities for treatment or funding for research. But having a diagnosis could lead to discrimination and stigma. And in many cases does.
A new study around the 'language' of mental illness claims that stigma is reduced when we use language that avoids labeling people. Click here for that article.
"person-centered language advocates for the use of phrases such as “person with depression” or “child experiencing a mental health condition.” This language highlights a person’s humanity rather than a diagnosis."
I actually don't advocate for any of the above. I don't want to be 'labeled' as having 'Developmental Trauma Disorder' or as being 'An adult experiencing a mental health condition.' I would like to be acknowledged as a human being who's life is severely impacted by maltreatment during childhood. Not very catchy but that is the truth. I'm not 'mentally ill' per se, I'm mentally as I would expect to be given the repeated violent, emotional and sexual assaults I experienced as a child.
So that's my commitment, I'm going to try and not label myself or others. I'll attempt to talk about the realities of my life. The impact the abuse had on me.
The psychiatric fashionistas can shove their designer labels where the sun don't shine.