Mike ThornOne of the biggest issues I encounter as a child therapist among parents, families, and caregivers is that they are often very misinformed about mental illness, treatments, and NOS categories. NOS stands for None Otherwise Specified and is often tagged onto the end of a diagnosis such as PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-NOS), Bipolar Disorder-NOS, and Mood Disorder-NOS. NOS is considered the “throw away” pile or “umbrella category” that clinicians use when they either do not have enough proof to diagnose an individual or if an individual is exhibiting symptoms that do not fit neatly into the categories of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

Many parents are confused about the NOS category and do not understand that NOS could actually be a good thing. If a child, adolescent, or adult is diagnosed with something that ends with NOS, the probability of that person “outgrowing” symptoms or not having the disorder at all is very high. For example, a moody adolescent who is diagnosed with mood disorder-NOS, may actually “outgrow” the disorder or get to an age where symptoms are no longer recognized as “diagnosable.” The same is often true for the PDD-NOS diagnosis for children thought to be on the autism spectrum. Prognosis is a bit brighter.

It is important for parents to know that our diagnostic system is highly flawed and spun by cultural and societal influence. In many cases, a clinical diagnosis is opinionated or based on what a clinician believes could be the problem or presenting concern. You can visit a smorgasbord of psychiatrists, therapists, and other mental health professionals for a diagnosis and it will most likely be different. Many mental health professionals at various levels of experience, culture, political beliefs, and clinical knowledge disagree.

Keith Syvinsk

It is often up to parents, families, and caregivers to become advocates for their children, adolescents, or adult family members. One of the most important weapons I encourage families to adopt is a learning spirit and open mind about our currently constructed mental health system.

With an open mind to learn information contrary to our current belief system(s), families can excel to a greater level of knowledge about the truth of what we “scientifically” know and do not know. In many cases, the DSM  will aid in the misdiagnosis of your family member, but your knowledge about the system can protect you in a lot of ways.


I wish you all the best



Photo credit 1: Mike Thorn

Photo credit 2: Keith Syvinsk



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    Last reviewed: 14 Jul 2013

APA Reference
Hill, T. (2013). What Does NOS Mean? Understanding Confusing Diagnostic Language. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/caregivers/2013/07/none-otherwise-specified-nos-what-does-it-mean/


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