Questionable Diagnoses: Are We Really That Ill?
One of the most important questions parents have asked me regarding their children receiving therapeutic services is “how can we prove he really has this disorder?” Some parents, families, and caregivers are very sensitive to the fact that we have an extremely flawed diagnostic system based on cultural, social, and societal preference, not science or research. Unfortunately, many families are also uninformed about the system and rely entirely on our flawed system to guide them. Despite the fact that mental illness does exist, the reality that we don’t always know how to label something also exists.
It’s good to question everything a so-called “professional” has to say about the mental health of a loved one. It is important to ask for supporting evidence of all diagnoses. If you are lucky, you will have a mental health professional who is quite experienced, wise, trained, and sensible, not simply accomplished on paper. If you are like the thousands of families today, you will have someone brush you off with psychobabble and overly technical speech that offers you no insight into the diagnosis. Sadly, this is more common than we realize.
Because of the social, status, and class boundaries placed upon society by both the medical and scientific profession, many parents, families, individuals, and caregivers refuse to challenge the “knowledge” of a professional or question a diagnosis, especially if that person feels uneducated to the terminology of the field. This leaves many vulnerable to misinformation and “systemic abuse.”
Having worked in the field for quite some time, I have come to the conclusion that many diagnoses today are questionable and quite frankly, ridiculous! Here is a listing of frequent diagnoses that are misused and abused:
- Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): A lot of families believe that if their child does not engage socially or take an interest in other children that they have autism or some form of developmental delay. This is not always the case and many families as well as professionals abuse this label to explain away a child who may in fact be very intelligent but disinterested in social interaction. This does not always signal delay. Some very intelligent kids have very little contact with other children.
Why does a child have to be sociable to be normal? Children who do not socialize are often placed under the following disorders:
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder- None Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
- Aspergers Syndrome
- Depression: A lot of people mistaken burdened, tired, and low-key individuals as depressed. Life can be very stressful for many people and with the burden of daily living responsibilities, job loss, family discord, health, mental health, cultural exclusion, discrimination, etc. it isn’t all that strange that most are simply too down to like life or feel motivated by it.
Why does a person experiencing the end result of life circumstances have to be mentally ill? Individuals diagnosed with depression often fall under the following labels:
- Major Depressive Disorder (including suicidal thoughts)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD): ADD has become an overly used category in our schools. For children who are unable to sit in classrooms for long periods of time, remain engaged in the curriculum, or engage in behaviors that get them labeled “oppositional,” ADHD or ADD is often the diagnosis. Sadly, many kids are bored and other kids are simply too smart/gifted to deal with it all. Many kids find it difficult to adjust to the educational system. Lets be honest, it’s difficult for adults to get motivated to work each day and follow this system much less kids. Kids are coming from a world of games, toys, play, happiness, and freedom, not work!
So when these kids are asked to spend long, boring hours in a classroom with perhaps a teacher who is very unenthusiastic about her job, it can be difficult. Some kids simply do better in non-traditional settings or in home-schooling. Most kids are labeled as:
- ADD-inattentive type
- ADD-hyperactive type
- ADD-combined (kids that have both of the above)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Just because I don’t like germs and I’m highly aware of the negative affects these sneaky germs could have on me, doesn’t mean I have a “mental illness.” You’d be surprised at how many times I use hand-sanitizer a day and spray Lysol in my office! Everything we touch is full of germs and many germs can have a negative affect on the human body. Despite evidence showing germs can be good for us, many are not good for us!
That being said, do you really have to see a psychiatrist for being aware of the germs around you? NO.
- Personality Disorders: Someone thought they were very intelligent by categorizing numbers of people as having personality disorders when they are not capable of showing a wide range of behaviors or being flexible in mood or personality. For example, someone who is unable to consider the feelings, needs, wants, or desires of another person and remains self-absorbed no matter what is narcissistic. Although I agree with this, there are many people who are narcissistic because life has been too good to them, they have had everything handed to them.
Some people are simply rude and they were born with a temperament most humans have a tough time understanding. Is a personality that perplexes the mind of most human beings truly a “diagnoseable problem?” Perhaps not, which may partially explain why narcissism has been removed from the DSM-V. Here are a listing of common personality disorders:
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopathy)
- Dependent Personality Disorder
- Avoidant Personality Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Anxiety: With all the things happening in the world today it is no wonder many people are unable to sleep, unsure about their future, unable to enjoy a good time, eat, or even find a reason to be relaxed. There is so much to be anxious about and as quiet as it has been kept, many psychiatrists and other mental health professionals struggle with anxiety themselves! Some have a hard time sleeping or eating because of a patient they cannot understand or because of job instability.
The most important thing for us to understand is that mental illness is very complex and requires a wise, studious, and evaluative person to understand whether something truly is a mental illness or a “symptom of life itself.”
It’s going to take a lot of true research and science to understand the things we call “mental illnesses” and to properly treat those things that truly are mental illnesses. I’m hoping we find a better way some day soon.
Can you think of any other “disorders” that may qualify as questionable? Feel free to share your insight.
I wish you all the best
Hill, T. (2013). Questionable Diagnoses: Are We Really That Ill?. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 6, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/caregivers/2013/07/questionable-diagnoses-are-we-really-that-ill/