Movies, television, blogs posts, and sites like WebMD are how the average layperson understands mental health conditions. Obviously, there is a great deal missing from these sources. The most confusing aspect of mental health conditions is the degree to which symptoms overlap.
Think of it this way: If I cough and sneeze, do I have a Cold, a Flu, Pneumonia, or an Upper Respiratory Infection? We need more information and we need to make some important distinctions. For a person who finds their thoughts racing, experiences huge mood swings, and is struggling with adequate sleep, does that person live with Bi-Polar Disorder, A.D.D., or an Anxiety Disorder?
More importantly, is it really all that vital that we put labels on their experience?
Diagnoses are helpful in three basic ways:
- The help us understand our struggles and distinguish what is an organic/congenital condition and what are products of life circumstances.
- They guide treatment in therapy.
- They are vital medical distinctions if medication is desired or necessary.
I often reflect to people, “Do you notice that lots of people acknowledge being depressed but no one simply says, I’m sad?” While mental health conditions are still widely stigmatized, it requires less vulnerability to describe a label than an emotional state. Similarly, many of us readily admit to being highly stressed, which is often a euphemism for living with anxiety.
Seeking to understand ourselves through a medical or psychiatric lens in and of itself accomplishes almost nothing – and that’s assuming that we’re accurate with our determination. What’s far more helpful is to simply consider what changes are necessary for better health and better quality of life. Making use of natural and professional supports will create far greater possibilities than struggling alone or trying to “figure our” our lives.
We’ve become a society that poses vital questions to search engines. Not our loved ones, not professionals, and not folks with similar experiences. I hope that you have better sources than Google for understanding your struggles, but I also enjoy being a resource.
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