Diagnosis does not equal destiny


Maddy Fisher

Medical diagnoses are useful when it comes to treatment, but can often lead to a binary view of whether or not someone has a condition.

Diagnosis labels can greatly impact the lifestyle and identity of the patient. There are over 200 classified neurological disorders and mental illnesses: this can include depression, anxiety, social phobias, or any condition that might be affecting the way someone is able to function. An estimated half of US adults receive a mental diagnosis at some point in their life, whether that be a temporary or long-term illness. Diagnosis labels can sometimes be important, as it allows an individual to make sense of their condition, providing a reason to why they may feel a certain way. This can also neutralize elements of self-blame, and allow that individual to pursue the help they might need. However labels don’t actually change who you are, so there shouldn’t be as much emphasis on them.

Oftentimes this categorization discredits the fact that many disorders fall on a spectrum, leading people to believe either you have one or you don’t. This idea can further stigmatize mental illnesses and neurological disorders, and make those who are labeled stuck in this categorization. It can also make it more difficult for those who aren’t yet labeled or diagnosed to feel the need to ask for help. Autism, for example, is not the same for everyone who is diagnosed with it; rather, it is a spectrum developmental condition that can dramatically differ from person to person.

Labels don’t always capture the complexity that lies within such conditions, which is why it’s important to understand that while these labels can be useful, they shouldn’t act as a substitute for identity.

This piece was originally published in the May 2021 issue of The Rubicon.