I have noticed of recent that diagnostic labels are used very flippantly for example if someone is sad or disappointed they describe themselves as depressed or someone is moody they referred to as bipolar. Super organised is called OCD and unreasonable is described as psychotic.
Though maybe these terms are used as hyperboles to make a point, however these conditions that they describe are serious and should only be diagnosed by medical professionals. And no, GOOGLE DOESN’T COUNT! There are two points that offend me of the use of these labels; one that are usually used in jest but the stigma that goes with these diagnostic labels are serious and two a person should not be labelled as a condition but as a person who suffers from the symptoms of an illness, for example instead of calling someone bipolar it is better to say that they have the diagnosis of a bipolar mood disorder. This implies that the diagnosis is not part of the identity but a condition that can be dealt with.
In therapy once a person is diagnosed, we work on externalising the symptoms which means getting the person to see that the symptoms are not part of them and helping the person to regain their life. We loosen the grips of the label and work on finding the person under it. But by normalising the use of these serious conditions, we are increasing the misunderstanding around it and using it as insult.
To highlight my point and explain the gravity of the situation let me use the example of clinical depression which is known as Major Depressive Disorder. This disorder is only diagnosed if a person meets the following criteria found in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), which are:
Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning: at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure. Other symptoms include:
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain
- Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
- Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
From these criteria of symptoms one can gauge the difference between normal sadness or disappointment which are emotions that may not feel great but pass relatively quickly as opposed to depression which lasts two weeks or longer.
So too the other labels used are serious and have specific criteria that must be met before they are diagnosed. Professionals also take the time to use assessments, gather information from family members and use their clinical judgement to come to a diagnosis. Just focusing on one aspect of a person’s behaviour without understanding the person’s context should be refrained from.
Remember the labels are sticky and should be used with caution!