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DSM, Simplicity and Labels⁠—Pros and Cons of Mental Health Diagnoses

sky easiness Photo by Abele Gigante on Unsplash mental health diagnoses

A minimalist writing zone, where you can block out all distractions and get to what’s important. The writing! To get started, all you need to do is delete this text (seriously, just highlight it and hit delete), and fill the page with your own fantastic words. You can even change the title!


Hello world, meet my favorite online writing space, a deeply minimalist one.

Anything simplistic deeply satisfies me. It’s one of those feelings you can’t explain to people who aren’t very familiar with it already. I love when things and stories and people and situations are simple

“Easy” doesn’t cut it, I have some unresolved internal conflict surrounding the concept of easiness. Plausibly driven by that quote:

Nothing worth having comes easy.

To be fair, the issue is my takeaway: “Nothing easy is worth having.”

Obviously, this isn’t always the case. My coffeemaker is fairly easy to use, and its byproduct is worth having, several times a day even. My best friend got me that coffeemaker, having a good time with her is easy, and so worth having.

As I was saying, I like simple things, discovering beautiful patterns, being able to make sense of what’s happening. I like it when people, as Nirvana put it: ♪ Come as you are ♪.

Fortunately, my psychology background has fulfilled my need to know why some people act or think the way they do.

It has also given me a valuable lesson. We are all extremely similar, in that we are all very unique. Human reasoning is so incredibly varied. Frequently, our individuality surpasses mathematical calculations, years of research, and all those that want to pin us down to something definite.

Something finite.

More often than I’d like to admit, I struggle with dichotomic thinking. However, I’m admitting it now, so that counts as progress. We should allow others to act like themselves and not like the figure we’ve created for them in our minds. Let’s give them space to not meet our expectations.

Let’s allow people to show themselves, something that can’t happen if we’ve already made up our minds about who they are.

Mental health diagnoses

Have you heard of the Hawthorne Effect? Simply put, it’s a term referring to how simply observing something changes that thing. So, studying behavior is a process, better taken with a grain of salt.

In 2010, Kaptchuk, an avid researcher of the placebo effect, tried telling control groups upfront that they were receiving a placebo treatment instead of medicine. He informed them about the placebo effect and how most people, 62% of all patients, get objectively better. They got better too.

We’re limitless, and the rules don’t apply.

It makes sense to group mental health patients into categories, such as disorders. However, I strongly believe we should use diagnostic manuals and disease classifications such as DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) or ICD (International Classification of Diseases) like what they are, rough guidelines, not the end-all-be-all.

The easy way out isn’t always bad and the simple way in isn’t always right.

The easiness and convenience of a label can cloud our judgment, professionalism, and humanity. It can foster a hostile environment, treatment plans at best unhelpful; at worst harmful, and patients going misdiagnosed for years. Patients can be misdiagnosed by several practitioners, which means that during all that time, they weren’t receiving the help they needed. That breaks my fucking heart.

The person in front of us is incredibly complex. There’s so much more to them than meets the eye, or DSM, or ICD. Their experiences are vaster than our metric of choice will ever know.




5 thoughts on “DSM, Simplicity and Labels⁠—Pros and Cons of Mental Health Diagnoses”

  1. Yes. Your assessment of the persons needs I feel trumps the importance of a diagnosis in acute psychiatry. Diagnosis is a guide for treatment options and care plan to be implemented. Thanks! I will check out book.

  2. Yes. In acute psychiatry every time I hear ” what is the diagnosis”? Part of me always thinks who cares! Rather what is the situation/circumstance? Get to know the person without diagnosis. I’ve seen patients admitted who have a history of several different diagnosis from different facilities over the years. Therefore labeling can be non therapeutic.

    1. There is a case to be made for the liberation people feel when they finally have a name for their symptoms and worries, as I’m sure you’re well aware, but I definitely think that labels can be harmful, just as much as the fact that healthcare staff doesn’t have the necessary time and resources to stick around to find out every patient’s history and their thoughts and feelings. The book the body keeps the score does a great job of covering these issues.

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