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23 Messages for Anyone Still Searching for a Mental Illness Diagnosis

Getting a proper diagnosis for a mental illness can take time. And although researchers are always looking for new ways to make diagnosing easier and faster, no simple, magic test exists to declare if someone has a mental illness, and which one. For someone seeking treatment for their symptoms, this of course is frustrating, especially when you consider that it can take up to a decade for someone to reach out for help in the first place.

If you’re a person who recently sought help but hasn’t yet received a diagnosis — congratulations. Don’t get too frustrated. You’re beginning quite a journey, and the people who came before you have a few wise words to send you on your way.

Here’s what our mental health community wants to tell someone still waiting for a mental illness diagnosis:

1. “Don’t be ashamed of your symptoms. Reaching out for help is the best thing you can do for your mental health. It does get better!” — Amanda Huston

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2. “Don’t be ashamed of finding out for sure. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. You’d go to the doctor if you had symptoms of the flu and wanted to know for sure. Just find a good support system and cut out anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself or your illness. Take care of yourself.” — Deanna Yourgans

3. “Reaching out for help is really hard — but you will benefit from it! Before you see a doctor, it can be helpful to write a list. What kind of symptoms do you have? Do you have problems with your mood? Do you have sleeping problems? Do you eat well? Have you lost or gained weight? What about your concentration? Do you have physical symptoms too like headaches, stomach pains or back pains? Writing a list can help you not to forget anything important. Another thing you want to think about are questions you might have for the doctor. How sure is the diagnosis? If the doctor will prescribe you medication, what side effects can occur? Is there anything beside medication you can do to help you? It can be a great relief to finally have a proper diagnosis, because it explains a lot and it also helps you to receive proper treatment. It helped me a lot to finally have a name for the symptoms I have experienced.” — Borderline Heart

4. “If you’re worried about getting diagnosed because you don’t want to be ‘labeled,’ know there are actually some benefits to having a mental illness diagnosis. You can receive disability accommodations at school and in the workplace (depending on your illness and limitations) that would be difficult to obtain without a diagnosis. It’s easier to educate yourself and others about your illness if you have a specific diagnosis to research. I just got a letter from my doctor that allows me to have an emotional support animal because of my diagnosis.” — Melanie Faith

5. “A diagnosis is just a means to establishing a treatment plan. It does not define you. It does not change who you are. It simply helps you to get the help you need to heal.” — Danielle Gitkin Hark

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6. “Don’t give up or get discouraged at the amount of time it takes to receive a diagnosis and find what’s right for you. You will figure it out and it will be manageable.” — Amanda Keehn

7. “You’re not a freak. Being diagnosed isn’t a label to identify who you are, it’s merely an identification of something you have.” — Megan French

8. “Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t let it consume you. Get up, get out and find someone anyone to talk to about your problems. Keep talking until someone listens. There is help out there.” — Nicki Mcpherson

9. “Like any other illness, a diagnosis and proper treatment can be healing. Let yourself heal.” — Emily Waryck

10. “Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Talking about it is the first step to accepting it and accepting it will lead you to getting the help you need.” — Kalyn Laura

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11. “Don’t wait. This is not your fault.” — Jamie Bredeson-Wobbema

12. “Don’t focus so much on diagnoses. Focus on health. I think the system uses diagnoses sometimes to disempower. And society can place so much stigma in them. Focus on health, not pathology.” — Nicole Williams

13. “Don’t be ashamed. If it was a physical illness, you would treat it. Your mental health deserves treatment, too.” — Nicole Backen

14.You are the strong one for reaching out for help.” — Jason Reed

15. “You deserve answers and treatment. You are worth it.” — Chelsea Noelani Gober

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16. “You are not the first and not the last one with your symptoms. You are you. You are just fine.” — Deborah Bellinger

17. “I find the proper diagnosis isn’t the biggest thing for me, but the treatment is. If you’re experiencing symptoms, you don’t have to keep suffering. The quicker you get treatment, the quicker you will feel better. I live with depression, anxiety and PTSD, but it’s not who I am. A diagnosis will not turn you into ‘the mentally ill’ — you will be a person who lives with a mental illness.” — Marlena Davis

18. “You aren’t alone, there are a lot of people living with mental health issues, and you can have a supportive, successful and awesome life. You will learn to see good things in your symptoms and be more empathetic and caring then before.” — Aliçia Sarah Raimundo

19. “You are your best advocate. Don’t settle for ‘slightly better.’ You deserve to feel well again.” — Gen Somers

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20. “Research, research, research.” — Carl Schwichtenberg

21. “Sometimes even the strongest people need help. There’s no shame in reaching out.” — Danielle Gitkin Hark

22. “Leave the diagnosing to a psychiatrist, not the Internet. The Internet is a great resource if you’re looking for mental health professionals, more in-depth info or need to find a support group — but don’t let it be your only resource. It can be overwhelming to read through articles, and you might see stigmatizing opinions that won’t help your mental health.” — Nicole Campbell

23. “Don’t worry about the label of your diagnosis. A diagnosis is just a name and a tool to begin the creation of a healthier and stronger you.” — Rhonda Lynn Walker-Trayers

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*Answers have been edited and shortened.