3 Positives of Having an ‘Official’ Psychiatric Diagnosis
Throughout my seven years of mental health treatment, which has involved therapy, medication, inpatient hospitalizations and a couple of stints in residential treatment, I have received many diagnoses.
I have experienced both the highs and lows that come with having an official diagnosis or in my case, several. I certainly have seen how overidentifying with a label can be bad for one’s overall self-conceptualization and personal perception. That being said, I have also seen the positives, something I want to discuss today.
I very recently received the results of an extensive neuropsychological evaluation, including educational testing as well. I acknowledge that these tests are rather expensive and not always covered by insurance, and so I am lucky I was able to do it. I completed the testing to further accommodations in grad school, as well as potentially work. I also wanted clarification on my diagnoses for not only mental health, but to see if I had a suspected math learning disability. Lastly, I wanted validation.
I know some may find that silly — the need to have an official, 26-page document in order to feel as though my struggles are “real” isn’t quite necessary. That being said, it is valid and I am sure I am not alone in that sense.
I am now going to name my latest diagnoses from this evaluation, and follow it up with the three main positive factors I’ve found from having these official labels:
- Major depression (recurrent, severe).
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
- Bipolar I disorder (manic, severe).
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD).
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), predominately inattentive type.
- Specific learning disorder, with impairment in mathematics (dyscalculia).
- Unspecified tic disorder.
- Nonverbal learning disability.
- Slow processing speed.
Now, for why I see having these official diagnoses as a positive thing for me:
1. Access to accommodations, services, and proper treatment
With a verified, official diagnosis, one can often receive accommodations in school and sometimes work, depending on the job. I am currently in graduate school for creative writing. By having these documented mental and learning disabilities, I am able to have access to accommodations, such as extra time, a note-taker or extensions on assignments, when needed. I also find that having these specified labels helps me get the right treatment. for instance, borderline personality disorder typically involves a certain type of therapy known as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), while bipolar disorder requires lifelong medication monitoring and adjusting. By having an official diagnosis for ADHD, I am able to take stimulant medication in order to improve my focus.
2. Better understanding and knowledge regarding my specific set of issues.
Another helpful thing about having official diagnoses is that there are approved websites as well as books written by both psychologists and patients of mental illness/learning disabilities. These can be useful tools for better understanding why I do the things I do as well as the science behind it. (As a former psychology student, I find this interesting, even if I don’t always understand science.) And once I have more knowledge, I am also able to help and educate others in my life, and even people on the internet who may read my articles.
3. Having a name to what I’ve experienced my whole life.
The thing is, I may have received my first diagnosis at 19 years old, and have done this testing at the age of 26, but that does not mean that I haven’t struggled for years before I was given a label or any form of treatment. It feels so good and validating to be told that my struggles with math, understanding graphs and maps, as well as fine motor skill and even social issues (the social part was more prevalent when I was a child, although I still struggle with certain aspects) is all so real and worthy of treatment, even at 26. I now know that I’m not just “weird” compared to my peers; I have nonverbal learning disability and dyscalculia.
The point of this article is that I want you to be proud of who you are and how far you’ve come, regardless of whether you have an official diagnosis, are self-diagnosed, or hate to associate with any label at all. In the end, disability — whether mental or physical — is a personal thing to the individual who experiences it. Ultimately you, or I, get to decide how we want to go about this world, this life. In my case, I’ll say that while having a condition such as bipolar disorder or OCD can be stigmatizing and so painful, I am still proud because these labels have made me who I am: the dog lover, the writer, the student, the sister, the advocate, the friend.
Photo by Charles Etoroma on Unsplash