Dealing With Mental Health Labels

When psychiatrists inform you of your diagnosis, they are not doing it with the intention of labeling you. No one is denying that dealing with mental health labels can be difficult, but it’s important to also understand what a diagnosis is. A diagnosis is given to inform you of what we think may be going on and as a guide for treatment. Psychiatric diagnoses do not define you as a person. It’s important to mention this because many patients experience an uncomfortable feeling when certain psychiatrists slap a diagnosis on them. Informing patients of their diagnosis is very important when it comes to delivery of the information. Empathy and being nonjudgmental are crucial to making patients feel comfortable. At the end of the day, we are here to help you overcome your symptoms.

Dealing With Mental Health Labels: The Diagnosis

When a patient first becomes diagnosed with a mental disorder, it can be very uncomfortable and frightening for them. There’s a tendency by some patients to believe that a label or diagnosis makes them less human than others. First, let’s clarify the difference between a label and a diagnosis. A diagnosis is the assignment of a mental disorder unto a patient based on the symptoms he or she is experiencing. Psychiatric diagnoses were created based on the observation of human experiences. They help to classify patients with different disorders so that physicians can more effectively treat them. A psychiatric diagnosis is an objective term while a label is subjective.

Depressed man dealing with mental health labels

So What Are Labels?

A label is like someone saying, “you are crazy” or “he’s weird, he’s got schizophrenia or something.” A label is like a tag that someone identifies you with and usually in a negative manner. Mental health labels are used by the public who is not formally educated in psychiatric diagnoses. You can imagine that the labeling of patients can be very embarrassing and difficult for them to experience. This is especially true for children and adolescents who are still very much in the mindset of fitting in to get approval by their peers.

Just remember that as a psychiatrist, we don’t label you. We give you a diagnosis if we think you have one based on your symptoms and experiences. I know it can be difficult to sometimes accept a diagnosis, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t define who you are as a human being. A diagnosis is just a definition of your symptoms that allows us to provide you with the correct treatment so that you can improve and no longer suffer. In a nutshell, the public does the labeling but mental health workers provide the diagnoses.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)


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