The world is full of mental health diagnoses, and each day these are becoming more common as more people get diagnosed with a condition affecting their daily life. Nevertheless, little attention is given to how the system of psychiatric nomenclatures goes on to perpetuate the very pathologies they claim to treat.
A person might think they are normal, until they are told they are not. That is, until a diagnosis is given which reinforces the very patterns of behaviours which the clinician is attempting to treat or make absent. As a matter of fact, it isn’t until people are given diagnoses that they begin to identify with specific sets of behaviour. In a way, the clinician prescribes such sets of behaviours when they— often forcibly— attribute a label to a human being who might just be having a hard time.
People have rough times, and sometimes during such rough times, people might act in ways which are out of character; that is, unusual patterns of behaviour which express distress. Nonetheless, the average diagnosis will limit a person’s personality to a criteria which can indeed narrow a person’s imagination and hamper their very dreams.
Is the system creating individuals who are different by labelling them when they are teenagers? Psychology shows us that teenagers are still in major developmental stages where personality and character, among many other traits, become more defined. A label can really throw a teenager off that trajectory and influence their identity to a point in which the human being might feel that all they are is what the label prescribes.
For instance, the diagnoses of personality disorder have somehow made it through so scientific rigour; yet, even the concept of it begins to disintegrate in psychiatric nomenclatures such as the ICD-11. Clinicians can at times forget that behind every label given, there is a human being with a complex life of his or her own. They, thus, enslave an individual to a pattern regardless of the consequences this may have on their general wellbeing.
As someone who has been labelled, I can tell that being ‘marked’ as disordered since I was a teenager affected my identity. It simply affected me more than I could express. It attempted to wash away the uniqueness of my personality, and it tried to box me into a criteria that I did not even fully meet. Now that I am in my thirties, I have come to analyse how the iatrogenic effects affected my development, and I can honestly say that sometimes I think I would have been better off away from the system and not being diagnosed in the first place.
I was only 17 years old when I was labelled. At such an age, I was still forming ‘me’, and being given such a set of criteria only added elements which perhaps might never have appeared if it was not for the neoliberal touch of intervention. But I am not the only one, and apart from everything mentioned already, stigma is also a definite cause for distress in labelled individuals. What for the clinician might be a random job at the office, can become a devastating, life-changing event for the human being being subjugated to an external opinion about their internal functioning. In a way, the clinician creates the pathology by giving a label.