So You Have a Diagnosis of Mental Disorder: What Does That Mean?

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

photo-24714732-stressed-businessmanIt is said that students of psychology come away from classes believing they have the worst kind of mental illness – a condition I call IATMU or “I am totally messed up!” That is because each of us have traits of all kinds of personality and mental disorders.

As humans, we have a broad range of common needs including love, acceptance, validation and a sense of value. How we strive to get those needs met is also riddled with similarities. For example, we tend to connect with people who think like we do.  Might it be because when our ideas go unchallenged we feel more validated, accepted, etcetera? This appears normal.

Some personality, relational, behavioral, and thought process complexities stray from what mentally healthy people experience and cannot be so simply dismissed. These are often termed “disorders”, extreme and dysfunctional ways of coping with life.

Disorders tend to earn more specific labels for the sole purpose of identifying commonalities and thus guiding mental health professionals in assessment and treatment.  A diagnosis of eating disorder for instance, comes from observing accumulated symptoms including, but not limited to, abnormal behavior around food.

One young college student I met believed he had to be perfect. He had become obsessive, carried two majors and a minor, excelling in each. He had also attempted suicide a few times. His thinking and behavior negatively affected significant aspects of his life.  A diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder helped doctors understand how to help him, and he also learned how to help himself. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is most commonly aligned with veterans returning from war.  It has also been attributed to other traumas. Complex Post Traumatic Syndrome (C-PTSD) better explains a grouping of symptoms unique to children and adults who endure prolonged, repeated abuse. Yet  C-PTSD is not officially listed in the diagnostic manual of mental disorders. This example shows that labels cannot tell a complete story. 

Labels serve only as professional guidelines, not as identifying markers of a person’s value, potential, purpose, intelligence, or ability to overcome. No one is a diagnosis.

You are not a walking list of symptoms. You’ve been diagnosed with a mental disorder? Good. Now you know what may be wrong and can face the issues square in the eye. 



NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*I always recommend professional help in dealing with psychological difficulties of any kind.

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