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YOU GOT A DIAGNOSIS.. NOW WHAT? How Your Mental Health Diagnosis Can Benefit You

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I have seen a lot of different reactions to people hearing their diagnosis. Some people use it as a tool to move forward, while others feel really hindered by the words. I want to challenge you to think about what your perspective is, what you tend to do with that knowledge, and whether that has been helpful for you or not. Here are some examples of different ways I have seen people use their diagnoses in some helpful and not-so-helpful ways.


Less helpful:

1. Stereotyping and judging

Judging people (or yourself) by only a diagnosis is not very helpful. Some people are afraid that if they have a diagnosis they will be put into a box or stereotyped. This makes me think of the Shakespeare line “what’s in a name?” We are the same person no matter what we are called. So if your diagnosis is helpful.. amazing! If it is not helpful.. remember it is just a word, you are more than that!

2. Making an excuse not to try

Some people believe that a diagnosis can tell you what an individual is or is not capable of accomplishing. This is so untrue! People can adapt and heal. A diagnosis should not be seen as a limitation or an excuse not to try to reach your goals.

3. Limiting treatments

There is sometimes an idea that there is only one path for healing based on your diagnosis. For example, EMDR is helpful for many people with PTSD. Does this mean if you have a PTSD diagnosis EMDR is the only treatment that will work for you? Absolutely not! As I mentioned above, this could be be something to try, but it is not the only option.

4. Excusing behaviors

There is a huge difference between recognizing behaviors and excusing behaviors. Recognizing that you tend to use certain behaviors to cope can be helpful in knowing yourself and growing. Excusing your behaviors as “just the way I am” due to your diagnosis is not always helpful. This mindset takes your power away and tends to limit your ability to make change. Remember that you can notice, give yourself some grace, AND make healthy changes.

5. Feeling hopeless

For some people, receiving a diagnosis can feel hopeless. The thought of “there is something wrong with me” can feel overwhelming and sometimes the struggles seems unavoidable. I am here to tell you that this is NOT TRUE! You have the ability to make change and find peace and success. Finding the best counselor and support team for you can be a huge help. If you are struggling, you do not have to feel this way forever. There is always hope!


Helpful:

1. Connecting with others

Knowing your diagnosis can help you connect with others who also meet the criteria for that diagnosis. Relating to others, sharing your stories, your struggles, and your gifts can be validating and comforting. Finding similarities might let you know.. -I am not the only one -I am not “broken” -I have support -There is hope

2. Communicating between providers

When a client or provider is able to share a diagnosis with another provider it can be helpful in giving a basic overview of some of the symptoms that the client might be experiencing. Even though a diagnosis won’t tell you everything about a person (not even close), it can help a provider have an idea of where to start as they get to know the client and their goals.

3. Exploring what treatments might be helpful

Everyone is different. The best counselor or treatment for one person might not be the best for another. However, knowing your diagnosis could help you find some ideas of where to start looking for help. Maybe there is a therapist or psychiatrist who specializes in working with clients who meet a certain diagnosis criteria. Those providers might be a good fit or a resource for referrals!

4. Normalizing

Sharing your diagnosis (and sharing about mental health in general) helps to break the stigma around it! When we share we teach people that it is ok to struggle. We teach people that if you have a mental health diagnosis you are not weird, or broken, or incapable.. So many people can relate to and support each other when we are willing to get a little bit vulnerable.

5. Expanding benefits/treatment options

Certain diagnoses can help a person to receive benefits that might be helpful for them. For example, if you are using insurance, the diagnosis helps you to qualify for mental health services through your insurance company.

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