Psychology in Real Life: Diagnosis, Good News or Bad News?
So now you have a diagnosis for someone else or for yourself. Should you tattoo the bar code across your forehead or would it be best to fold that little sheet of paper into a tiny square and tuck it in your shoe?
The answer is a little bit of both. On the plus side of ‘having’ a diagnosis, that little set of letters and numbers will give you a shot at health insurance reimbursement. Also, a diagnosis can assure us that other people have experienced similar symptoms, that research has been done, and that methods and medications have, at least sometimes, proven helpful.
On the down side, a diagnosis describes a general blend of symptoms, treatments, and responses to treatment of a highly variant collection of people. A diagnosis is not a reliable means to describe the symptoms of an individual nor can a diagnosis predict how an individual will respond to various treatments or change over time. Plain words: Just because the diagnostic manual or magazine article labels a person with a diagnosis does not mean we ‘know’ who a person is nor are we able to know what lies ahead.
The most daunting downside to diagnosis has more to do with what happens when we share a diagnostic label with others. Insurance is, of course, a necessary indignity. In close relationships we might share a diagnosis to help the other understand what is behind changes in our behavior. Here the definition of “close relationship” is a relationship with someone you’ve known a long time and who is able to hear the ‘diagnosis’ as one and not even the most important puzzle piece to who you are. The problem sharing a diagnosis is that from the moment of revelation forward—much of your unrelated behavior may be blamed on your diagnosis.
Takeaway: Keep a diagnosis (yours or someone else’s) private. Celebrities and magazine articles want to pretend the world is enlightened and non-judgmental when it comes to emotional disorders—but that’s not the accurate. While your revelations might occur in the most benign social situation possible, you don’t know what’s going to happen as time goes by and in what new situation your private information is shared. Perhaps ironically, even sharing with a spouse can change the way a partner relates.
Buy books, read about a diagnosis, learn, and when a pharmaceutical commercial pops up on the television screen plug your ears, squeeze your eyes closed, and sing “La la la la” until it’s over.