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Why are Mental Health Problems Routinely Misdiagnosed?

It’s hardly a secret that in the mental health field, everyone gets their take. There is no definitive medical test for any mental illness, and most mental health professionals don’t have the time or resources to dig as deep as one hopes.

Mental Health Problems Go In and Out of Vogue

In the 1970-80s eating disorders were en vogue, diagnosed at never before seen rates (partly due to increased awareness among medical professionals). The past decade has seen a dramatic rise in the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (and/or self-injury, which isn’t actually a diagnosis but let’s not be picky, shall we?).

Bias is part of the mental health system, whether we like it or not. Everyone, mental health professionals included, is prone to it: finding what they’re looking for. Infallibility doesn’t come with a medical license, a piece of paper on the wall.

Mental Health Problems Diagnosed Too Quickly

Let’s imagine that you have a panic attack and end up in an emergency clinic because it feels like you’re having a heart attack. No heart attack, so the ER refers you to a psychiatrist who (too quickly?) diagnoses you with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable being given a label like GAD — and the stigma that comes with it — if there were a better basis for diagnosing any mental health problem? Wouldn’t accepting the label be easier if seeking a psychiatrist for a second opinion wasn’t quite so thoroughly frowned upon, or just plain hard to get? Or if asking questions and acting as a self-advocate wasn’t more likely to result in being treated as a problem rather than a patient?

Mental Health Problems Are Diagnosed With the Best Guess

Mental health problems are routinely diagnosed. Reasons for it vary in acceptability, but wouldn't you feel better if you could trust your diagnosis? Read this.Most psychotherapists and psychologists are not doctors, and most general practitioners aren’t qualified to diagnose a mental illness. They rely on psychiatrists just as much as we do.

Unfortunately, there’s always the risk my experience won’t be expressed very well. Some psychiatrists don’t take what’s happening in my head seriously because my own reflection doesn’t seem to hold much weight. And some mental illnesses make finding the right words next to impossible, as with the cognitive impairments of depression.

Diagnosis, or misdiagnosis, boils down to whatever the professional happens to see on the day of my appointment. The psychiatrist relies on his or her best guess based on observable behavior.

Which is okay to some extent, but isn’t it about time they admit it?

Mental Health Problems Take Away Your Voice

All too many people are diagnosed with mental illnesses they don’t have: which doesn’t accurately reflect the day-to-day experience of their mental health, and which they do not feel sufficiently empowered or educated to speak about.

Maybe it’s because they showed up when the psychiatrist in question was having a bad day, or they have a history of addiction and overdosed in the wrong ER, or one medication didn’t work when another did. All of which have next to nothing to do with the supposed bible of psychiatric diagnosis: the DSM-V.

I don’t have a grudge against psychiatrists because it’s my experience they at least believe they are helping. But I’d still feel better about the ideas they present as fact, were they able to identify what’s wrong with any of us to any degree of certainty, beyond a vague diagnostic category.

How many diagnoses did you go through before they found “the right fit?”

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16 thoughts on “Why are Mental Health Problems Routinely Misdiagnosed?”

  1. When I was 23 I became confused and went to the doctor feeling a bit flustered too. I was refered to another doctor that told me I had schizophrenia and would see him from then. My head pumped at the side and my sinuses began to hurt and my head went very hot I was more flustered. My doctor said I was fine. My head was obviously not ok and my sinuses were causing problems. Then I began to get migrain. At the time I never knew about migrain but I went to the doctor describing basic migrain symptoms, pain, red dots in front of eyes, light hurting my eyes and feeling frustrated. He said I was imagining it and did a snigger. I walked away in pain and my migrain tormented me for just over a year untill an older lady approached me in the street and asked me what was wrong. I described the basic symptoms which she quickly identified and told me to get migralieve. After 20 minutes my torment subsided and my head was raw. I then had a whole body breakdown. All my muscles were in pain. I was bedridden for eight months even going to the toilet was hard. The only way I got better was my young daughter. I had to get up and be with her no matter . It was a hard slow task but after a few weeks the pain seemed to just become part of me and I could move better. While I had migrain I was sent to mental hospital twice as my daughter saw me in pain and told the doctor how I was. So I have been fighting the system since this doctor diognosed me wrongly. I changed doctors twice but can’t get away from the miss diagnosis. I still have problems with the side of my head and research soon helped me identity it as from an accident I was in when I was little where a car hit my head full pelt and I was in a commor for 3 months. I experience symptoms from this still and am still fighting to be listened to. My first doctor has put a mind field in front of me. Even my daughter can’t talk about it. I feel I have no more avenues to try. I’ve been fighting for 23 years. It’s becoming tedious. The injury is on my temple and effects my whole senses and nerves and I can’t even get nerve pills. I asked the new doctor and she just said no. I’m still trying though as there must be a non robot out there. I deserve it and my daughter deserves it. She was only seven when it began.

    1. Hi Rebecca, thank you for sharing your story. But wow, I am deeply sorry that you’ve been experiencing such a rough time with many obstacles all these years. I sincerely get your need for relief and doctors to understand things the way you see them. That’s a normal response. Aside from trying additional doctors, I wonder if seeing a good counselor might help you to at least cope with the pain your experiencing. Ideally, that person will be able to help point you in the right direction in resolving some of the issues that feel most pressing to you. But in the meantime, it sounds like you could use some trusted support. Unfortunately, it may take a couple of attempts to get someone who you feel can trust therapeutically, but it’s worth a shot. Wishing you relief and healing.

  2. I have been misdiagnosed as well and if I say anything they would come and section me again you see I told them that I am being treated like a thief for the past 6 years and told them that the security and the staff follow me around when ever I go to shop, they turned it around and started asking are you hearing voices are you seeing people following you you on the road.

    See how dangerous these Mental health doctors are they are no good and destroy people life who are giving these people all these privileges over descent people life.

    They are destroying people life too much and it is time that the government intervene I am fedup of not being able to have a voice I am still being treated like a thief and can’t say anything because they will want to section me again.

    Can someone out there speak up for us we ate being misdiagnosed and it is not good get rid of all mental health workers they are useless.

    1. If the diagnosis is wrong and you deny it, they are trained to believe that is another sign of mental illness. Many trashcan ‘science’ studies have been done on that too which they will bring in a the courtroom to discredit and take away any human rights you may have. But dont worry, they are here to ‘help’.

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