Diagnosis… why?

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The DSM is “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” and acts as a guide to diagnosing mental disorders.

Some people dislike the DSM because it feels stigmatizing, like you are being lumped into the box of a disorder. It feels this way because that is indeed what it does. But this is not why health professionals use the DSM. It may lump you into a box, BUT it doesn’t stop there. A DSM diagnosis informs treatment. It directs your health professional to the science that will be most helpful to you.

A DSM diagnosis is not an endpoint. It is a beginning. The DSM is an evolving guidebook for treatment rather than a compendium of categorization and certainty. I have seen three versions of the DSM throughout my career, and each revision contains clarification, deleted certain “disorders”, added new diagnostic labels, and shifted criteria. With each revision, we, as mental health professionals and researchers, develop a more precise and less culturally/socially bound way of understanding the complexity of humans.

As a Mental Health Psychologist, I use the DSM as a tool to understand, communicate and coordinate your care with other health professionals about mental health issues. An accurate diagnosis can help direct me to the best research for you. The label is not the endpoint but rather a start point for our work together. From this start point, I individualize the treatment to YOU, not your diagnosis. You are not the problem. The problem is the problem, and the DSM helps us understand more about the problem and directs me to research that can help reduce the problem.

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