If You’re Looking for “Mental Illness,” Don’t Come by My Office
Many years ago I stopped diagnosing clients for “mental illness,” not because I wasn’t sensitive or responsive to their cognitive and emotional needs, but instead because of all the negative consequences that come with an official clinical diagnosis of “mental illness” these days (click here to see ADHD criteria). I still treat people with mental struggles, as I like to call them (i.e. mood state, anxiety concerns, etc.), I just don’t stick a label on their forehead and expose them to being taken advantage of by insurers and other doctors too eager to prescribe dangerous psychiatric medications for their issues.
Unfortunately, while we would like to believe that in 2013 individuals suffering from mental illness would receive the greatest care, concern, and privacy, the reality is that in increasingly more cases today the exact opposite occurs. Empathy has been replaced by unproven and dangerous psychiatric medications, and traditional privacy parameters between counselor and client have been replaced by countless random insurance personnel checking in on assessments and treatment plans. Treating mental illness today is more about business and profit margins, not empathy and offering safe and humane ways of helping individuals.
I have taught clinical psychology at several colleges and am both surprised and disappointed at how the DSM has expanded in recent years. New disorders have been “approved,” while many traditional disorders have had diagnostic criteria loosened. As one columnist wrote, simply being human has become pathological.
Some of the reasons I have changed my thinking when it comes to labeling people with mental illness include:
- These days big pharma has a drug for seemingly every mental illness listed in the DSM, and I’m simply not on board with drugging people with pills that are unproven and actually carry with them many known dangerous side-effects.
- Clients often long for a mental disorder simply so that they can have their counseling sessions covered through insurance, and that’s quite understandable. What most clients don’t know, however, is how using insurance today can lead to countless compromises in privacy.
- Another issue most clients wanting to use insurance do not fully understand is how having a “mental disorder” will literally crush them later in life with both health and life insurance. You see, insurance companies today use mental disorder diagnoses to claim “pre-existing condition” when it comes to health insurance (although this is currently being examined through Obamacare and may change), and life insurers immediately place mentally ill people into high-risk categories. Even if you are 50 years old today, if you were diagnosed with depression as a teen life insurers are going to look at you as high-risk, with the false assumption that you could have never improved upon your depression experienced as a teen.
- Then there are the stigmas associated with mental illness — in my experience people seem to speak more freely about having cancer than they do having to see a mental health professional about an emotional concern. Sadly, people suffering from mental illness are often seen and treated differently.
- There are also questionable criteria used to discriminate mental illness from abnormal behavior. These lines are often very blurry and hard to discriminate, but the consequences between being “abnormal” versus mentally ill are night and day.
- Finally, when labeling an individual with “mental illness,” he or she then has a new, self-fulfilling prophecy to fight through in addition to everything else I just described. In other words, when a doctor says you are ADHD, OCD, or any other disorder in the DSM, most people then have to fight through the label often thinking that their biology has hampered and limited them from being happy and successful in life.
A person should not have to be subjected to these modern day conditions that include pressures to go on dangerous drugs, and being discriminated against by insurance companies for temporarily experiencing a mood state or anxiety disorder for a period in their life. It’s also not the business of anyone beyond the client and counselor as to what happens in therapy. It is for these reasons that you won’t be labeled “mentally ill” if you knock on my door.