Diagnosis of Disorders

"Life is becoming becoming." --Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner, 1996

Many people like diagnosis. A diagnosis puts a name to an ongoing problem, and lets people know there is an explanation for their symptoms that other people have shared.

But the problem with giving diagnoses, is that it can sometimes put a stop to understanding or healing. A diagnosis doesn’t explain how or why it occurred. Instead, a diagnosis focuses on symptoms and behaviors, and many times is treated only with a medication approach to alleviate some of the surface symptoms.

A different approach to diagnosing, is using the diagnosis to understand how the symptoms developed as a means to cope with stresses; getting our needs met in a difficult environment. What are the needs we all try to meet? Well, in addition to food, clothing, and shelter, in order to develop and live healthy, we MUST have love, a feeling of security (safe from threats, and being able to do some predicting about the future), and have some choices and control about what happens to us. Diagnosis is useful if it acts as a structure or framework in understanding, but should not be a focus in healing.

Remember: a disorder is just a name, it doesn’t mean you are sick or crazy (a very common misconception). What it does mean is that in the past you needed to adapt/cope in ways that are now no longer needed or helpful. Making changes after years of adapting and coping requires lots of time, work, and attention. Counselors are trained to help people learn about their past and how it has affected their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Then, counselors can help you use that information to develop a plan or change that works for you. Eventually, you’ll be able to let go of the things you no longer need.


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