A diagnosis is an opinion formed and delivered by a competent professional. It can provide valuable information about a known condition or circumstance. It might also imply a course of action or treatment. So far so good.
But a diagnosis is also a judgement, a label, and, in a worst-case scenario, a prediction (which might be about a happy outcome, but often isn’t). As far as it goes, diagnosis is a valuable tool, but there are serious side-effects that might not always be considered.
In my therapy practice, I don’t give names to the situations and complaints my clients bring into the room. When we have to name something, for convenience, more often than not it’ll be in the language the client uses. If they bring a diagnostic label with them, I think it’s important to use it as a starting point for a discussion, and no more.
6 Reasons to be Wary of a Diagnosis
- When something is labelled it often happens that people see only the label and act as they think fit, without realising that they are confusing the label (a set of symptoms of a circumstance), with the thing being labelled, (a person or group of people).
- A diagnosis is a judgement, and it has said that judgements make us partially blind (to other possibilities, for example)
- It can be a relief having a clear diagnosis, but it can also be frightening. The person communicating the diagnosis has to be very careful about understanding what the diagnosis means to the recipient
- Such labels can be very powerful. Even if the real consequences of the condition are relatively minor and the prognosis is good, the impact on the recipient (or family members) can still have negative consequences
- A diagnosis often has implications that set the recipient apart – normal vs abnormal, for example. This can eclipse what is fully functioning and normal about them, just at the time when they need such resources most
- The diagnosis is still only someone’s opinion. Many diagnoses lack any scientific foundation, even though they are usually presented as if they have the weight of proof behind them.