Mental Health Myths

If normal behaviour is increasingly being categorised as mental illness thMarch Hare, Mad Hatter, and Doormouseen that creates a burden on individuals, families and on society as a whole.

Judging from my blog, I must think I’m the poster child for mental health or something! The quote above comes from an article in BBC Health News (http://www about the changed diagnoses in the upcoming DSM-5 (http://www NULL.dsm5 NULL.aspx).  I have actually been thinking about “overdiagnosis” a lot, but not necessarily by psych health professionals. I’m not really qualified to comment on whether or not the new definitions in the DSM-5 will lead the psych community to diagnose the wrong people. What I am more concerned about is whether people will “diagnose” themselves or others, which they seem to do now just fine, with no outside help from professionals.

Think about it. How many times have you heard someone say “Oh, you are so OCD!” What do you think “OCD” really means? Do you think it means “Obsessively Neat and Tidy”? OCD is a disorder that affects the quality of life of the sufferer. People who have it are affected in a variety of ways, and the compulsions range from washing, to checking, to hoarding. Yep. Hoarders are often disorganized and not tidy. Don’t believe me? Read here (http://www NULL.ocdcenter NULL.php). Of course, the other end of the OCD myth is that some people think that “real” OCD is very rare. It is actually relatively common for a psych disorder.

My other concern is youth and teen diagnoses. First of all, adolescence is a cruel trick. Adolescent behavior (which continues until around age 25 or so, believe it or not), is freakish in and of itself. So why do we cart Suzy off to the PMD because she is moody, withdrawn, and defiant? Why can’t we just have a pizza and movie night with her, give her a safe space in which to be alone, and take away her phone privileges, like our parents did when we behaved that way?

Little Johnny can’t sit still in class? He interrupts and throws tantrums at home? Well, maybe Little Johnny has ADD, or possibly Little Johnny is a spoiled rotten little jerk. Possibly he wouldn’t be so desperate for attention if we paid him the proper kind of parental attention at the right time and in the right places, instead of just freaking out when he doesn’t magically behave the way we want him to.

Ok, here’s where the caveat comes in, so read this carefully: In no way am I trying to belittle, disparage, or otherwise detract from youth, teen, or other diagnoses which may affect you, your loved ones, or your loved ones’ loved ones. Also, I am in no way implying that the disorders I talk about here (and even others!) are not very real problems which do exist and do hurt people. I’m just saying that while we’re working to reduce the stigma that mental illness implies (and we are working to do that, aren’t we?), we should also be less quick to label behavior as “mental illness.”

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