Over Diagnosis Disorder

A colorful, emotional, and creative friend of mine who suffered powerful trauma as a child, both physical and sexual, had a great discussion with me on Monday about how much trouble he has had in receiving the right kind of help from mental health practitioners.  He said, and I agree, that many therapists label clients unnecessarily and often incorrectly.  Why do they do this?  My friend says it is ODD, Over Diagnosis Disorder, on the part of the therapist.  

In my experience many therapists who lack ownership of their own anxieties label clients whether labeling is good for the client or not.  Some clients can be relieved by receiving a diagnosis, but many more are harmed by the label.  There is judgement implied in a diagnosis.  Many therapists label clients because they are having trouble managing their own anxiety about the client.  They may fear that the clients issues are too difficult to treat without a label, they may need to feel superior to their clients, they may need to pathologize the human being with human problems who appears before them well before they know what is troubling that person's soul.

My friend's therapist insisted that he was bi-polar and wanted him to go to a psychiatrist willing to confirm her diagnosis and prescribe powerful drugs.  My friend was devastated by the label and by the drug he was prescribed, and confronted his therapist about her need to label him bi-polar.  

He asked, "Are you bipolar?"

"Yes," the therapist answered.

"Then you take the damned drug.  You also have ODD, Over-Diagnosis Disorder, and I'm getting out of here."

And he was right to do so.  

My friend says he suffers from post traumatic stress over having been raped as a child.  I can well believe him.  Sexual abuse causes disruptions to learning and development, can provoke anxiety and grief that is buried deep in a dissociative fog.  It is a surprise to me how few therapists ask about sexual abuse, and how few are able to treat it.  

My friend channels his great sensitivity and his hopes and his dark experiences into his acting career, where he makes good use of himself and what he knows to help others.  He works out every day, and he takes very good care of himself. He's quite young, and I look forward to following his career.

Susan Micari

Board Certified Educational Therapist