I’ve Been Given A Mental Health Diagnosis, Now What?

April 1, 2020


When people enter mental health treatment, they have all sorts of different expectations about their diagnosis. Some people feel benefit from knowing that what they’re experiencing has a name. And others feel benefit from the treatment they receive without ever thinking about their diagnosis. There is also a chance that some people may experience some stigma around their diagnosis. Taking all this into account, it still is important to understand what purpose a diagnosis can serve for you and your treatment. Here, we’ll discuss how providers arrive at a diagnosis, what benefit a mental health diagnosis can provide, and what life can look like after you receive a diagnosis. 

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5)

It might seem like mental health providers arrive at a diagnosis about your condition without doing very much. But they’re actually using a variety of techniques to come to their conclusion. Mental health providers receive training to evaluate a person through a series of questions (coupled with your answers), and observations about your behaviors and patterns. With all this information they obtain, the provider is then able to refer to the DSM-5 to make a decision about the patient’s diagnosis. The DSM was created by the American Psychiatric Association in order to help classify and categorize different mental health diagnoses. This manual allows mental health providers to maintain a general common language and outline about a patient’s condition. However, keep in mind that no two patients are alike. So, despite the name of your diagnosis, your provider will be treating you as a unique individual. 

What does the diagnosis mean?

To you

You may feel scared when you receive a diagnosis, or even confused. These are important thoughts to talk to your provider about. Discussion with your provider can allow you to feel better informed and empowered by knowledge of your diagnosis. It’s important to try to avoid looking at a diagnosis as a “stamp” that’s been placed on you. What’s more important here is that you’re getting the treatment you need in order to lead a more fulfilling life. We understand that you may have some self-stigma about your diagnosis, or it may feel heavy to you.  But the last thing we want, is for you to avoid getting the help you need because of fear and stigma. We want the name of the diagnosis you’ve been given to be far less important than the improvement you feel from receiving treatment. 

To the provider

When the provider decides upon a diagnosis for a particular patient, it can be helpful in a few ways. The provider can use the diagnosis to guide the development of your treatment plan. If your diagnosis is say, depression, your provider may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as your treatment. And this recommendation is evidence based, given this is one of the first line treatments for depression. Additionally, the diagnosis will be used to bill your insurance for your visits with your provider. But remember, this information sharing would stop there, because of HIPPA laws that protect your private health information. What all providers will keep in mind, however, is that diagnoses are made at a point in time with the information they have available. As time goes on and your provider gets to know you better, it’s possible that the diagnosis may shift. 

After you receive a diagnosis

Like we mentioned above, your diagnosis may be meaningless to you. But for some people, it can seriously impact the way they choose to live their lives. Let’s consider the example of a diagnosis of say, bipolar disorder. Knowing this diagnosis may lead to some specific decisions about how they care for that illness in their daily life. Like someone who has diabetes would need to stay away from carbohydrates, someone with bipolar disorder may find it more important to focus on their sleep schedule. Making lifestyle changes and developing a routine for taking care of your diagnosis can help you feel a sense of control. Talking to your provider about these changes can help you prioritize which ones will work best for you.

What to tell people

We have come a long way in battling stigma related to mental illness, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t have a long way to go. People who know you well probably know if you’ve been struggling emotionally. That said, letting your loved ones know that you’ve been given a name for the problem you’re struggling with, might be a relief for you. And having trusted friends who are aware of your diagnosis will mean more informed support when you need it.

With regard to disclosing this sensitive information to your employer, this is a very personal decision. Under no circumstances do you need to tell a potential employer about a mental health diagnosis during an interview. However, after you’ve secured a job, some would argue that telling your job can be protective. Because, if your diagnosis somehow impacts your work, and you’ve made your employer aware of your condition previously, the ADA law protects you from any unfair treatment. But we know stigma is still out there. It’s understandable that some people might have reservations about disclosure, despite legal protection. 

Maintaining hope and wellness

The sum of it is, receiving a mental health diagnosis can arm you with valuable information. Staying informed about your diagnosis helps you to better take care of yourself and allows you to own your wellness. Otherwise, your diagnosis may end up feeling like something that overwhelms you. Make sure you talk to your mental health provider about what your diagnosis means to you, and work through those thoughts and feelings together.

About Talkiatry

Talkiatry is a local, accessible and complete mental healthcare solution that accepts insurance. We close the gap for individuals who want to get better, but feel that mental health care has been challenging to navigate up until this point and want a more convenient way to take the first step. Talkiatry takes the traditional local mental health visit and combines it with technology, scale, efficiency, and design to provide the best possible environment for healing.

The Talkiatry branded mental health practice is independently owned and operated by a licensed Psychiatrist. For more information about the relationship between Talkiatry Management Services, LLC and the branded group practice please click here.

Content from the Talkiatry website and blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The intent of the information provided on this website is for general consumer understanding and entertainment only.


TAGS: diagnosis, treatment

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