‘You’ve got a personality disorder…’

Personality disorder

Depression

Anxiety

Bipolar

OCD

Psychosis

Schizophrenia

All of these (and many, many more) are labels used to diagnose people. But what does this mean for someone? What happens when they are slapped with a label?

Stigma

Shame

Support

Relief

Embarrassment

Confusion

Hopeless

Just a few ideas around what diagnosis can mean for someone. As you can see, it’s a mixed bag.

We are confined to the structure of diagnosis that currently exists, which means we label people as a way of describing a set of symptoms. Although I can see the benefits in terms of access to support and that the person receiving the diagnosis might feel relieved to know what is happening, I much prefer formulation.

Thankfully, I’m in the right job for this, as formulation is a huge part of the clinical psychologist role. Formulation offers us a picture of what is going on for the person. It is person centred and acknowledges the complexity of a diagnosis and what it means for the person. It considers the biopsychosocial elements. At this moment in time however, we operate by a system of diagnostic labelling.

In which case I think the importance of educating around mental health is just as necessary as learning about first aid. Mental health touches so many lives, however if it doesn’t touch your life, why would you need to know that much about it?

There is more to a person than a label. We all have a background, we have all been subject to environmental factors, quite often out of our control. For example, some children experience domestic violence, others are born into poverty.

It is important to look beyond the label, know that this person has a story.

It would be great to hear your views on this.

Thank you for reading

27 thoughts on “‘You’ve got a personality disorder…’”

  1. this is a really nice post. I want people to treat me like they would anyone else; it’s yet to happen though, except for a few very special people 🙂

  2. I’ve always hated the term “personality disorder” especially. Rather than focusing on that there’s an issue with behaviors, the term implies that the very basics that make up who a person is (their personality) is flawed.

  3. My wife has fought this all her life she is 45 now we have been married for 14 years. Now it has been hard especially trying to get a doctor to admit she had a problem. But it wss later that we finally seen the right psychiatrist. But now all we have is a lid on the pot and the pot constantly boils. That being said she lives her life the way she feels and that takes a lot out of me our children. But I take the good days and run with them because they are few and far in between. Now when she starts to share things from her past I sit down and listen because this is the root of her problems I have been able to pull more things from her past out through conversation and I think it helps. Wow I could go on and on. Great post. I don’t like labels it does create a view point of all people act the same way.

    • Thank you for sharing this with me, I can’t imagine what that is like, but can understand it must be difficult. It sounds like your wife is a great woman and I’m glad you’ve been able to find the right psychiatrist. Your strength is inspiring

  4. People often find comfort in a diagnosis, especially when it is medically derived. It removes that burden from them… especially if it isn’t as obvious as a missing leg or overt birth defect. They can say, “it’s not ‘me’, it’s *enter diagnosis here*”. (I’m not a proponent of this tendency, just stating that it is common.)

    However, psychological diagnosis are not as easy. We can’t ‘see’ them. And we ‘can’t prove them’.

    There is still a lot of misinformation, misunderstanding, and just a sheer lack of knowledge regarding what is considered ‘mental illnesses’. And where and why it originates. (see a great book called “Infectious Madness” by Harriet Washington…)

    I think that it is an ongoing practice and responsibility for those that deal with it on a daily basis to kindly ‘inform’ the people that they interact with, gently, kindly, of the realities… while not imposing that burden on them as well…

    Great post. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  5. They might as well have a computer generated list of symptoms they think you have ,and then they should take the medicine……lol….. sorry ,that was a bit of sarcasm , but it hid nothing….. because frankly if they think I’m the one with the “disorder”,they don’t realize they created the “disorder” to start with,with their canned judgments…..to which I have a remedy, “Put a lid on it! ,ship it ….. away from here…because i have a six-pack…..lol)

  6. I agree. It also works at times in the reverse. I actually was very ill for about twenty years but because no one could put a label on it, I wasn’t getting helped. No one took my complaints seriously even though I went from running 5 miles so quickly my male friends couldn’t keep up with me to barely being able to walk two years later. I wasn’t considered ill by my family or friends because the doctors couldn’t label it. It was “all in my head.” A naturopath finally discovered that I had several food allergies, likely born with them. (I’d never heard of nightshade allergies. Lucky me to be allergic to one of my favorite foods, potatoes.) Getting those foods out of my diet significantly improved my health.

    • There absolutely is a difference, however lots of people see depression as a negative and there is usually a lot of negative stigmas around mental health in general health too

  7. As a child, I saw my mom try medicine after medicine, doctor after doctor, and I only saw her get worse. In my child mind, the medication and doctors were making her sick. So when I recognized the first signs of depression in me, I kept quiet because the doctors would make me sicker. Had she or my dad had a conversation about it with me just once, I might have gotten treatment and not gone through the last 10 years of hell. I was 22 when I was first hospitalized and had a therapist. If only they got there sooner…

    • Thank you so much for sharing your experience – it must have been really difficult to go through all of that. I hope that people can be more open about mental health – less stigmatising and understand that we all have mental health, so it’s okay to talk about it?
      I hope things are going well for you?

  8. This diagnosis and medication cycle has been bothering me. I was diagnosed, at 14, with clinical depression after attempting suicide, started counseling and was put on medication. At 16 I developed a hatred for people and started self-injuring. By 18 I felt people were thinking bad thoughts about me, I was then diagnosed with a paranoid personality disorder. At 21, I started experiencing panic attacks and was prescribed valium in addition to Haldol and Imipramine. As the years passed my diagnosis changed to schizo-effective then to borderline personality.During the years I was married and raising my children I had no symptoms and had stopped taking medication and counseling. After 12 years, we divorced and within two months I started having panic attacks, started self-harming and attempted suicide many times, My new diagnosis was bipolar disorder and PTSD. I was in therapy again for the next five years but when my employer went bankrupt, I lost my health insurance. I felt abandoned by my psychiatrist who wouldn’t see me without insurance. He wanted to charge me 200.00 for an exit session, so there wasn’t closure and I felt abandoned.
    I had not choice but to use the county mental health system. After two months, I was waiting at the clinic to pick up my medication. I was stressed about finances and worried about finding employment. A staff member at a mental health clinic and I got into an argument about the medication dosage. I was so angry that I threatened her by saying, I am going home to get my gun and then I am going to come back and kill you.” I was arrested for felony terrorism, taken to jail for two days, paid $5,000 for bail, spent the next two years in court to be sentenced to a year in jail, suspended, three years felony probation and ordered to continue on medication. Just months after that, I was diagnosed with advanced glaucoma and forced into retirement and to move to a cheaper city, leaving my hometown, children, and newborn grandson. I am now 56, still on medication and see a psychiatrist for prescriptions only.
    At the age of six until 9, I was frequently sexually molested by two neighborhood teenagers who didn’t know each other. At 12, I was raped by my older brother. My mother was brutal, I was physically and verbally abused throughout my childhood. I was never hugged, never told I was loved, never celebrated my birthday never received toys or proper clothing. I believe this is where my issues derived. I have come to terms with what I experienced. My mother passed away and I was able to forgive her.
    Is it unwise to stop taking these medications? I do not feel depressed just sad about the kids. I do not self-harm or contemplate suicide. I spend my days alone but I am not lonely, I have developed many new interests and adopted two dogs. I have made one friend since I moved here three years ago who I see maybe once a month. Currently, I take Clonazepam, Latuda, and Citalopram. Since I don’t speak at length with the psychiatrist, I do not believe he can make that determination and if not then who?

    • Wow, I am totally in awe of the journey you have been through and that you have been so courageous in sharing that. It sounds so difficult and I am shocked at the set up for mental health support! I think it is easy for me to forget over here in the UK that not all healthcare is accessible. I’m so sorry to hear about all of the difficulties you’ve faced. Medication is a tricky one, and it makes it difficult that you have to pay to have an in depth conversation about it. Is there any way you could talk to a professional about taking it without forking out lots of money?
      I’m glad to hear about your new interests and your two dogs, what breed are they?
      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your story

      • Thank you for your validation. My two dogs are Wired Hair Terriers. Mitzi has been here four months, she is a rescue from death row. An abused, abandoned dog who no one wanted to adopt. She had been in six fosters before the shelter where she had 48 hours left, I saw her on the internet and adopted her.

        I believe my sensitive nature and my sentiments of compassion and empathy for others were never lost and my ability for introspection have all helped me to develop a self I can love.

        I have completed years of extensive research into different areas of psychology, psychiatry, mental health issues, cognitive. dialectic. and psychotherapy methods. I have studied Freud and Jung. Moved on to Philosophy of the self and ego. I have read many articles written on Psychopathological theories as well as early childhood development and the effects of trauma.

        There is no resource I can turn to except perhaps the psychiatrist I see once a month for five minutes, however, I think he would be bias.

        • Your dogs sound lovely, im glad you’ve been able to give them a home 🙂
          Im currently training to be a clinical psychologist over in the UK but things sound a little different here in terms of support. I wish I knew more about other systems though.
          If you were in the UK, I’d always recommend talking to a GP, but I’m not sure of the equivalent for you, that would be practical and an impartial opinion

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