Sunday, July 16, 2006

Who Wants A Diagnosis?

[posted by dinah]

It started back on Out of The Office when TheTundraPa commented that she didn't socialize with her depressed patients--too needy and I suppose they aren't good company. This didn't sit so well with Neonursechic who responded, "Just made me feel like because I have depression, then nobody wants to be friends with me -" Sarebear, too, feels her mental illness interferes with her ability to make friends. Please forgive me if I misinterpreted anyone, and hey, that's what the comment section is for.

Then we move along to the posts on Whining, and my esteemed co-blogger Roy confesses that his wife thinks he has ADD because he leaves household projects unfinished, he denies the diagnosis, and like a good friend, I pipe in with the unsolicited opinion, based on nearly a decade of observation in a variety of settings, but no formal psychiatric evaluation, that Roy does not have ADD, that his office is a mess because he is a Slob. Off blog, he told me he'd rather have ADD than be a slob, and back on blog, he's now commenting about whether Slob will be in DSM-5 and can it be labeled Messiness, NOS.

So, who wants a diagnosis and what does it mean?

For Roy, I'm left perplexed that he would want a psychiatric diagnosis, a damaged brain that would impair his ability to function. He wants to opt out of responsibility for his behavior, be able to drop those dirty sock anywhere and have an excuse. If a diagnosis doesn't exist, damn it, he'll make one. Might I suggest that as long as I don't have to live with Roy, that it's fine if he's a Slob? A certain degree of neatness is expected in the little box, and if one chooses to be sloppy, perhaps that's fine. He's rationalized it all away (too busy to be bothered), so why does he need a now socially-sanctioned diagnosis to relieve him of responsibility for a behavior he admits he's chosen?

It is estimated that over 26% of people suffer from a psychiatric disorder in any given year, the
lifetime prevalence is much higher. If TheTundraPa is able to avoid friendships with people with depression, or any other mental illness, my best guess is that this may be a function of under-diagnosis and treatment out there on the Alaskan tundra, it seems to me that all one has to do to find people with mental illnesses is to look-- or to mention at a party that you're a psychiatrist. While people with Axis I diagnoses may have periods where they are less interested in friendships or less available to participate in friendships, the mere existence of a psychiatric diagnosis doesn't chase people away-- in fact, when people advertise their diagnosis they often serve as magnets for others who are suffering from the same problems and are thrilled to find someone who understands. I'll requote Shiny Happy Person (see the whining post for her link): "Having a mental illness deprives you of the right to be a weirdo." I'll add to that magnificent thought: Perhaps having a mental illness deprives you of the right to be a slob, or to be an unlikeable person, but I don't think so.