Is it important or even necessary to have a diagnosis from a physician or psychiatrist? Some people say it’s essential to know their diagnosis, physical or mental. Others don’t find it necessary to know, just as long as they receive care. Do you care about knowing your diagnosis versus not knowing?
New psychiatric and medical diagnoses are decided by a collective of professionals in the field. Why do new conditions arise? One reason is that ideas about how the mind and body operate are always shifting as we acquire new information. Opinions change, fresh ideas flourish, and new categorizations are created, so change happens in medicine all the time.
Classification of diseases or conditions includes autoimmune disorders, learning disabilities, cancers, sexually infectious diseases (yes, they are no longer classified as STD’s, sexually transmitted diseases), and so on. Categorizations help identify characteristics within a group, therefore, offering basic assumptions about the condition. Some conditions are named after characteristics or symptoms, such as Tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (for obvious reasons); whereas, others are named after an individual who discovered the condition, such as with Asperger’s syndrome (after Hans Asperger) or Alzheimer disease (after Alois Alzheimer). With the proper patient history, a diagnosis is made, and care can begin. The physician, using his or her education and life experience, decides proper treatment. Therefore, it is imperative that categorizations are agreed upon within the medical community, so that care providers aren’t reinventing the wheel every time a patient walks in.
Grouping has downsides, too. By lumping people, diseases, or conditions into groups, it takes the individuality out of the equation. Assumptions and generalizations may not always be accurate. What happens when a patient has been prescribed antidepressants for depression, when, later, they are diagnosed with Bipolar disorder? The misdiagnosis could potentially be deadly, since the treatment options between depression and Bipolar disorder are completely different. What about young people who have had a stroke, but are pigeonholed as unlikely stroke sufferers because of age and, therefore, deprived of life-saving treatments (I am speaking from personal experience, here)? Sometimes classifying people, based on general assumptions, can be injurious to their care.
Of course, medicine is not a black and white science. Second opinions are just that—opinions! The notion that you need a second opinion should say something about the scientific field; there is no truly right or wrong diagnosis. Reasons for getting other opinions vary: to get a consensus on a treatment, to disprove another physician’s diagnosis, or to see a specialized doctor more familiar with the condition. Getting another opinion is a great way to ease troubled minds.
Too much decision making is placed into physicians’ hands, and we forget that we are ultimately, the ones in charge of our own health care. We have to decide how we want our health monitored, and if we need a diagnosis in order to better care for ourselves. So, is it important for you to have a diagnosis when it comes to your physical or mental health?