The recent words of the new RCP president telling us that psychiatric diagnoses are scientific and necessary reminds me of the old childhood saying ‘Pull the other leg, it’s got bells on’. If he was only saying that some people believe it is helpful to understand their problems in terms of a diagnosis, I wouldn’t refute that. We each have to decide what’s right for ourselves.
But scientific? Necessary? People who challenge such views often get accused of presenting unbalanced arguments, which seems ironic to me given the often ‘unbalanced’ views of the professionals supporting the validity of psychiatric diagnosis.
Many years ago, in my other life, I was given a mental illness diagnosis. I thought my diagnosis was depression, and it wasn’t until many years later I read my case notes and found I’d been written off with a diagnosis of Chronic Schizophrenia. Perhaps I was fortunate in that I didn’t know my diagnosis until long after I’d left the mental health system to lead a full, productive life.
I didn’t know during years of feeling awake and alive again on no medication that I needed to remain on medication for life to prevent ‘relapses’.
I didn’t know during years of happy marriage, and while sharing many precious times with close friends, that I had an incurable illness which brings about social isolation.
I didn’t know when I returned to study and got a first-class degree that I’d got an irreversible brain disease leading to severe cognitive deterioration.
I didn’t know, until I looked it up in psychiatric textbooks, that people with the form of schizophrenia I’d been diagnosed with (simplex) are likely to end up as vagrants. (Well, I suppose there’s still time for that. I’d better not push my luck too much).