Quick note on mental health diagnoses

I thought of this when I read this blog’s entry on bipolar diagnosis..


I think he makes some very interesting points, and this guy knows his stuff from the counselor/psychologist point of view, so definitely if you’re interested in that he seems like a good guy to follow.

What I personally want to talk about is behavioral diagnosis.

Let us, for lack of better terms, draw a line between “physical” illnesses and “mental” illness. Physical illness usually invites us to consider a cause. A broken leg, for example. The cause of the pain is the broken state of the leg.

With mental illness however we don’t diagnose this way. We look at a patient and classify his behavior. Why? Because the brain is notoriously complex and we don’t always have the luxury of time.

Does this make the diagnosis any less real? Any less relevant? No, of course not. Just because we don’t know the combination of things causing these high level behavioral problems doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

And even if we could diagnose directly, how do we use that information? In the end, we have medications that help with certain conditions. These conditions are defined behaviorally. We won’t have medicine where “if neuron 17 is firing too fast we administer N17-Fire-Slower-XY” (all medications need excessive letters).

If someone is depressed, an antidepressant may help. One of many antidepressants may help.

And unfortunately at times none of them help.

I just think the behavioral vs physiological diagnosis leads people to come to the conclusion that mental illness isn’t really there. And that should be corrected. Hopefully someone will benefit from this.

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