Receiving a mental health diagnosis can be a daunting and emotional experience. Questions, doubts, and fears often flood our minds, leaving us uncertain about what the diagnosis will mean for our lives. In this article, we aim to address some of those common worries and give some tips for moving forward in life post-diagnosis.
Understanding a Mental Health Diagnosis
A mental health diagnosis is not a life sentence. Rather, it’s a tool used by healthcare professionals to better understand your unique situation and struggles. Far from being a label that defines who you are, a diagnosis is a starting point for informed medical and personal practices, as well as the key to personalized treatment.
Indeed, having a diagnosis can help you access appropriate treatment, therapy, and other supports. Many people find that diagnoses validate their experiences, confirm their suspicions, or generally help them make sense of their emotions and behaviours.
Will I Be on Medication for the Rest of My Life?
One common concern with mental health diagnoses revolves around medication. Mental health medication is often prescribed shortly after diagnosis to help alleviate symptoms, stabilize conditions, or facilitate therapy. However, medication is not always a lifelong commitment; many people eventually reduce or discontinue medication altogether when symptoms improve.
It’s also worth noting that medication is just one tool in the mental health toolkit, not the sole solution. In fact, medication is most often recommended in combination with other treatments and therapies. Depending on the diagnosis, other such interventions include Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS), hypnotherapy, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), and many other therapies that we offer at our centres.
Accepting and Handling Your Diagnosis
Much of the shame or fear that we feel around mental health diagnosis is not based on facts, but rather the stigma that surrounds a given mental health condition. Thus, being aware that stigma exists and impacts our own perception of our diagnosis is key.
It’s also essential to remember that a diagnosis doesn’t define you and that diagnoses are dynamic, in the sense that they can—and should be—revisited. Conditions may change and evolve in response to treatment or a change in routine or environment. When we couple people’s uniqueness with the rapid evolution of knowledge in the field of mental health, it’s clear that a diagnosis is really just the best label at a moment in time for a set of symptoms.
Take, for example, the fact that the context in which a diagnosis is made can influence how accurate or stable it is. Different healthcare providers or specialists may have different perspectives or interpretations of symptoms. What’s more, diagnostic criteria (e.g. DSM) can change over time as experts refine their understanding of what a given disorder involves. Diagnoses are not set in stone.
All of that being said, a mental health diagnosis is not a DIY project. Healthcare professionals have the experience, tools, knowledge and professional networks to navigate the complex world of mental health. Your role (i.e. your right and responsibility) is to educate yourself about your diagnosis, treatment options, and available resources. Having an adequate understanding is what will empower you to make informed decisions about your mental health.
Finding Support Post-Diagnosis
One of the most impactful choices you can make in life is who you surround yourself with. We’ve seen it time and time again, that having a support network that understands and accepts you for who you are, beyond your diagnosis, makes a huge difference.
In some cases, your diagnosis may warrant seeking professional support in the form of medication, therapy, or residential treatment. Whatever the case, it’s important to be an active participant in your wellness journey. Communicating openly with your healthcare team, asking questions, and expressing your needs and preferences will always lead to better results.
Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that recovery from mental health challenges is not linear. Small victories are worth celebrating, and setbacks can be reframed as opportunities for growth. Recovery is a journey, and progress comes in many forms.
Receiving a mental health diagnosis can be unsettling, but it doesn’t have to define your worth or your future. And remember, you are not alone on this journey; supportive friends, family, and professionals can guide you along the way. With the right support and a proactive approach to your mental health, you can embrace your diagnosis as a new beginning of your journey toward health and wellness.
If you’re looking for expert, compassionate, and holistic support with this journey, we’re here for you.
At Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic and Sunshine Coast Health Centre, we pride ourselves in delivering the best service possible through an approach that recognizes the importance of the physical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of individuals in treatment and recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use or mental health, give us a call today.