In recent decades we have made significant progress in our understanding of mental health and the impact it has on our well-being. One question that arises is whether labeling ourselves with a mental health condition can hinder our recovery. While it is important to acknowledge and address mental health concerns, labeling ourselves can sometimes create a self-fulfilling prophecy that limits our growth and progress.
When its right to be labeled (Clinical Conditions)
Labeling our health conditions can have both positive and negative effects. On the one hand, for clinical conditions such as psychosis, severe disorders, and the like, an assessment (and diagnosis) is essential in helping individuals understand their symptoms and to get the right referral pathway for their condition(s). There are no negatives in obtaining the appropriate explanation of a person’s clinical condition, prognosis outcome, and treatment plan.
Information can provide validation of a lived experience, help people feel less alone, and connect them with support systems. It can also help providers tailor their treatment plans to address specific forecasted symptoms and conditions.
When labeling your Mental Health could be holding you back
On the other hand, labeling can have negative consequences for subclinical conditions, especially where change is possible with the right support, guidance, and even therapy. We say this because a label may create a sense of permanence and limit our vision to believe change is possible. Labeling can also be stigmatising, leading to feelings of shame, isolation, and self-doubt. Additionally, labels can become an excuse to succeed, leading individuals to rely solely on their assessed predicament, as an explanation for their behavior.
Labeling can contribute also to a culture of over-diagnosis or to a reliance that certain behavior is not part of the natural human experience, but the domain of ‘my’ condition.
It is helpful to approach mental health concerns with a growth mindset, viewing them as challenges to overcome rather than limitations that define us. Never underestimate the human spirit to do the unexpected. When I set out to write this short blog post, I had a vision in mind for how to write it, but in the end, I found the question is a lot more complex and nuanced than I expected because we are all complex beings. Knowledge brings hope but also knowledge can bind us into viewing ourselves not as individuals but as the group our labels may tag us too.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments below, I do run a Therapy practice, and treat all clients as individuals with a unique and interesting stories. If you are seeking therapy do reach out via the contacts.
Mental Health Labels, University of Bath