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Mental Health Labels

Why worry?

Think about this statement: “There is no condition of the human mind or body that worrying makes better.” But then, surely it is natural, especially when we feel unwell, to worry?

What does a diagnosis really mean?

And consider this: How can you tell the difference between “feeling a bit low” and “being depressed” or “having depression”? How can you tell the difference between “feeling anxious” and “having Generalised Anxiety Disorder”? And how does your doctor reliably make the same judgements?

The simple fact is that there are no clinical tests for any of these conditions. In other words there isn’t anything you can do which involves taking a sample, or a measurement, which will indicate whether you do or do not have any of these “illnesses” – or indeed any mental illness at all. I use quotation marks around the word “illness” carefully – because there is a rising tide of opinion that claims that we are far too ready to assign labels, medical diagnoses to things which are a natural feature of life.

The question really boils down the the issue of that fine line which divides the normal ups and downs of life, from something more serious for which professional help might be needed.

My depression is not the same as your depression!

The reality is that every single one of the billions of people on this planet is different. And since no two people are the same, no two “depressions” or “anxiety disorders” are the same either. As professionals who regularly help with depression and anxiety in Trowbridge, Wiltshire – we have plenty of experience in this area. Many people who might formally qualify as being “depressed” would describe themselves as being natural worriers. And many people who others might consider to be suffering from anxiety may believe themselves to be depressed. In fact there is such a crossover of these two conditions that it hardly makes any sense to label them in such a simplistic manner.

The great thing about a medical diagnosis is that it gives a feeling that at least you know what the problem is. It can be very reassuring to know that your condition is understood, that it is recognised and hopefully that it is treatable. The problem is that this tendency we have to label everything glosses over individual variations, makes it sound more serious, and tends to medicalise everyday life.

Looking at innate needs

We find that it is generally more useful to look at individual situations from the perspective on innate needs. We ask ourselves “which innate needs are the issue here?” Then we seek to address these needs directly. We are much less concerned about whatever arbitrary label might be assigned to the person we are helping. 

What follows is a description of a recent case. The names and some of the details have been changed in order to preserve confidentiality.

Arthur had been caring for his wife for a long time and when she had to go into hospital for a hip replacement Arthur (who hadn’t been eating too well for a while) immediately became ill with a chest infection. Before long he found himself being cared for in a community hospital, he was feeling quite panicky, and worrying about the smallest things, but most of all about how he and his wife would manage when they got home. His family were becoming concerned about his ‘catastrophising’ and the likelihood of Arthur and his wife not being able to manage. Alec (one of the practitioners here at in8) visited Arthur in hospital. Arthur was clearly missing the security of his own home and feeling that he currently had no control over what was happening in his life. Alec realised that this was causing Arthur to panic and to be very irritable with the people around him but more so with himself. Alec helped to reduce Arthur’s anxiety and gently challenge the flimsy evidence for the catstrophising. Recognising the great strengths and resources which had helped Arthur through many tough times in the past and how he had overcome anxiety in its many forms helped Arthur, a Second World War veteran to arm himself against the onslaught of anxiety. Through communication with other family members, Arthur’s family realised that quite often the most useful thing they could do for Arthur was to encourage him to exercise whatever control he did have, rather than themselves making decisions which they themselves felt were in Arthur’s best interest.

With a combination of some simple coping techniques and his family acquiring a basic understanding of the importance of the innate needs for security and control, Arthur was able to cope with the unsettling experience of being in hospital. 

Remember that it is not so much what happens to us that determines the quality of our lives, but the way we react to those things that happen to us.

Here at in8 we know we can help despite any medical labels (such as anxiety or depression) that you may have collected along your life’s journey.

Why not call us now to find out how we could help you?