Are psychiatrists too quick to label their patients?

If you have ever sought psychiatric care, your diagnosis would have been based on conditions described and detailed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

These psychiatric labels are used to classify patients and enable psychiatrists to prescribe a course of treatment for them. However, these same labels can follow a person for a lifetime and cause them sometimes irreparable harm if they have been irresponsibly assigned by the provider. Some of the medications used to treat mental disorders can have permanently disabling physical side effects, and simply being “diagnosed” with any type of psychiatric condition can bar the door permanently to certain types of employment.

There are also outside factors that can influence who gets diagnosed and treated for which problem: ageism, classism, racism and homophobia on the part of the psychiatrist can all affect the diagnostic process.

Depression is one example of a condition that can be mislabeled. There are certain life situations where depression is a normal reaction to stressful negative outcomes. Divorce, deaths of family and close friends, lay-offs and terminations can all be triggers for a depressive incident that is well within the parameters of a normal life experience. Being too quick to label a patient with a psychiatric diagnosis can impede them in incalculable ways.

Some mental health professionals use the DSM as a sort of prism for viewing their patients inside of a very narrow diagnosis rather than treating the whole patient as an individual with often perfectly normal responses to external stressors.

Patients who believe that they were improperly diagnosed are not without options. They may file complaints with the Florida licensing body, as well as filing a claim for damages with the civil court system.

Source:, “Psychiatry’s bible, the DSM, is doing more harm than good,” Paula Caplan, accessed July 15, 2015