Saturday, December 8, 2007

Why does a child get a “mental” diagnosis when it isn’t “mental”?

My child had no "psychological" problems nor any "behavioral" disorders, yet got diagnosed with a “mental” illness.

The first “mental” labels (more were added later) were Major Depressive Disorder (i.e. “Depression”) and Mood Disorder-nos. It wasn’t psychological. It wasn’t from some emotional cause. It wasn’t a flaw in her personality. The doctor said it was “intrinsic” or “biological”. Something about her own biology or some physical problem was CAUSING the depression since it was not a result of any circumstances in her life or even due to “warped” or negative thinking on her part.

In other words, it was not "Mental."   It was simply, "Illness." 

Yet, it was still classified as "mental" because it could not be explained as a symptom of a medical illness... Not that she was even tested for one at that time. It was also considered to be “mental” simply because the symptoms were in the all-powerful DSM-IV (the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

Since the name of the manual states it has diagnoses of “mental disorders”, people erroneously assume that if the label is in there, then it is “mental”.

Unfortunately, the mere fact that the symptoms and labels for those symptoms exists in the DSM-IV, implies to both the medical community as well as to the general public that the symptoms are “mental” even though there is a disclaimer that just because it is listed there does not mean it is “mental”.

She was quite mentally healthy. She was growing up in a mentally healthy and supportive environment. She was smart, creative, kind, and very, very loved.

Never-the-less, this mentally healthy child got diagnosed with a “mental” illness.

It usually gets called a "mental" illness when doctors don't know what the medical cause is. That doesn’t mean it is NOT medical, it just means they don’t know what the medical cause is.

A long list of known medical illnesses can cause depression, mood instability, or even psychosis. Yet when the medical causes are known, medical conditions are not called “mental illness”. However, the symptoms from the affected brain function, if persistent, can be listed in, and diagnosed from the DSM-IV for the purpose of communicating among professionals.

Even having psychosis is not always called a “psychotic disorder”. It depends.

See here for some known genetic causes of psychosis that are never called a “mental illness” or a “psychotic disorder”.

Hence, people with psychosis from Wilson's disease can have a "psychotic disorder" such as "schizophrenia" for years UNTIL they are found to have Wilson's -- then suddenly they no longer have a "mental" illness –- they no longer have “schizophrenia” -- they now have Wilson's - a medical illness. Just because they don't know what the medical cause is, and the person has psychosis, does not make it "mental".

However, by definition, if it meets the criteria for “schizophrenia” it can be labeled that, regardless of what it really is (because by definition, it is not from a medical cause they know about).

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Last Updated: 23 April 2011

1 comment:

Preeti said...

Thanks for creating this Web site and bringing to people's attention that medical problems can be accompanied by "psychiatric" symptoms.