With 1 in 5 Americans experiencing some sort of mental illness, it’s clear that mental illnesses are prevalent in society. However, many people who experience mental illness go without an official diagnosis. This can happen for plenty of reasons, including the stigma associated with mental illness, expenses associated seeing a doctor and taking time off work, or lacking a proper support system. This is especially true for minorities, who often experience additional discrimination both in and out of the doctors office.
Many people with an undiagnosed mental health problem are aware they have a problem.
Without access to a doctor however, they can’t have it officially diagnosed. Yes, there are people who say things like “I’m so OCD!!” or “the post concert depression is so real” without really knowing the weight of it, but those who really have a problem take it much more seriously, and you should take them seriously too.
For example, I’ve suspected I had generalized anxiety disorder for about three years now, and major depression for about two. I’ve spent countless days and hours researching both mental illnesses, along with many others trying to understand the things I experienced and figure out ways to deal with it as much as I can. For personal reasons, I’ve been unable to see anyone about getting an official diagnosis. However, I can say with some certainty that I have them. I get very nervous saying I do though. After all, many people don’t take mental illnesses seriously anyways. With an undiagnosed disorder, it’s even more likely I won’t be taken seriously, and the same goes for others in similar positions as I am. Denying we have problems because a doctor didn’t say we do doesn’t help any of us, it just makes us feel illegitimate.
Self-diagnosis is important for people who can’t see a professional about their illness.
Though it limits treatment options (as you should obviously never take any medications you aren’t prescribed) and a professional will know more effective ways to handle the illness than you will, being more aware of the problem can bring a sense of control to it, especially when seeing a doctor is not an option. Self-diagnosis shouldn’t be taken lightly, however. It should only come after lots of research, on both the illnesses you suspect and others you don’t (you might find a more accurate result that way). Additionally, if it is or becomes a possibility, seek a professional diagnosis. You know yourself better than anyone else, but a professional will have much more experience than you in treating and diagnosing and can be of more help. And, while self-diagnosis can and should be respected, unless you’re a professional, you should never diagnose anyone else.
To many, self-diagnosis is the best way to understand or describe the feelings and experiences they have. However, many people assume that someone without a clinical diagnosis just thinks they have a problem because they “had a bad day” or “want to be special”. This is not the case for so many, and delegitimizing our experiences with mental illness makes it no easier. Understand we don’t want to make the experiences of those with a diagnosed illness seem any less legitimate either. When so many already think that mental health isn’t an issue anyways, we just want our own experiences to be seen with more respect and less skepticism.