On Diagnoses and Labels: If you define yourself, you condemn yourself

Sometimes clients come in and tell me how they’ve diagnosed themselves. At times this can be helpful. It can be comforting to have an explanation for their struggles and to know that others have had similar troubles. However, diagnoses and labels can be dangerous. Once you define yourself, you condemn yourself. People’s personalities are fluid, constantly changing, developing, multi-layered, and should never be limited to a diagnosis or single definition. While you may identify with a particular diagnosis, addressing your symptoms is what is important rather than fighting against some label, or accepting it and learning to live with it. For example, the person who says “I’m borderline” has identified with the diagnosis, and has decided who they are while not recognizing that they are also much more.

As a therapist, I’m forced to diagnose people (on paper). However I never conclude that a person is one “thing,” or permanently defined. That implies they can be damaged, which goes against my beliefs. This is an insult to humanity and an inaccurate conclusion; it limits people’s capabilities. I think part of our journey as humans is to move forward from where we began. We are always evolving, developing, and healing; when people view themselves as stuck in a diagnosis, they limit their potentials.

When you define yourself, you conclude who and what you are. I recommend recognizing how you are, how you feel, how you struggle, how you relate, how you cope, what your patterns are, what you like about yourself, and what you want to change. This way you allow yourself to build an identity based on awareness, not based on the definition from a label. Rather than trying to figure out WHAT you are, get to know WHO you are and expand from your realizations.


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