Doctors do not know everything. One of the first things individuals learn when receiving help for mental illness is that each symptom must be carefully documented and tracked. The first diagnosis or even the subsequent ones are not always correct. Misdiagnosis and missed diagnoses can making living with mental illness more difficult than necessary. This is the true danger of a mental health diagnosis.
When individuals receive an incorrect diagnosis, the people tend to receive the wrong medication as well. A person with ADHD may receive medication designed for an individual with bipolar disorder or that person may get medication for an individual with depression. Sometimes, receiving the incorrect medication may only postpone an individual’s recovery by failing to treat the symptoms. Some have severe side effects which may trigger other things to occur.
Some therapeutic support may make the illness worse. Misdiagnosed individuals may not only worry about incorrect medication but also about incorrect therapies which may not work for all illnesses. Cognitive behavioral therapy may support anxiety and depression but may be less effective for other forms of mental health diagnoses. Talk therapy is commonly helpful for individuals with anxiety but may harm individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as individuals struggle with overall health. Talking too much may exacerbate symptoms.
Individuals with mental illness take a while prior to finding courage to seek treatment. When treatment comes, an incorrect diagnosis and treatment may make efforts feel wasted. Individuals who are misdiagnosed might give up on professional treatment and live instead with severe, untreated symptoms.
Putting Life on Hold
Untreated mental illness can take away an individual’s productivity which makes it more difficult to succeed in work, school or life at home. Individuals with untreated mental health issues may have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships. Thoughts of suicide are not uncommon. The longer a person waits to receive appropriate treatment, the longer it will take for the individual to recover and get back to a ‘normal’ life.
Supporting a Proper Diagnosis
Misdiagnoses are common but there are many reasons that exist for this along with some solutions.
- Individuals with mental illness tend to seek help for destructive symptoms but not productive ones (hypomania, staying up all night) and therapists cannot get a complete view of the disorder
- Individuals with mental illness have several that co-occur making it easy to miss an illness or misattribute symptoms
- No tests conclusively identify mental illness. Therapists must interview people and use judgment
- Individuals with mental illness have personal needs to meet. Schizophrenia for one is not the same for another. If clinicians don’t look at each person’s symptoms and history it is easy to miss what is truly going on and prolong suffering in the process.
Sustain Recovery provides an approach to adolescent care that is unique and individual. Our residential treatment program supports individuals who need short or long term options. Call us to find out how to get started.