Tuesday, May 15, 2012

You can be correctly diagnosed while being mis-diagnosed

Here are some random thoughts of mine on mis-diagnosis.  I haven't got the time to refine my thinking and tweak this post in time for my self-imposed deadline. I'll look at this tomorrow in the sober light of day and make any needed adjustments.

The APA convention and the Occupy the APA demonstration against the DSM-5 have set many groups like the ISEPP (International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry) to try to come to grips with what is meant by being diagnosed and by being mis-diagnosed. Most of us are struggling to put into words why we think the initial diagnosis is a sham, and what exactly mis-diagnosis implies.

Here's my take on this. Bear with me. First, let's consult our common understanding on words and their opposites.

management         mismanagement
treat                      mistreat
handle                   mishandle
place                     misplace

We know that the second word in each column is the botching of the first. If you are mistreated, this means you are not well treated, and if something is mismanaged, it is not well managed.

Many English words beginning with "mis" mean that the original root word has been negated, or mishandled, mistaken, misled, etc.

So, what does this mean for diagnosis and mis-diagnosis?

I believe that my son was correctly diagnosed by the DSM as "schizophrenic." I also believe that he was mis-diagnosed. When I say mis-diagnosed, I don't mean that the diagnosis was wrong (he ticked most of the boxes for whatever it is that schizophrenia is supposed to be) - but I believe that the diagnosis was mismanaged, mistreated and mishandled, and I certainly was "misled."

Once you are diagnosed by psychiatry, then this diagnosis should properly managed, treated, and handled if it is a valid diagnosis to begin with. If you are diagnosed with herpes, for example, the patient should expect proper follow-through, meaning proper care, treatment and cure. If you truly had herpes and you were well treated, your symptoms should clear up.

What does my interpretation say about psychiatric diagnosis? If you are correctly diagnosed, and correctly treated by psychiatry, then your symptoms should disappear. But they generally don't, do they, under the care of maintream psychiatry?

Mainstream psychiatry will rarely if not ever, admit to a misdiagnosis, because that would imply that they couldn't manage, treat, or handle, the diagnosis.

Therefore, most of the psychiatrically diagnosed who are still struggling with the label, have been mis-diagnosed,  in the spirit of being mistreated, mishandled, mismanaged, etc.


  1. I really, really like the line of thought you're following here. Looking forward to seeing it develop more.

    Also thanks for the thoughts you've shared on the 5/5 protest in Philly in previous posts! Fascinating stuff.

  2. The diagnosis is made in order to administer drugs. Without the diagnosis the person is "healthy" instead of sick and would have their freedom.

  3. Mark,
    I agree that "a" diagnosis is necessary to bill the insurance companies for the drugs; however, schizophrenia/dementia praecox was still a condition, or a label,if not a diagnosis before the advent of biopsychiatry. Your comment reminds me that I also wanted to say in this post or a future one that a way to avoid the diagnosis is to avoid an initial encounter with psychiatry. Easier said than done in many cases!

    1. Age 19 is when young men have maximum testosterone, your son and myself . I'm now 44 but was diagnosed schizophrenic at age 19. Not getting any sex , what any other animal in the wild would get, makes madness in the human male in-my-opinion.

    2. I think you're right, lack of sex is part of the problem - it creates a hormonal imbalance, in women as well as men. Freud was certainly on to something... But I think there is more to the picture - I watched a YouTube film of Christine Beechey yesterday (you can find a link to it on my blog) - she speaks of the human need for respect and acceptance (not sure what terms she used) - it was very insightful.

  4. schizophrenia is not a proper diagnosis: it is a list of symptoms caused by different underlying causes so, yes it can easily be a misdiagnosis. My son's delirium due to infection was misdiagnosed as schizophrenia because his paranoid symptoms were pretty similar to the ones on the schizophrenia list. Psychiatrists jump to conclusions and medicate without waiting to see what will happen. Also for some reason, once diagnosed, you can't get rid of the diagnosis anymore even if it was obviously wrong.

  5. Hi

    I am still waiting to hear whether my diagnosis is to be officially retracted! It seems like quite a while since the psychiatrist suggested it was the wrong diagnosis, so I should have some news soon.

    The thing is, I am so sure that if I had continued to take the medication as advised my life would basically have been ruined and I would still fit the schizophrenia model - it is all so wrong.

    Somebody wrote a new review of my book on Amazon.com today and said whether they doubted I had classic schizophrenia. This is frustrating too - I certainly don't want to cling on to the label, but I was about as mentally ill as it was possible to be; it seems to somehow make less of my recovery to say I was not that ill in the first place.

    I suppose I did not detail all the symptoms I suffered exhaustively in the book, because I did not want to dwell too much on the illness to the exclusion of the rest of my life. This was a point made in another recent USA review - the reader wanted to know more about hallucinations, paranoia and so on. Maybe I will elaborate on all that in my recovery book - I am not sure yet. I was certainly bonkers - but the cause of my distress is more important than the symptoms of it in my opinion, in coming to an understanding of the problem.

    Anyway, my point is that recovery is certainly possible - the label is meaningless and best ignored as it hinders recovery, so whether it stays or goes is kind of irrelevant.

    I like your post, Rossa - excellent reasoning. Psychiatry, sadly, does not cure mental health problems - the answer lies elsewhere, and I think you are well on the track to uncovering it.

    All the best


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