Article was presented at the PMTH listserve.
Author: Marc Werner-Gavrin

If you have been given a diagnosis by a mental health provider like PTSD, ADHD, Major Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, etc, etc, etc... Please read this disclaimer since it might be of use to you:

DSM IV Disclaimer

The DSM groups problematic human behaviors into clusters and tries to make sense of them. If you feel some of your behaviors fit the criteria for one of the DSM categories you may find it useful to learn what has been helpful to other people who have struggled with these kinds of behaviors. Or you may not.

The DSM is not without major flaws and the slotting of yourself (or allowing yourself to be slotted) in a DSM category can be harmful, effecting how you think of yourself, how active or passive you are in your life, and what kind of possibilities open up for you to move your life in the direction you want. As you look at the DSM IV please be aware that:

1. The DSM categories are neither scientifically based nor value free. They were created by the consensus of a small group of people – mostly white, upper middle class, American men – and can not help but reflect their values. These may or may not be your values.

2. Diagnosis suppresses the uniqueness of the individual. To fit yourself into a DSM category it is necessary to take a very simplified look at a complex life, highlighting some events and ignoring others. The parts of you that are excluded from the picture are probably at least as important as the parts that are included.

3. The DSM is deficit focused. It focuses on what you’re not doing well rather then what you are doing well. Putting too much focus on what you’re not doing well runs the very real risk of the problem becoming an even bigger part of your life, increasing its influence over the way you understand your self and further reducing the possible pathways to change.

4. The DSM supports a medical model of psychology in which the psychologist or psychiatrist is an expert on you. He/she tells you what is wrong with you and then tells you what to do to set it right. In fact no one, outside yourself, can fully understand you or your problems. There is no expert who can tell, with any validity, what caused your current behaviors or problems, what they mean, what needs to be done or how it will unfold or turnout. Clinicians can help you clarify your own knowledge and they can offer you their expertise, i.e. thoughts from their own lives, from working with others with similar struggles and from reading they have done. It is up to you to decide what is helpful and what isn’t.

5. The DSM focuses on the individual not the environment. The DSM views problems as residing within the individual. Thinking of problems this way leads to certain pathways forward and away from others. It’s also possible to see problems as residing within the family, within a system (school, government, etc) and/or within culture.

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