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The dangers of MISLABELLING mental health disorders


“I think I have depression.”

“I think he has ADHD.”

“Her father is a psycho.”

As humans, labelling things comes natural to us. It is our attempt to understand something, categorise it, and it simplifies communication with others. However, labelling people with mental disorders already has a negative connotation to it, thanks to stigma. Mislabelling is certainly worse than that! Mislabelling is dangerous not only when it applies to others, but to ourselves as well. Here’s why:

  1. Labelling something makes us believe in it, regardless whether it is true or false. It alters our perceptions, daily life habits, and becomes a self-reinforcing belief in those who label and those who are labelled. 
  2. Stigma. Even if the labelling was a passing remark from someone, like it or not, the issue of stigma will arise. This includes the concern of being stigmatised, and imposing the stigma upon others.
  3. Seeking treatment or validation. Even in this digital age of free and accessible knowledge, there is still a rampant lack of awareness in psychological assessments and disorders. Mislabelling could lead to self-misdiagnosis, leading to people seeking the wrong kind of intervention, and worse, leading to further deterioration of symptoms.

Here’s what we can do if we want to make a positive difference and counteract against the labelling culture:

  1. Don’t talk about it if we’re not sure what it is. It’s as simple as that. If there is the need to say it, be sure that what we are saying is factual. State what we have observed, or state that it was only hearsay. In that way, the truth is not distorted.
  2. Seek an assessment. Make sure we know what is the truth. Assessments for mental health disorders should only be done by licensed psychiatrists or clinical psychologists. They have spent years training to assess mental health disorders in a clinical environment, which is more reliable than any internet article or anyone else by a long shot.
  3. Advocate for change. “Labelling” is still a necessity if it is genuine. It allows people to give a name to their condition, and to seek appropriate intervention and treatment. However, the stigma and judgement does not need to come with it. Refer to this article to know more of how to advocate against stigma.

The risks and implications of mislabelling others and ourselves with mental health disorders is not something to be trifled at. The stigma and damage may take a lifetime to overcome. Let us do our part, and not participate in arbitrary labelling of mental health disorders in others or ourselves.

I’m Steven, MY Psychology KK’s intern,

With you, MY Psychology KK. 

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