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Mental Health Labels - helpful or harmful?


When you are over thinking, or having emotional issues, it is easy to get hooked up in the media articles and latest boom of mental health. Every individual could fit into at least one of the ‘labelled’ groups yet most do not actually fit the criteria. So why is this?
As human beings, we have a deep seated need to belong, but to also be different. Bring on the arguments of modern day labelling and modern day freedoms. Not only that, but when we feel different or have a low mood, we seek to find answers, and that can lead us to believing we fit into these categories because we recognise some of the traits. And, what do I mean by this?

Our brains look for things that are familiar to us – patterns for example. This is why we see faces in the clouds or Jesus in bread. But we also need to be different, to stand out and be recognised for being individual.  Take anxiety for example. A certain amount of anxiety in any human being is completely normal and natural. It doesn’t take over life, or thoughts but it is there. In others it is crippling and makes every day living extremely difficult. Being slotted in a label of anxiety can help some – as it makes sense of those awful thoughts and feelings, but for others, now they have a label, they begin to behave like those who really do suffer. It isn’t always for sympathy, or other gains, sometimes it is just the desperate need to belong somewhere.
ADHD and autism is another area where the label can help those who are really suffering, but for those who have a milder version, being put in a labelled box gives some of them the excuse to misbehave or do as they please and blame it on their condition. They begin to behave as if the condition is them instead of just a small part of the whole being. For those seeking help in managing their condition, these labels can be helpful. However, the moment you have a label you are now in the box of having a condition - something that is not right, a problem.  Not all those with ADHD or autism suffer with disruptive behaviour, and equally a lot of those with disruptive and high energy behaviours are truly not on the spectrum. It has become too easy to label our children and more recently adults who feel they don’t fit in. But, a lot of adults (and children) don’t fit in with or without a diagnosis. Nearly every adult I know could be put into the spectrum check list and come out with autistic or ADHD traits – and often both!  The same could be said for anxiety, and again, in more recent years, more and more people are self-diagnosing themselves with PTSD  when their trauma is not PTSD. Of course trauma can affect you – but PTSD is debilitating and a more serious condition. Unlike autism these temporary conditions can be treated. Autism and ADHD can only be managed.

Those who want a diagnosis are quick to defend their right to a diagnosis leaving the health profession over diagnosing for fear of being seen as not sympathetic. But sometimes life deals us hard facts. Creating and playing up seems to be the new normal in getting yourself heard and taken seriously. If you dare to question someone – you are likely to be interrogated by the thought police and trolled all over social media.
Take trans for example, some are happy to just do their transitioning or fit in as they go through their changes. Others have to shout from the rooftops and tell the whole world and if you disagree you are a transphobe or worse. And the demands here are no different to those in mental health in that, some want to push an agenda. There is a lot of contention in the newspapers about transwomen competing in women’s sport for example, yet it is unfair to the women. In fighting to belong, this group segregate themselves and will no doubt push further using anxiety and mental health as a leverage point.
But there does need to be some kind of balance. It isn't all either or.

The reasons these issues are so contentious for someone like me, are simply that when someone genuine does have an issue, reaching for help is more difficult because they do not want to be lumped in with the typical ‘look at me I have anxiety’ types. Mental health is being ridiculed. People are afraid to tell someone to get a grip, or face facts or to overly sympathise enabling a self pity attitude. That does not mean to say that you cannot fully support them of course! But we cannot change history whether we like it or not, and we cannot change the way our brains work. Facts are facts. But we do have a lot of control over our minds and what we task them to do for ourselves. Do we put the thoughts of our mind in a box and label it- or do we accept that we are individual, we all have thoughts, anxiety and similar other issues, or different feelings – but learn to live with them anyway?  Most anxiety, depression PTSD, trauma and difficulties that arise through life’s crisis, can be healed without issue with the right support. Whether you want to be defined by your crisis, transition or slightly odd behaviours is down to you. Which ever box you choose – the one with the label or the one without – one thing is sure, uncomfortable thoughts and feelings are normal. When they start to pose a problem, seek help!   Always ensure the person you choose to help you, is fully qualified, regulated and insured.
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