Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Power of a Label

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Okay, so it’s been a while, I know. I’ve been busy with school work and trying to figure out a different way of hosting my blog so that I can open it up to other contributors.  (I’m still working on that, more details to come).
Last week I started two new classes; Abnormal Psychology and Learning and Cognition. Both of these classes are proving to be quite thought provoking and fun despite the heavy homework load.  The abnormal psych class is interesting because it relates to the behavioral health field where I currently work.  The Learning and Cognition class is fun because it relates directly to what I want to study in graduate school and has given me some more time to reflect on my dissertation topic.
One of my discussion questions this week really got me thinking. It was one of the “light bulb” moments where you have a profound epiphany that completely changes the way that you look at a situation.

The question was “If you found out that a member of your family was diagnosed with a dissociative disorder, what would be your reaction?”
After a few minutes of reflection I had that light bulb moment and I came to realization that in reality this is a trick question. I mean, let’s think about this realistically for a moment; this situation should come as no surprise to anyone.  William Shakespeare said it best when he said “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet”. Along those same lines, a person with a mental disorder would still have a mental disorder even if they weren’t officially diagnosed as such.
How can I say that you might ask? Well, pragmatically a person with a mental disorder typically displays signs and symptoms that they have a condition in the first place. When they do go to the psychiatrist it is through the analysis of these symptoms that the doctor will make the diagnosis anyway. So, understanding that you will never have a situation where a perfectly normal person goes to see a shrink and walks out with a diagnosis. Mental disorders do not formulate overnight and are long, drawn out processes that are typically quite noticeable before they are diagnosed.
So what makes this question a trick question? Well, if it a family member of yours who has a disorder you will have been around them long before they got diagnosed. And, that being the case, you would either have developed coping skills to help you maintain a relationship with them or you would have severed your connection with them. The fact that they have a label for the way they behave does not change the fact that they behave that way. They are still the same person that they were before receiving the diagnosis.
But, will the application of a label, especially one like a mental illness, carries a powerful stigma. Labels can serve to alter your feelings about a person immediately and viscerally. Think about some common labels that we hear today; mentally ill, criminal, gangbanger, democrat, republican, etc. To certain groups these labels will invoke feelings of hatred and animosity although in many cases these labels tell you nothing about the person to whom they are applied any more than you can tell about me by knowing that my name is Johnathan.
All in all it was interesting lesson on perspective for me.

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These blogs represent my thoughts, ideas and opinions. They may be different from yours. You may not agree with them. While I do enjoy a good, polite debate on a topic (where points are countered with other points based on logic, reason and fact), I do not enjoy an argument (where you tell me that I am wrong simply because you disagree and cannot offer any reasons to support your position). I am very respectful of others, and I expect everyone on here to be respectful in return, not only to me, but to each other as well. Disrespectful posts will be deleted automatically. Feel free to share your ideas, but keep it civil, please.