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Removing the Stigma of Diagnosis

At one point in my work as a counselor I was working for an organization that provided counseling for a variety of women, for a variety of reasons. I was given names and contact info and often needed to get in touch to set up our first counseling session. I usually did this by email, with my signature indicating that I was a mental health counselor. The sessions were required, but there was no pressure on what the women could talk to me about, and no assumptions made on their emotional or mental health.

One woman I had emailed wrote back to emphatically say that she didn’t need to meet with me or need help. She then typed, in all caps, “I DON’T HAVE MENTAL HEALTH!”

I remember reading her email and feeling puzzled at her reply. Especially the all caps! It felt like she had shouted at me! It took me a few moments but I realized that she was reacting to my email signature, and that she didn’t want to be labeled as having a mental health problem. Eventually she did agree to meet with me and I was able to reassure her that I didn’t think she had any problems, but wanted to help her in any way I could.

It's entertaining to read this and to chuckle at the absolute statement of having no mental health. Because, obviously, we all have mental health and at times we all probably will have some kind of issue in our mental health. What causes me still to pause is the fact that this isn’t an uncommon claim. There are countless people who are afraid of the very idea that they could be labeled as having a “mental health problem.” There are a lot of reasons why people might worry about this. Here are three fears or concerns people might have regarding getting help for emotional or mental health issues.

Three Fears Around A Diagnosis

One fear is the long-standing stigma of being called “crazy” or a “freak.” None of us want to be labeled that way! In the past, this was a fearful label that led to a person being separated from most of society. There are many stories of families who hid those who had any kind of mental disorder or put them into institutions for their whole lives. Sadly, there were many institutions where people were mistreated in the name of treatment and science. Not only that, but many people of color were poked, prodded, tested, or worse without their consent. The stigma and fear of getting help for both medical and emotional well-being is one that is still deeply ingrained for many.

Thankfully, many things have changed regarding mental health today. There are laws protecting people’s rights for any kind of medical or mental health treatment. Additionally, there is an incredible amount of information available online regarding emotional and mental health. Therapy is also becoming more accessible for more people. There are also a multitude of first-person accounts of the help people have received for various mental health issues. I love that people are openly sharing their stories and encouraging others to get the help they need.

Another issue related to stigma is the fear of being labeled with a diagnosis. This is understandable as we think about the past mistreatment of people with emotional or mental health problems. Also, most of us have heard of various disorders in the news as there are often reports of someone who has done something terrible and that it could be related to them having a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorder, or psychosis. Even depression and anxiety, which are far more commonly experienced, can be scary for someone to consider, particularly for people who consider themselves to be independent, strong, confident, or hard working. As if a diagnosis could tarnish their good reputation.

It's important for us to realize that although a diagnosis may sound strange or difficult it doesn’t mean it isn’t treatable. Even some of the “scarier” diagnoses (meaning, we have heard of them and they sound scary) do have good treatment outcomes! I can attest to having helped people with some particularly difficult diagnoses who were able to get help and find their way back to living the lives they wanted.

Doctor and patient. Just as a doctor observes and asks about symptoms of a physical illness, a therapist in Marietta, GA explores the symptoms of emotional or mental problems a person might be experiencing. If you need help, consider reaching out today to one of our qualified therapists.

Instead of viewing a diagnosis as a label to be feared it’s important to understand that it is actually an explanation. Just as a doctor observes and asks about symptoms of a physical illness, a therapist explores the symptoms of emotional or mental problems a person might be experiencing. By taking that information and putting it together a therapist is able to identify what is happening – a diagnosis! That diagnosis is simply a name for what is already happening in that person’s life. It allows the therapist to explore with the client what options they have to deal with it. So, having a diagnosis is not a bad thing, rather, it’s helpful, because it helps someone to figure out what they can do to manage or heal from a problem. And, not all diagnoses are permanent.

Lastly, one other fear that I have encountered is the fear of talking about something and it coming true. Sometimes this is called self-manifestation, others call it speaking something into existence. At one point, I had one client who struggled to tell me about the issues she needed help with. As we talked and I tried to explore what was happening in her life she finally explained that she didn’t want to name certain issues for fear that they might come true or that she could “speak them into existence.” This made me feel sad as I wanted to help her to be able to manage what she was going through emotionally, but we were at an impasse.

Healing From A Diagnosis

As a therapist, I don’t want to put ideas in someone’s head or create a problem out of thin air. What I do want is to help someone to figure out what is happening in their lives or in their minds or emotions that they could learn to manage.

Hands together. If you have received a diagnosis, we are here for you. We can work with you, pray for you, and help you towards healing today in Marietta, GA.

I want to help them to feel better, to find healing. If people are afraid of talking about something (emotional or otherwise) it will be difficult for them to get help. Personally, I don’t believe we have the power to speak something into existence or to manifest things. We can work towards things, pray for them, hope for the best, but I believe that power rests in God’s hands (and I’m thankful for that!). The idea that a person could have this kind of power can cause problems in being able to ask for help, and can bring incredible disappointment and disillusionment if they try to manifest something and it doesn't happen.

We know that positive thinking can often have a good impact. I like the idea of seeking ways to think positively. But positive thinking isn’t enough to fix some problems, for example: mental illness, healing from trauma, or difficulty with managing emotions. We also can’t ignore problems such as these in order to wish them away – as if, since we don’t think about them they will disappear.

Instead, facing a problem is important, particularly with emotional or mental issues. Don’t be afraid, because you’re not alone. There are wonderful online (and in person) communities that have been created to lend support for mental health. There is a ton of information online about various issues. And, of course, therapy is within reach for many people. Please don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

I love these lyrics from the song “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hanson and I feel like they apply to this idea that all we need to do is to ask for help.

Have you ever felt like nobody was there?

Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?

Have you ever felt like you could disappear?

Like you could fall, and no one would hear?

Well, let that lonely feeling wash away

Maybe there's a reason to believe you'll be okay

'Cause when you don't feel strong enough to stand

You can reach, reach out your hand

Don’t forget to reach out your hand for help! You’re not alone. We’d love to hear from you and help you as you walk through your journey of healing.

Holding hands. If you have received a diagnosis, we are here to help. Consider reaching out to a caring therapist today in Marietta, GA.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

Begin Working With A Therapist in Marietta, GA

If you are going through a hard time and are in need of counseling, please consider reaching out to a qualified therapist or attending one of our marriage intensives. Our team of caring therapists would be honored to offer support with in-person and online services from our Marietta, GA-based practice. You can start your therapy journey by following these simple steps:

  • Reach out to talk to a Marietta therapist.

  • Have your first appointment at Remain Connected.

  • Learn how to name and heal from a diagnosis.

Other Services Offered at Remain Connected Counseling

We are happy to offer a variety of services including teen therapy, anxiety treatment, and EMDR therapy. In addition, we also offer life transitions therapy and depression counseling, and more all under a Christian counseling lens. By using online therapy, these services are available to anyone in Georgia. Learn more about our team of dedicated therapists and contact us for more information.

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