We live in a diagnosis-happy era. We diagnose kids in school who have a hard time sitting still and focusing as having attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We diagnose people who struggle with intrusive thoughts as having obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). And we diagnose people who shy away from large groups or prefer their own quiet company as having social anxiety disorder.
Do you hear the common word in all of these diagnoses? It's disorder. Disorder, meaning something out of order. Disorder, meaning something is wrong.
While a proper diagnosis is helpful when dealing with severe mental illness, for the vast majority of people receiving a diagnosis is confirmation that something is "wrong." And since most people already live with the sense that there's something wrong or broken inside, an unnecessary diagnosis only serves to corroborate an already false belief.
We're now learning that, in most cases where there's been a diagnosis, there's actually nothing wrong other than people being crammed into a system or way of being that is antithetical to who they naturally are.
For example, a kid who needs to move while learning can be called an "experiential learner" and moved into a classroom environment that honors his type of learning. Alternatively, he can be labeled, diagnosed and medicated, thereby disrupting and dishonoring his natural rhythm and learning type and communicating the belief that there's something wrong.
Likewise, someone who doesn't enjoy big groups and delights in their own company can be seen as an introvert, or they can be held up against the extroverted ideal of the culture, and diagnosed as having social anxiety disorder.
When clients come to me and say, " I have OCD," my skin bristles. But when they say, "I get nervous in big groups; I think I have social anxiety," my entire being balks. I will then ask a few poignant questions: