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The modern diagnosis’ entry into the urban dictionary

picture from the Washington Post

With misinformation spreading rampantly on a daily basis, terms that carry heavy meaning have been adapted to mean something more general and common. And while this is a phenomenon that occurs in most languages (semantic bleaching) it is dangerous when this occurs with terms that are still used to diagnose and identify critical conditions and situations amongst people. 

A very popular example would be OCD (although it is not the most direct example for semantic bleaching). Today, someone with OCD is often seen as a person who is very particular about cleanliness and order. But in reality, the disorder has a lot more complex layers and dimensions aside from the cleanliness aspect. In fact, a lot of people still believe that OCD stands for obsessive cleaning disorder when in reality, it stands for obsessive compulsive disorder. 

Another example of the above is the confusion and interchangeable usage of impulsive and intrusive thoughts. A common misunderstanding is that the two terms hold the same meaning, when in reality there is a significant difference between the two. Impulsive thoughts, in a very simplified sense, are those thoughts that result in uncontrolled urges to do actions, without consideration of its consequences. Intrusive thoughts on the other hand are extremely unpleasant and disturbing thoughts, which can include mental images or compulsions.  

While both of them can cause distress, intrusive thoughts tend to last longer than impulsive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are characterised by how often they reoccur, making them harder to move past. Intrusive thoughts carry intense feelings of shame and guilt. They are urges that the person does not want to act on under any circumstances. On the other hand, impulsive thoughts often hold a kind of “rush” behind acting out the urges. They are out of the blue and pass by with little stress, unless acted upon. 

A more common example I want to touch upon is the frivolously used buzzword “self-diagnosis”. Self diagnosis is the process of diagnosing or identifying a medical condition in yourself without the consultation of a professional. And with respect to mental health, self diagnosis involves definitively identifying a disorder/condition within one self, without a certified diagnosis. This is often followed by self medicating, blaming behaviours on the disorder, further relating to identifying oneself with others with this diagnosis, and even sometimes making it a major part of one's personality and sense of self. 

picture from Bridgeable

Now why this is considered a bad thing is because a self diagnosis leads one to continue to ignore the root of the problem causing their struggle. And a self diagnosis does not give one access to treatment to any illness/disorder that the person may have. Sometimes, overly identifying with a diagnosis can unknowingly engulf our whole sense of self, leave us stuck and lead us in the wrong direction with no effective solutions. It is also possible that once someone self diagnoses themselves with a disorder, they can mirror its symptoms, without actually experiencing it.


Although…it is important to note that even if a self diagnosis may not be clinically accurate, it does not mean that one's experience is any less valid or true; the symptoms are just as real. It is simply that the causes may be different from what is initially assumed. This is where the difference between self diagnosing and identification of a real problem, comes in. A self-diagnosis, as discussed, may lead one to ignore their harmful habits and behaviours, using the disorder as a framework to justify them without a need for change, thus not only hindering self improvement but also potentially hurting the people around them. 

But the first step to obtaining a clinical diagnosis is identifying the need for help. If you feel that your symptoms are impairing your ability to function and causing continuous, persistent discomfort, it is important to recognize these symptoms and know when to seek help. Do not refrain from voicing your concerns out of the fear of self diagnosing. If you feel you do have a specific condition, try to find a professional that can help you understand yourself and possibly provide you with a diagnosis. For it is always best to take the steps that will enable you to thrive in the best version of your life.

Until next time,

Keep growing, Keep Loving


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