Psychiatric diagnosis is an art form, not a science.



Psychiatric diagnostics and psychology itself is much more of an art form than a science. It’s not even a proper social science. If it’s a science at all, it’s almost as hard to prove empirically as philosophy is. Really, when you think about it, psychiatric diagnosis is pretty much all conjecture and opinion.  Two different psychologists or psychiatrists, both highly trained and competent, can see the same person and give that person two completely different diagnoses.  One shrink’s PTSD or OCD could be another one’s NPD or DID.

We’re unbelievably complicated beings with the capacity for thousands or millions of different combinations of traits, and then there’s a the lens of the diagnostician’s own bias too, filtered through their own “stuff”: thus, if two diagnosticians are viewing the same film of one patient, one may see “anger” while another sees “grief.”    One may see “avoidance as a defense mechanism” while another sees “autistic tendencies.”

Of course, labels have their uses and give some closure and clarity to the patient, and also guidelines for the therapists in their treatment protocol.  But if you have a stigmatizing psychiatric label, you shouldn’t let that label define you.  We are all far more than our disorders, no matter what anyone says.  Just like you wouldn’t call someone “cancer” who was suffering from that disease, you aren’t a “BPD” or “NPD” or “OCD” or “Autistic” or “Bipolar”–you are a human being who has a mental illness, and therefore you are stronger than it is.

Treatment, too, is an art form more than a science. What happens when a therapist is deciding what methods will work on a patient is basically:  a  lot of things the therapist thinks “match” whatever “disorder” they think you have, all of them get thrown at the wall, and whatever sticks is the treatment the therapist will wind up using on you.

Sure, it’s great to have a highly trained therapist, but it’s much better to have an empathetic therapist, because, as a kind of artist, they’ll be able to FEEL what will work best on you–and their success in  healing patients can never be bought with a Ph.D or M.D. from an Ivy League school.


4 thoughts on “Psychiatric diagnosis is an art form, not a science.

  1. You amaze me. The way you write! Just a couple of hours after you told me in a comment that you were thinking about how psychiatric diagnosing is an art form, not a science, and that you might write a post about that, now here it is. And so beautifully written! It would take me all day to write this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Writing is the one thing I always felt confident about, and I think God gave it to me as a powerful tool to get to where I’m going…wherever that is! Everyone has some special talent or gift but not everyone is aware what they are or uses them. I didn’t write for over 15 years and was certain I forgot how!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You nailed it. It is pretty amazing all the diagnosis there are and medicines given when there’s no real “visible” proof of what’s going on. I’m grateful for the treatment I’ve received and I credit my meds for saving my life, but it’s kind of funny to think about the fact that it was done with nothing to see under a microscope.

    Liked by 1 person

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