Your son doesn’t have narcissistic personality disorder, he’s just an asshole

22 Nov

As much as I like to joke I’m crazy, I know I’m nothing more than slightly quirky, neurotic, perhaps at times grating or annoying. I can be exacting and temperamental and a chore. I take things too seriously. But I’m fine. “Normal,” for what it’s worth, if that’s even a real thing.

There’s been a trend towards over- and self-diagnosis of mental health conditions. You hear it all the time – “I’m depressed, I’m bipolar.” Are you? Or are you just sad today? “I’m OCD.” Are you, really? Or do you just have exacting tendencies? There is a big difference between personality traits and a disorder. Between mood fluctuations and a condition. The professionals in the field go to school for years, practice for longer, and they hesitate when they diagnose you. Diagnosing is painful, but necessary for payment and treatment approval through insurance companies. Professionals are told people are not their diagnoses, that diagnosis in general is a necessary evil. To always keep in mind the person in front of you, and that people don’t fit into boxes with neat little labels on them. So why are people so willing to clamp onto a diagnosis given to them by an internet quiz that provides results with sparkly gifs?

Sometimes labels are empowering. When you have a name for what’s ailing you, you give it an identity, you have a course of action, you can gain a sense of control. However, when you mislabel your actions and feelings with something that is not actually affecting you, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You’re giving your within-normal-limits behavior a pathological basis. Then when attempts at fixing your behavior that was all together normal don’t succeed, you also bestow upon yourself the label of “failure.” A crushing blow.

I’m so glad that mental health is coming to the forefront, that leaps and bounds have been made to erase the stigmatization that people who seek mental health treatment experience. I just worry that if too many people continue to self-diagnose and lay claim to things that they aren’t experiencing, mental health as a whole will lack legitimacy again. That the same sort of polarizing that’s occurred over children and ADHD will suck in the whole field of mental health, pushing many people back into the dark for fear their disorders will be seen as fake and exaggerated.

We don’t all float through the world with a haze of puppy-dogs and flowered meadows, pushing everything out of that realm into the wrong. It’s okay to have a label, but it’s also okay to not. It’s okay to seek counseling and treatment without a diagnosis, just because times are tough. The world is full of different people, different personalities, ups and downs, good and bad. Keep in mind that just because things have slipped into the bad doesn’t mean they’ve necessarily slipped into the pathological.

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