Mobile phone image, Therapy Clinic Brighton,

To label or not to label? The impact of diagnosis

In medicine, diagnosis is the process of identifying a condition based on a set of signs and symptoms. This is a key step in the treatment of the condition. This can be a double-edged sword in psychiatry. We’ll explore the pros and cons of obtaining a mental health diagnosis. 

What does it mean to have a mental health diagnosis?

An evaluation of mental health is meant to:

  • Identify anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, postnatal depression, eating disorders, and psychotic illnesses 
  • Distinguish between mental and physical health issues
  • Examine a person who has been referred due to difficulties at school, work, or at home

Having a mental health diagnosis means you have filled the criteria for a mental health condition as determined by your mental health team. 

Who can diagnose a mental illness?

The first port of call for a mental health related diagnosis is a GP. They may be able to diagnose you within a couple of appointments for common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. For other mental illnesses, it may require referral to a psychiatrist. 

Therapy clinics such as The Therapy Clinic Brighton can provide talking therapies and support you in your journey through diagnosis and treatment.

What are the pros and cons of a mental health diagnosis? 

Many people find that obtaining a diagnosis is an important step in their mental health journey. The reasons for this can include:

  • Having more of a vocabulary to communicate their struggles
  • Getting the right support at school or in the workplace
  • Understanding their mental health better and demystifying their symptoms 

Rose Gardner, founder and Clinical Director at The Therapy Clinic, says the following about diagnosis:

“For some people, a diagnosis can offer important validation and a clear way to describe their experience as well as a potential pathway to accessing help.”

If you feel that you could start to learn how to improve your mental health once you have clear terms for it, diagnosis might be a path for you. 

What are the drawbacks of a mental health diagnosis?

There are occasions when diagnosis is not necessarily helpful. According to Rose:

“For some people, a diagnosis can represent almost the opposite of validation – a feeling of  being put into a box on the basis of a list of symptoms rather than being seen as a whole person.”

Going to therapy should mean being treated as a whole person, rather than the sum of how many boxes one ticks. Therefore, a human-centred approach is required which supports and empowers the patient. 


Rose goes on to summarise TTC’s approach to diagnosis:

“At The Therapy Clinic, we recognise that people have very different views and experiences of diagnosis. It often comes down to how it feels to have a label. For some people, a diagnosis can offer important validation and a clear way to describe their experience as well as a potential pathway to accessing help. 

Our focus is on supporting individual clients to find their own way through the process.  Whether someone has an existing diagnosis, is contemplating the possibility of getting one or is struggling with the whole idea, the important thing is that we enable them to reach the best possible understanding of themselves and decide what is most helpful for them.”

It’s important to consider whether a diagnosis will be useful for you or hinder you. If a label would be useful for you to communicate your thoughts and feelings about your condition, pursuing a diagnosis may be a good idea. On the other hand, if you feel a label would be oppressive, it’s important to know that mental health is just one aspect of what makes you you.