Mental health disorders refer to groups of symptoms that affect people’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviour. Examples of mental health disorders include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia. Anxiety and depression are the most common disorders in Australia. One in six Australians is currently experiencing depression or anxiety or both. Severe mental disorders can significantly impair a person’s ability to perform everyday functions like going to work, having healthy relationships, and enjoying hobbies.
Many people still experience stigma in relation to mental health disorders. Stigma can come from the way other people view you, or the way you think about yourself. Stigma often makes it less likely that people will ask for help for their mental health issues. Even those who seek help, might worry that their doctor or psychologist will label them with a diagnosis. If diagnosis can lead to stigma and fear, why is it important at all?
A diagnosis is important because it guides your treatment method, medication options and treatment duration. Many mental health conditions have their own treatment method. If the wrong treatment is used, then your symptoms may not improve in a timely manner. Some people also find that a diagnosis can help them understand their lived experience and help them feel less alone. For example, many people who receive a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) finally have a framework for understanding why they have been unable to recover following a traumatic experience. Or those who are diagnosed with social anxiety disorder are able to understand why they struggle to meet new people, feel so awkward in social situations and often experience performance anxiety at work. People who receive a mental health diagnosis might also feel comforted knowing that they’re not alone, and that they can access medication and evidence-based behavioural treatments to help them manage their symptoms.