Beyond Self-Diagnosis: My Friend OCD
Beyond Self Diagnosis: My Friend OCD
L.T. Force, Ph.D.
Ok, so here we are - all sitting in a large auditorium. The speaker on the stage asks: “Please shout-out:
“I DO!” if you have a Psychological Diagnosis”. If you didn’t raise your voice and shout in a loud tone: “I DO!...I DO!” It is only because you probably didn’t hear the speaker. We all have a Psychological Diagnosis. There is zero-way to pass through the developmental stages of life - without being tagged or labeled with a psychological diagnosis (via a self-diagnosis or a professional diagnosis) .....ZERO-WAY! "We all have stuff."...in one form or another....it’s part of the human experience….part of the human condition
For some, being labeled with a psychological diagnosis is a relief....finally, you are able to wrap a descriptive understanding of the origin of your thoughts, actions and behaviors....it is a true sense of relief. For others, it is like being scripted with a: “Scarlet Letter”....complete with shame and/or embarrassment. Whether the reaction be relief or shame - understand you are no different than anyone else - we are all members of the: “diagnostic club”.
A quick sketch ....the origin of a: "psychological diagnosis” can be traced to supernatural, biological and psychological models .Who you ask - will dictate what answer you receive - when it comes to the interpretation of behavior. Ancients theories and Greek Practitioners connected thoughts and behaviors to supernatural causes….possessions, an angry god and demons. The 1st psychiatric hospital was founded in Valencia, Spain in 1406. Emil Kraapelin in 1863 published a comprehensive system of psychological disorders. Sigmund Freud and followers (in the 1890’s) - in launching the "Psychoanalytical School of Thought" - focused on “talking cures” to address pathological episodes and incidents in childhood...and then we moved to Psychosurgery (1930’s) and the use of Psychotropic Medication (1950’s) - with a focus on Brian Chemistry....and now today - with: “instant assessment and diagnosis” - via keystrokes and virtual platforms - we are swarmed with diagnoses and self-diagnoses. Overall, what is the takeaway? Theories are a reflection of the time....and who you ask - will dictate what answers you receive. But, a simple clear answer - “We all got stuff!” Don’t believe it? Think about it!
Take a look!
In my Theories of Social Casework course - I ask my students to complete a three-generation family genogram (1st level: you, your siblings; 2nd level: your parents and their siblings; 3rd-level: your grandparents and their siblings). The value of the exercise is twofold: First, the students have the opportunity - to take a look at their own family system....the traditions....the currency....the rituals....the toxic issues....and the strengths (as all families have strengths). In fact, when they hand in their assignment - if they have only identified family weaknesses or patterns of aberrant behavior - I hand it back and ask them to revisit their family description - and focus on the family strengths. Secondly, the other value of asking students to construct a family genogram - is for them to experience - that it’s not easy for everyone to talk about their family. As therapists, we sit there with an: ’active listening ear’ with pen or iPad in hand and ask our clients to: "Tell me about your family”. I want my students to understand the emotional response people have - when speaking about their family patterns....it’s not easy for some people.
I love the family genogram exercise - it’s a powerful tool for one to see and visit - the multi-generational patterns existing within your family network. In my professional training - and for the benefit of my personal life - I too - at different times in my life have engaged in the ritual of psychotherapy (both long-term and short-term). In looking at my own family patterns (youngest son, two brothers....large extended family....Irish Catholic) - you know what I found. In looking at my family - based upon my origin and upbringing - of course there was evidence of specific behavior patterns....impulsivity, patterns of addictive behavior and recovery, resiliency, love, determination, humor, loyalty, altruism and of course my friend OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Behavior), i.e. “taking things to the limit and beyond”. in fact, looking at my family-tree - there was not only evidence of what would be described and diagnosed as: OCD - it wasn’t just a: “Family Tree-Limb”.....there was a whole:“Family OCD Forest” present!
(Our family dictionary - has never contained the word: “moderation”.) Did that create problems - yes, at times for sure - but it also created patterns of: strength, resiliency, productivity, determination and success.
So what can one do - with this ‘self-information’? I think - you accept it....and by doing so - you accept yourself. I remember for my training - when I engaged in long-term psychotherapy - with a Freudian/Jung Psychologist - who had a focus on dream analysis and symbolism - it hit me one night: “there is always more mud underneath the mud”. I did not want to continually focus and explore the past - I wanted to focus on the: "here and now and the future". In fact, that experience helped guide me into delivering what I practice today - "Short-Term Solution Focused Psychotherapy" - it's a breath of fresh air!
The question is: ‘are psychological diagnoses necessary’? And again, it depends on who you ask. Of course, they can be helpful in guiding treatment interventions. However, as you broaden that discussion - what do we hear from different views and what do we know? We know - today you cannot submit an Invoice for a Therapeutic Intervention to an Insurance Company - unless a psychological diagnosis has been arrived at - and included. For some, the feeling is - the Insurance Companies are driving the Mental Health Treatment World. For others, they rail against the reliance on arriving at a: ‘psychological diagnosis’ - as they feel it distracts you from the importance of dealing with the person - as a person - and not as a label.
My recommendation, as an exercise - construct a: (3+ generation) family genogram (there are plenty of google sites that will provide you ideas and strategies to guide you). Take a look at your family system - look at the behavior patterns that surface from the richness of your history - and then - go back into that auditorium and when the speaker on the stage asks: “Please shout-out - “I DO!” if you have a Psychological Diagnosis”. Shout out - as loud as you can:“I DO!...I DO! OVER HERE -
LOOK AT ME - I DO!!!!“ and be proud of it….a “psychological diagnosis” is not a: “monkey on your back” - it’s a companion - it is part of what makes you unique…we all have one….the key is to find how you can apply those: “constellations of behaviors”….in a: productive, constructive and future-oriented way….that’s the gift!