Diagnosis is the investigative act various disciplines use to identify and define the nature and cause of an illness or problem. This is done by observation and analysis of a client's behaviors, symptoms, or other data. Professionals may also administer tests for the purpose of identifying problems. An individual's diagnosis can change as symptoms resolve or new information is discovered. Some people feel distressed or stigmatized by receiving a diagnosis. Others find comfort and understanding in the definition that a diagnosis can bring. Most insurance companies do not reimburse mental health services without a diagnosis. Counselors sometimes struggle to balance this requirement for payment with identifying an appropriate diagnosis. However, a diagnosis can lead to appropriate care, and in most cases it is more helpful than harmful.
Some people enter into counseling and never receive a diagnosis. A diagnosis is not required to create an effective treatment plan.
Mental health, like physical health, means taking care of your mind, brain and emotions to make them stronger and more fit. The process for maintaining mental health is specific to every individual. Our brains are as unique as we are, and they have a large capacity for processing our thoughts and experiences. Counseling is one way to improve mental health. Other ways to do this include: taking walks, talking to friends, having a job you are passionate about, enjoying music, or turning to spiritual or religious traditions. In addition to these things, medications can be a way for some people to balance their mental health.
Improving mental health helps us lead a happier life and can offset or prevent serious medical problems like heart disease, stroke, or high blood pressure.
Addiction can be defined as an unhealthy relationship or dependence on the use of substances, like alcohol or drugs, or behaviors, like gambling. The medical definition of addiction includes specific criteria that should be met before diagnosing an individual with this condition. Addiction comes in many forms and affects everyone differently. Many people are unaware that certain behaviors are, or can become, addictive. Essentially, addiction relates to how a person feels a substance or behavior makes their daily lives unmanageable or even chaotic. Many professionals advocate for expanding the definition of addiction to include a greater variety of behaviors. For example, unhealthy relationships with food, internet use, or sex do not fit nicely under the medical definition of addiction; however, we know many people whose lives are negatively affected by misuse or overuse of these things.
Cultural values and ethnic identity also affect how addiction is defined and treated.
Christopher Raley, LCSW, CADC