What's in a label?

What's in a label?

First responders are reluctant to see licensed mental health professionals for fear of being labeled as having a problem.  While this is certainly not always the case, the decision to fight the stigma and seek treatment for stress-related symptoms can often have unintended consequences.  Can the symptoms of chronic or critical incident stress lead to a wrong mental health diagnosis?

Under extreme stress, the kinds of responses consistent with an individual's personality type will often mirror symptoms of other diagnosable mental disorders.  Humanizing the Badge published an article not long ago entitled Beneath the Surface in which the following the statement was made about professional diagnoses: "If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."  That is to say that many licensed mental health professionals with little or no experience in treating individuals suffering from chronic or traumatic stress will often revert to some other diagnosis that can be much more harmful in the long run to the career of a first responder.  Information on the website for the National Center for PTSD, run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, confirms this to be true.

Diagnoses of other conditions might include:

  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (NOT the same as OCD)

This is certainly a "catch-22" situation, because sometimes there is an underlying disorder that must be addressed in order for an individual's condition to improve.  When in doubt, reach out to a qualified peer support specialist like those who provide support on this page who can help you understand what you are experiencing and help determine whether professional help is going to be necessary.

If you're suffering, don't suffer in silence.  Message us at m.me/callforbackup.org/ and let us help you begin a journey toward better mental health.  If you are having suicidal thoughts that won't go away, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).

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