Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Problem with Armchair Diagnosing Mental Illness

I have occasionally run into people who are preoccupied with narcissism/sociopathy. They insist that they can spot the tell-tale signs a mile away, and that the only acceptable response is to turn the diagnosed into a pariah.

I have several problems with this. For one, it reinforces the concept of sane privilege, which sets people who struggle with mental health as inferior to those with a mental health status accepted by society as "normal". It also introduces the idea that laypersons should be armchair diagnosing other members of society with mental illness, under the guise of self-preservation. Perhaps there could be a point on the side of such people if mental illness actually were associated with increased rates of abusive behavior, but the facts simply don't support such an assertion.

The end result of this sort of false correlation is a mental illness stigma on those who would seek help. This not only discourages people from getting help who need it, lest they be labeled as a dangerous person; it also diverts mental health resources away from those who don't fit our stereotypes of someone who needs help, when "needs help" is actually code for "is dangerous".

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