Diagnosis: The Big Label

What’s the big deal about labels?

Before you read about the criteria for diagnosis take time to think about what you want to find out. For anyone getting a diagnostic label put on them is a deeply personal thing that has an impact on them, their understanding about themselves and through this how they are perceived by health and social care professionals.

Getting a diagnosis of having a personality disorder is a massive label that a psychiatrist, a psychologist, specialist counsellor or other specialist care professionals can apply to someone. How the person is assessed can widely differ from professional to professional, some will take you through a formalised assessment and others will base their assessment on your interactions with them and their understanding of your case history. This can lead to confusion between professionals who might disagree with the diagnosis and often lead to situations where people go through a variety of diagnostic labels before attracting that of a personality disorder.

To confuse matters even more there are two main guides for diagnosing Personality Disorders. The International Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders (ICD 10) (World Health Organisation 1992), and The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) (American Psychiatric Association 1994). Each has slightly different criteria and both are used within England. The names given to the different Personality Disorders differ, for example, Borderline Personality disorder (DSM-IV) is called Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder in the ICD-10. The American Psychiatric Association has just updated its diagnostic Manual to the DSM-V and this will eventually lead to a new way of assessing Personality Disorders but this is a transition period. On the website we have focussed on the DSM-IV as this is the system used by the government in England in their published research and guidance.

Whatever the label it is important to understand what it means for you. We at Upbeat believe that gaining information can be empowering and can lead to you becoming an expert in your own care.

Many Upbeat members do not necessarily agree with their diagnosis but feel better prepared to deal with professionals when they understand the reasoning behind their diagnosis.