About diagnosis

What does it mean to have a diagnosis?

A diagnosis means that, during your conversations and work with a therapist, they may identify a particular collection of difficulties or behaviours which, together, can be thought of as a particular diagnosis such as “Separation Anxiety Disorder”, or “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder”. 

Having a diagnosis can be scary but having an accurate description of the difficulties that you have can help work out what intervention or support is most likely to be helpful based on what has worked for others with a similar diagnosis.

Will I automatically get a diagnosis at CAMHS?

No.  Not everyone requires or receives a diagnosis when they go to CAMHS. 

Sometimes, simply talking through your thoughts and feelings can help a young person who may be experiencing difficulties.  However, sometimes it can be helpful to have a more specific way of talking about a set of problems and diagnosis can sometimes be a way of doing that.

How does a service diagnose someone?

A service ought to diagnose someone by collecting lots of different information about the person’s problems.  This will come from talking to them, perhaps also talking to their parents or carers or from a school report. 

A therapist may also ask a young person to complete some questionnaires to help understand the difficulties, which will help with making an accurate diagnosis..  The therapist will then draw all the information they have and compare a person's difficulties to the profile of a diagnostic classification system to see if the person’s problems match up to a specific diagnosis or diagnoses.

What can I do if I don't want a diagnosis?

Everything that happens in CAMHS is subject to conversations and collaborative thinking.  If there is a lot of evidence to say that a diagnosis would be a very helpful way to understand things, a clinician might encourage a young person to think about that more but whether or not a young person is diagnosed or whether they agree with their diagnosis or not can be discussed in their session.

How does a diagnosis help - who does it benefit?

A diagnosis is just a way of giving a name or label to the difficulties or problems that a young person is experiencing. This can be helpful to some young people and not so helpful to others. 

Some young people may feel a diagnosis reduces them to just a label and puts them in a specific box whilst others may find a diagnosis helps explain some of their difficulties and feel relieved to know that what they’re experiencing is something others have been through and has a name and hopefully an intervention that might help them.

Does being diagnosed with something automatically mean medication?

No.  In fact, most of the research shows that talking can be most effective in helping young people seeking support from CAMHS.  Your therapist may wish to discuss with you certain interventions, including medicine, for which there is evidence that they may help young people with a certain diagnosis.

Does a diagnosis go on my medical record?

Yes it does.  It’s really helpful to have a diagnosis on your medical records as it helps different medical professionals to know the sort of difficulties that a young person may be dealing with or may have dealt with in the past.

If you are ever concerned about what is written on your medical records you can always ask to see your medical records and, if you think they are wrong, you can have them corrected.

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Does being diagnosed mean you are 'crazy'?

No.  Being referred to CAMHS means that you’re having some difficulty in your life either with your emotions or possibly with your behaviour, that is causing a significant impact on your health and happiness and which you might require some help with. 

What if I feel I'm being labelled?

It’s important to remember  that a diagnosis is only a label for some of the problems or difficulties a person may be experiencing.  It does not define a person and is there to help understand your problems and work out what is most likely to be helpful. If you are worried that you are being labelled, you should discuss this with your therapist.

What can I do if I don't agree with a diagnosis?

Having a diagnosis is not always terribly useful especially if a young person feels that the diagnosis is wrong or mis-characterises what they’re feeling and experiencing. 

If you do not agree with your diagnosis, you should discuss this with your clinician and continue to work on any difficulties affecting you without either party trying to name or label those difficulties.  

Are there any negative things about having a diagnosis?

Some young people do not want to be associated with difficulties that are described by particular diagnoses; they worry that others will not be able to see past the diagnosis. A diagnosis does not need to define a person – it is just a description of some problems that someone is having at a particular moment in time.

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