I've been given a mental health diagnosis, now what?

Reviewed by:
April 1, 2020

When people enter mental health treatment, they have all sorts of different expectations about their diagnosis. Some people benefit from just knowing that what they’re experiencing has a name, while others may benefit from the treatment they receive without ever thinking about their diagnosis. There is also a chance that some people may experience some stigma around their diagnosis. However, it’s still important to understand what purpose a diagnosis can serve for you and your treatment. Here, we’ll discuss how providers, like Talkiatry, arrive at a diagnosis, what benefit a mental health diagnosis can provide, and what life can look like after you’ve been diagnosed.

How are patients diagnosed?

It might seem like mental health providers arrive at a diagnosis about your condition without doing very much. Still, they’re actually using a variety of techniques to come to their conclusion. Mental health providers receive training to evaluate a person through an assessment that includes a series of questions coupled with your answers and observations about your behaviors and patterns. With all this information, the provider can refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) to decide the patient’s diagnosis. The American Psychiatric Association created the DSM-5 to help classify and categorize different mental health diagnoses. This manual allows mental health providers to maintain a common language and outline a patient’s condition. However, keep in mind that no two patients are alike. So, despite the name of your condition, your provider will be treating you as a unique individual. 

What does the mental health diagnosis mean?

To you

You may feel scared or even confused when you receive an official mental health diagnosis. These are essential thoughts to mention to your provider. Discussion with your provider can allow you to feel better informed and empowered by the knowledge of your diagnosis. It’s important to try to avoid looking at a diagnosis as a “stamp” that’s been placed on you. More importantly, you’re getting the treatment you need to lead a more fulfilling life. We understand that you may have some self-stigma about your diagnosis, or it may feel heavy to you. However, the last thing we want is for you to avoid getting the help you need because of fear and stigma. We want the name of the condition you’ve been given to be far less important than the improvement you feel from receiving effective treatment. 

To the provider

An official mental health diagnosis can be helpful to the provider in a few ways. The provider can use this information to guide the development of your treatment plan. For example, if you’ve been diagnosed with depression, your provider may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as your treatment. This recommendation is evidence-based, given this is one of the first-line treatments for depression. Additionally, the diagnosis will be used to bill your insurance for your visits with your provider. Remember, this information sharing would stop there because of HIPPA laws that protect your private health information. What all providers will keep in mind, however, is that diagnoses are made at a point in time with the information they have available. As time goes on and your provider gets to know you better, it’s possible that the diagnosis may shift. 

What happens after I’ve been diagnosed?

As we mentioned above, the diagnosis may be meaningless to you, but it can seriously impact how some people choose to live their lives. Let’s consider the example of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Knowing this condition can help you understand where your symptoms stem from and may lead to specific decisions about how the illness is cared for in daily life. Like someone who has diabetes would need to stay away from carbohydrates, someone with bipolar disorder may find it more important to focus on their sleep schedule. Making lifestyle changes and developing a routine for taking care of your diagnosis can help you feel a sense of control. Talking to your provider about these changes can help you prioritize which ones will work best for you.

What to tell loved ones

We have come a long way in battling stigma related to mental illness, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t have a long way to go. People who know you well probably know if you’ve been struggling emotionally. That said, letting your loved ones know that you’ve been given a name for the problem you’re struggling with might be a relief for you. Also, having trusted friends who are aware of your condition will mean more informed support when you need it.

It’s OK to keep your diagnosis private

Disclosing this sensitive information to your current or potential employer is a very personal decision. Under no circumstances do you need to tell a potential employer about a mental health diagnosis during an interview. However, after securing a job, some would argue that telling your employer can be protective. That way, if your diagnosis somehow impacts your work and you’ve made your employer aware of your condition previously, the ADA law protects you from any unfair treatment. We know stigma is still out there, so it’s understandable that some people might have reservations about disclosure, despite legal protection. 

Maintaining hope and wellness

Overall, receiving a mental health diagnosis can arm you with valuable information. Staying informed about your condition helps you to better take care of yourself and allows you to own your wellness. Otherwise, your diagnosis may end up feeling like something that overwhelms you. Make sure you talk to your mental health provider about what your diagnosis means to you and work through those thoughts and feelings together.

About Talkiatry

Talkiatry provides outpatient mental health care services including diagnosis, psychotherapy, and medication management.

At Talkiatry, we are dedicated to providing you with accessible and affordable mental health care solutions. We provide customized treatment plans focused on helping you feel better, faster. We also offer flexible telemedicine and in-office appointment options to match our therapeutic and modern approach to psychiatric care.

Get matched with a Talkiatry Psychiatrist

We believe there’s no one size fits all approach to mental healthcare, which is why our experienced staff includes 30+ board-certified psychiatrists with diverse backgrounds and specialties. Using a proprietary algorithm, we match you with a psychiatrist on staff who has the expertise for your specific needs and can help you understand and manage your diagnosis.

Talkiatry is a mental health practice, and our clinicians review everything we write. However, articles are never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may need mental health help, talk to a psychiatrist. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

Related posts

Mental health is personal.
So is our approach to psychiatry.