I have never been a fan of labels, particularly medical ones. The reason being when we are given a label, we can start to act out what that label means. Many of my clients when they first come for a session wear their medical labels like they are part of who they are. It’s like the label becomes part of their identity and this causes far more harm than good.
I recall one client who in her first session kept referring to the fact she had OCD (obsessive compulsive behaviour). In fact all she had was a coping mechanism where she felt the need to check things were turned off, something developed simply as a result of some child hood issues which had been too overwhelming for her to process when she was younger. When this re frame was created in her mind, she saw straight away that she wasn’t crazy and that she didn’t have a mental illness. Now the childhood events have been processed, she no longer has any form of OCD and smiles now when she refers to her actions as ‘that thing that I did to help me cope’.
Yet for thousands of other people living out there who haven’t had the same fortune as this client to become disassociated with their problem, they are almost living out the label. Depression is a great example of this. I hear time and time again ‘I am prone to depression’ and then regularly become depressed. Depression is in the main caused by a lack of basic needs being met, but sadly GP’s don’t stop to look at this when prescribing anti depressants so patients end up living out the label of what it means to be a depressed person.
I was therefore delighted to read the article on the BBC news website “Grief and anxiety are not mental illnesses” which highlighted that what people need is help and understanding and not labels and medication.
Life has developed at a speed far greater than our biological evolution. Our brains are still largely the same as they were thousands of years ago, so it is likely that life will sometimes trip us up. Pressure to become all things by a certain age, have the perfect relationship, job, figure, sex life, bank balance and so on is enough to drive most of us potty and lead to some form of mental health problem. Add to this a handful of incidents such as being bullied at school, growing up with parents continually arguing at each or even being abused physically or sexually and it is high likely that we will need a helping hand at some point in our life. However the point is just that – we need a helping hand in the form of understanding, talking therapy and techniques that can process old memories in a way which doesn’t involve us dragging out our life stories. What we don’t need is labels and pills.