Mental Illness Labels

Yesterday, Sue over at My Loud Bipolar Whispers wrote a very interesting post on mental illness labels. It is definitely very inspiring to read how Sue overcomes the stigma and self-stigma of mental illness labels. I must admit I’m still caught up in mental illness labels at times. I started this blog in part to help myself overcome this limiting mindset where a diagnosis defines me. As such, I thought I’d do a similar post to Sue’s.

Over the past nearly twelve years that I’ve been in the mental health system, I have accumulated a bunch of mental illness labels. I am too lazy o list them all, but they included adjustment disorder, impulse control disorder NOS, dissociative identity disorder, PTSD, borderine and dependent personality disorder and depression. These labels define me in a sense, but in a sense, they do not. After all, some of these diagnoses were not just given to me but taken away again later. As such, I’m not supposed to dissociate anymore, as DID is no longer among my mental illness labels. Well, here we are, all 25 or so of us. I hear my former psychologist saying that I make up the DID because of having read up on it too much. Ironically, she was the one most eager to give me new and exciting mental health diagnoses.

Mental illness labels have a function in getting insurance to pay for treatment. In addition, they may guide what treatment and support you can access. Self-labeling (self-diagnosis) may have the added benefit that you can access support without the approval of a mental health professional. That’s how I access support geared towards people with DID.

However, mental illness labels should not be limiting my experience of who I am. I am more than my mental illnesses. Here is a list of labels I’d like to be known for.


  • Wife

  • Daughter

  • Sister

  • Friend

  • Writer

  • Blogger

  • Creative

  • Introvert

  • Compassionate

  • Intelligent

  • Honest

  • Former psychology major

  • Disability rights activist

  • Mental health advocate

  • Survivor

What labels do you define yourself by?

8 thoughts on “Mental Illness Labels

  1. Labels. Ugh. I too have conflicting feelings about them. I like to think of myself as someone who has different experiences and different perspectives than your average person, I very rarely use the term mental illness. It’s taken some years and a lot of learning about myself to really see the advantage of my brain. Dealing with the sudden onslaught of psychosis, or what I like to call ‘having a very different perspective of the world’ really made me question myself, the world, and everything in it. I don’t like to us as sick or ill, I like to see us as the same as everyone else, but with a different take on the world. The disorders they list in the DSM overlap in so many ways. I’ve been through so many different diagnoses, and still going through it for insurance purposes that I just don’t care anymore. I’m human and that’s all that matters to me. Humans have a huge variety in their looks, their personalities, and their brains, considering the brain is as unique as a finger print. There is no such thing as standard, as normal, and therefore I don’t see myself as any different, or sicker, than anyone else. But that’s just me.

    May peace be with you,
    Ali.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love your take on this subject, seeing your experiences and perceptions as just that, unique experiences and perceptions of the world. Here in the Netherlands, there was a contest about renaming schizophrenia a few years ago (by the organization for people with psychotic disorders) and the winning entry was “dysfunctional perception syndrome”. This describes that, though psychosis may be dysfunctional, it’s still just an experience that is not fundamentally different from any other human experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. And Wow, that’s awesome. I’m jealous! I’m glad that perspectives are changing somewhere, at least. Here in the U.S. people still call others schizophrenic without really understanding what they’re saying. Here to hoping that kind of change is sparked globally 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Well the name change wasn’t official, as we use the DSM here too. However, there were definitely psychiatrists involved in it and one has written an extensive article on how schizophrenia is just a description for a collection of experiences.

          Have you heard of Intervoice? They’re the international hearing voices movement and they advocate for destigmatization of psychotic experiences (and other experiences where people hear voices, such as dissociative disorders). This movement is really active in the Netherlands too, helping people hospitalized for psychosis and such too. Also, about a year or two back, a woman who suffered psychosis and is now a mental health government advisor was selected as one of the Dutch prime minister’s most inspiring women in a women’s magazine. I don’t agree with a lot of Dutch government policies on mental health, as they cut care budgets under the guise of destigmatization and self-reliance, and this woman did propagate that, but she was definitely an example of defeating stigma.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I have heard much about them. I work in the peer sector over here where I am, and we do a lot of work with Intentional Peer Support, as well as our own Hearing Voices network that we have locally in the Bay Area. I think it’s great that organizations and groups like this exist to really support people, not just help them.

            Liked by 1 person

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