What’s in a diagnosis ….

Healthcare is full of them! However the more I chat with people who experience mental illness the more I see a disparity between giving a mental health diagnosis and a physical health one.

Whilst I appreciate that mental health is often difficult to diagnose and I recognise all the challenges that could come up I still think that some professionals are not taking the diagnosis of a patient seriously enough.

This seems to be a particular issue with people who have been diagnosed with bipolar but then because they don’t respond in the way that professionals expect or have strong opinions regarding their care they are then seen as difficult and sometimes without consultation their diagnosis is changed.  What makes this worse is that whilst it would be rare for a physical diagnosis not to be discussed with the patient or next of kin, I have lost count how many people I know have found out about a new diagnosis by letter or by seeing it on a computer screen at the GP surgery!  

It is so sad how some professionals can’t accept that a mental health diagnosis does not mean that people can’t be or aren’t capable of being fully involved in their care plan.  

The anxiety of this kind of surprise misdiagnosis stays with people long after the situation is rectified (which can take months or even years).  I still cautiously scan the GP screen to ensure the correct diagnosis is showing and every appointment with each professional adds to my anxiety because of past experience. 

I am well aware that this is not a practice that all mental professionals follow however I hope that those that do this realise the implications of their actions and those that sensitively discuss diagnosis after a full assessment encourage good practice with their colleagues.

This is an important step in ensuring parity of esteem between physical and mental health and one which could benefit the mental health of so many people. 

My latest campaign – why do Mental Health consultants change diagnosis without telling the patient?

Just to clarify this obviously doesn’t apply to all psychiatrists as I know there are some excellent patient focused professionals out there but this has happened to me twice and I am hearing more and more stories where this is occurring.
In my experience I have only found out about the change in diagnosis by receiving a copy of a letter which was being sent to my GP. Each time I have battled to get the diagnosis reversed and been successful but I shouldn’t have to do this and neither should anyone else.
I realise that sometimes patients may be distressed and therefore in my opinion it is even more important to ensure this sort of subject matter is communicated at the right time and if necessary while the patient has appropriate support.
The most common occurrence of this seems to be in patients who have a bipolar diagnosis and then suddenly with no warning they find themselves with a personality disorder diagnosis. In some cases this might be correct but in quite a few this isn’t and I have felt in the past that I was given a new diagnosis as an excuse for being discharged from the system.
As I said I was able to get my diagnosis changed back but others aren’t so lucky and therefore people can be left without vital treatment and support during really difficult episodes.
The other alarming factor in this is that people who are bipolar and able to argue their case or stand up for themselves are seen to be obstructive and unnecessarily angry and this can be what a new diagnosis is primarily based on. This in my opinion is very short sighted and in some cases dangerous.
I would like to hear from people who have experienced this and also from professionals so that awareness of this can be raised.
Lets fight to ensure high levels of patient communication within mental health.