The simple answer is that you can never be completely sure unless you check out your own first impressions with a well trained and experienced clinician. Although self diagnosis is a very helpful first step, it is inherently limited by your possible biases and misunderstandings.
You cannot expert to have mastered all the nuances of psychiatric diagnosis after reading one article. And, even if you happen to be a skilled clinician, we would always recommend against practicing on yourself. As the saying goes, “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
It is hard to decide whether someone qualifies for a psychiatric diagnosis precisely because most people occasionally have at least some mild psychiatric symptoms. If you add up everyone who has had a few days of depression, or a few weeks of anxiety, or an occasional panic attack, or periodic eating binges, or misuses a substance from time to time you would include at least 80 percent of entire population.
But fewer than one quarter of these have a diagnosable psychiatric condition that needs treatment. Unfortunately, there is no clear line marking the boundary distinguishing those psychiatric orders from those who are suffering from no more than the average expect able aches and pains of everyday life.
Deciding whether or not you are okay is a cincg at the polar extremes if you have no symptoms at all or if your symptoms are really a crusher but it is much more difficult if you are one of the many people who are somewhere in the middle. Remember that one symtoms does a disorder make.
Each psychiatric disorder has its very own charasteristic pattern of symptioms and course. Before jumping to conclusions, refer bact to the pertinent chapter and make sure that your symptoms confrom pretty close to the requirements of the appropriate diagnostic criteria set. Remember that your problems must also be really interfering with your life in a major way, not just be causing a bit of discomfort.
Because this boundary between mental health and mental illness is not easy to define, it is important that you guard against both under and over diagnosis in thinking about where you stand. The biggest problem is under-diagnosis. It is a straddling fact that fully three fourths of the people with a treatable psychiatric disorder never get the help they need.
We hope that reading this book will alert some of these folks so that they can get started in e timely fashion and on the right foot. Over-diagnosis is much less common but it does occur in people who are emotional hypochondriacs and magnify run of the mill problems into imagined psychiatric catastrophes.
Not every imperfection in life is a psychiatric disorder, nor is every symptom or quirk amenable to psychiatric treatment. When in doubt, always check it out. Getting a diagnostic consultation requires no large expenditure of either time or money and does not mean that you have commited yourself to an ongoing treatment. You will almost certainly learn a lot about where things stand and what, if anything, you should do next.