All about the mind

Do we overpathologise?

Image Source: Here

Image Source: Here

I was having a conversation with my friend A at work about some of the dramas in my life and was referring to my ‘abandonment issues’ when he said something that struck a chord: Why we do overpathologise normal reactions to things? Does it not then become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

As psychologists particularly, I notice that we tend to label ourselves a lot {in addition to labelling clients} and we self-diagnose. I still remember that during the third year of my undergrad, one of the ‘warnings’ in our abnormal psychology text was to not diagnose ourselves. Yet, for some reason, we still do. Sure we may joke about it. And laugh at how neurotic all psychologists are. But I wonder whether we are doing ourselves a disservice.

For instance, I wonder sometimes when I consider that I have traits of generalised anxiety, does it in some way make me even more aware of the normal worries that everyone has? When I used to think of myself as socially anxious, did that in fact make me more socially anxious and awkward in social situations? Because with this one in particular, I’ve noticed that I’ve overcome a lot of that this year by just pushing myself to do things I wouldn’t. In the same vein, I wonder then whether my fear of abandonment and rejection are exacerbated ten-fold when I continue to label it. Doesn’t everyone fear rejection or losing loved ones every now and then? What is it about mine that makes it so bloody abnormal?

Sometimes I think it doesn’t help that I am surrounded by psychologists. My friends here are all psychs. My colleagues are psychs. My ex-partner was a psych. While meeting new people this year through bushwalking groups and similar avenues, I realised that it’s so much nicer and easier to not be in our heads all the time. To be present and to not over-analyse. To not think that just because you worry about a few things means you are neurotic or nuts. And most importantly, to not label things as being abnormal.

I am not by any means saying mental health disorders don’t exist. Nor am I saying we should all completely stop labelling.

But I do wonder whether some of us make our problems worse by attaching meaning to them.

This is where the principles of Acceptance and Commitment therapy start to make more sense. Language sometimes is the root of our problems. It makes us struggle with our internal and external worlds. And rarely do we win this struggle.

I think I’m going to try an experiment on myself.

To stop labelling my worries and fears as a disorder of sorts.

And see where that takes me.

Do you think we overpathologise ourselves especially if we have more knowledge of things? 

Do share.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

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  • Reply
    richajn
    May 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    The language we use, verbally to others, and in our heads, defines our world.
    It sets the tone for who we are, and what we perceive, feel, do.

    So if you think you’re abnormal, or socially adequate, or XYZ; if you use those labels for yourself – you’re reinforcing those very labels. You’re giving them strength. And letting them influence your behaviour.

    And really, a health dose of worrying, is just fine. Or a fear of loosing people. Or a fear or rejection. Of a fear of new things. IMHO, not having those fears, those worries, would be abnormal.

    I’ve found that being present, not rushing in to label everything, accepting – that this is how it is – without judging; makes for a happier me 😉

  • Reply
    richajn
    May 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    The language we use, verbally to others, and in our heads, defines our world.
    It sets the tone for who we are, and what we perceive, feel, do.

    So if you think you’re abnormal, or socially adequate, or XYZ; if you use those labels for yourself – you’re reinforcing those very labels. You’re giving them strength. And letting them influence your behaviour.

    And really, a health dose of worrying, is just fine. Or a fear of loosing people. Or a fear or rejection. Of a fear of new things. IMHO, not having those fears, those worries, would be abnormal.

    I’ve found that being present, not rushing in to label everything, accepting – that this is how it is – without judging; makes for a happier me 😉

  • Reply
    Varsh
    May 22, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Knowledge is good, but it comes with a baggage. For the less informed ones, the word ‘ignore’ works wonders. Alas, when we’re well-versed with a problem and its possible causes and repercussions, we don’t let go easily. Hence, the anxiety issues.
    Too much attention to detail sometimes makes us imagine things that probably aren’t there. Worse, we have certain hypotheses to support our views too. This doesn’t do anything good for us too.
    As a psychologist you may feel all this all the more deeply. Good decision of not trying to label your worries. All the best! 🙂
    Varsh recently posted…Hereby ‘Unfriend’ you!My Profile

  • Reply
    Varsh
    May 22, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Knowledge is good, but it comes with a baggage. For the less informed ones, the word ‘ignore’ works wonders. Alas, when we’re well-versed with a problem and its possible causes and repercussions, we don’t let go easily. Hence, the anxiety issues.
    Too much attention to detail sometimes makes us imagine things that probably aren’t there. Worse, we have certain hypotheses to support our views too. This doesn’t do anything good for us too.
    As a psychologist you may feel all this all the more deeply. Good decision of not trying to label your worries. All the best! 🙂
    Varsh recently posted…Hereby ‘Unfriend’ you!My Profile

  • Reply
    Vanessa @ babblingbandit.me
    May 22, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    I definitely live within my own head and behave according to the labels given to me by my psychs. Since doing schema therapy I’m always labeling my behaviour to try to understand it or to rationalise it. If I am feeling uncomfortable about something but there’s no rational reason for it I am now able to go over the feeling and analyse it to see if it is the schema talking or a real issue worth worrying about.

    I’m constantly debating myself about whether or not I would be better off if I didn’t spend so much time overanalysing my life. But then I think back to my pre therapy days and I’m so glad I’m not back in the darkness. Sometimes I wish I knew more people who have had a lot of therapy (or people who have studied it) and understood the insight about ourselves and the world around us it can give.

    Great post. Love your work, as always.

    V.
    Vanessa @ babblingbandit.me recently posted…Want to win one of 1200 house fires this winter?My Profile

  • Reply
    Vanessa @ babblingbandit.me
    May 22, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    I definitely live within my own head and behave according to the labels given to me by my psychs. Since doing schema therapy I’m always labeling my behaviour to try to understand it or to rationalise it. If I am feeling uncomfortable about something but there’s no rational reason for it I am now able to go over the feeling and analyse it to see if it is the schema talking or a real issue worth worrying about.

    I’m constantly debating myself about whether or not I would be better off if I didn’t spend so much time overanalysing my life. But then I think back to my pre therapy days and I’m so glad I’m not back in the darkness. Sometimes I wish I knew more people who have had a lot of therapy (or people who have studied it) and understood the insight about ourselves and the world around us it can give.

    Great post. Love your work, as always.

    V.
    Vanessa @ babblingbandit.me recently posted…Want to win one of 1200 house fires this winter?My Profile

  • Reply
    Meghna
    May 22, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    You have a very interesting blog. Excellently articulated thoughts. Impressive!
    Meghna recently posted…The Moral of The Story Is…My Profile

  • Reply
    Crunch
    May 23, 2013 at 4:52 am

    OH I HEAR YA! I do. I’ve wondered about this a lot. And I have had conflicting results trying out different things. When I’m over analyzing myself .. I do tend to get depressed and pull myself down in a hopeless spiral but in many cases that helps me come out the other end with solutions and ways to get myself outta there .. like you pointed out yourself about trying new things. On the other hand, when it gets too painful and I don’t see any end in sight to the madness or my patience simply wears out, I resort to ignoring and getting myself so busy I don’t have time for that crap. And that works wonders too. What I can’t escape though .. is not reaching down to the sub conscious every single time despite knowing I’m still “ignoring it”. With a little girl to care for now .. it’s getting scary. I’m noticing the difference between moms that totally don’t have these labels and myself. And I’m having a hard time telling which one’s better for me. There are times when I feel amazing doing what I’m doing with her with the help of labels .. and then there are times when I feel downright crappy! But I’ll live .. for now at least. Beautifully written by the way.
    Crunch recently posted…Taking the training wheels downMy Profile

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