Being diagnosed with a mental disorder usually requires weeks or months of symptoms and several visits to the doctor. Diagnoses given by a doctor, such as “moderate depression” or “anorexia nervosa”, are necessary in order to determine the form of treatment, to apply for sick leave and possible compensations, benefits and rehabilitation from KELA. Some people suffering from mental disorders find it a relief when they are finally diagnosed, whereas some find the idea of a diagnosed disorder distressing.

The diagnoses are based on the ICD 10 (WHO) and DSM IV (American Psychiatric Association) systems.

The purpose of diagnoses is to help in finding the right treatment methods. The patient may benefit from the diagnosis by obtaining information about the diagnosed disorder and avoiding things that possibly make the disorder worse, such as heavy drinking or staying up late. Similarly, they can obtain information on things that may contribute to the recovery or alleviate the symptoms of the disorder in question.

One should keep in mind that the purpose of the diagnosis is not to define the person, but rather to define the syndrome that makes the person’s life complicated. Therefore, the diagnosis says nothing about the person; it only describes the set of symptoms causing stress in a particular phase of life. “Severe, moderate or mild depression” are diagnoses explaining you suffer from a mental disorder called depression, with symptoms such as hopelessness and tiredness.

Much is left outside the diagnosis: for example, it does not say what your history in life is like; how are your relationships at work and with your family; what is going on in our society at the moment and how all this affects you; how you solve problems in your current situation in life; what kind of things you find meaningful, and what makes you happy. Diagnoses on mental disorders explain the disorder and its symptoms from the point of view of psychiatry.

Sometimes it is good for the patient to think how the diagnosis affects his/her life; does it affect his/her identity? Sometimes the patient may begin to live up to the diagnosis too intensely: “So, I’m depressed now so I don’t have to see my friends.” If you find you have changed your behaviour since the diagnosis or otherwise feel like the diagnosis has not helped in your recovery, it may be wise to consider what is wrong.