When your patient receives a mental health or substance use disorder (SUD) diagnosis, they might begin to label themselves as a particular disorder. They might feel that they are their diagnosis and forget about other aspects of their personality. The negative stigma of mental health and SUDs could also create issues in how your patient is perceived by others in their community and even among other family members.
Person-Centered Recovery Language
One of the best ways to prevent patients from labeling themselves as their diagnosis is to use person-centered language. The way you talk about a diagnosis can shape how the diagnosis is perceived. With person-centered recovery language, you remind your patient that they are more than a diagnosis.
Remember to emphasize that your patient is a person with a diagnosis and not the diagnosis itself. Even among work colleagues and other professionals, you want to practice person-centered language. For example, instead of calling a patient “bipolar,” they are a person with bipolar disorder. You could also say “in recovery from addiction” rather than labeling a patient as an “addict.”
The Benefits of Having a Diagnosis
While most patients don’t want to hear that they have a diagnosis and need help, a proper diagnosis can often be beneficial. Your patient most likely understands that the way they think or behave is unhealthy or not normal. They know that there is a problem in their lives — otherwise, they wouldn’t be in a center for alcohol and drug treatment.
Having a diagnosis can provide relief for some patients. They might have felt like their issues resulted from personal failings or internal flaws that they are helpless to overcome. When your patient gets a diagnosis, they can separate their symptoms from themselves. They can recognize that there is hope for them and that their symptoms do not define them. Instead, they have a treatable condition and not unchangeable, deeply rooted character flaws.
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Context of Labels in Recovery
Some support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, use terms like “alcoholic” or “addict” throughout their programming and literature. Peers in recovery might feel a sense of camaraderie using these within support groups. They can identify with the struggles behind these labels while putting the labels into context and knowing that they need to remain connected to recovery to continue getting better.
However, when used outside of the recovery community, labels like “addict” or “alcoholic” can be harmful or judgmental. People outside the recovery community might use these terms to attribute harmful stereotypes to those in recovery. The context of where a diagnosis label is used can change the meaning of the words from helpful to hurtful.
Focus on Small Steps
One of the most significant concerns that your patient might have is feeling like they are destined to forever be in a struggle with addiction or mental illness. They might think of a diagnosis as a life sentence, feeling that no matter what they do, they will always have this label devaluing them or hindering their personal growth.
You can help your patient focus on treating the symptoms instead of curing the diagnosis. They can then start to look at problems in manageable parts instead of an impossible challenge to overcome. When patients see that they can take small steps to manage individual symptoms, they might not feel as overwhelmed about their treatment and recovery.
For example, a diagnosis of depression has several symptoms that your patient can find solutions to treat in manageable parts, like:
- Sleep issues can be treated with exercise, nighttime routines, medications, and a healthy diet.
- Breathing exercises and meditation can treat symptoms of feeling overly anxious.
- To manage intrusive or obsessive thoughts, your patient can find diversionary activities, like music, puzzles, or crafts.
When your patient understands the symptoms of their diagnosis, you can focus their actions on problem-solving and solutions to each symptom. While your patient might not have all the symptoms of a particular diagnosis, they at least have somewhere to begin treatment with the literature and research surrounding that diagnosis.
Health, Growth, and Positivity
Your patient might focus only on all the negative aspects that their diagnosis carries. You can help them focus on health, growth, and positivity in the language that you use around them. Remind them that they are in recovery from a disorder and that they are thriving with their diagnosis.
Always encourage your patients to celebrate the small wins and praise them for any positive growth they display while in recovery. Remind them of the strengths that define them as a valuable and unique person — thriving toward personal growth by facing the challenges of recovery.
A diagnosis in mental health and addiction treatment can carry a stigma and other negative feelings by your patients throughout their treatment. They might feel that they are nothing more than their diagnosis and could benefit from reminders about their strengths during recovery. Person-centered language among your patients and colleagues can help you stay focused on the individual in treatment rather than the diagnosis itself. While most people want to shy away from a diagnosis, you can remind your patient of some of the benefits. They can now have an understanding of the way that they feel or behave. Patients can understand their symptoms and find treatment that has worked for others with similar issues. If your patient struggles with mental health or addiction and needs additional support, Hawaii Island Recovery is here to help. Call our Hawaii rehabilitation center to learn more about our treatment options today at (866) 390-5070.