What is a disorder?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a classification of mental disorders. They have codes which the medical aid schemes request if your treatment is going to be covered by them.

Similarly the American Psychiatric Association publishes a classification of mental disorders written up in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Mental health professional especially in America use it to make a diagnosis.

These classification systems attempt to standardise the symptoms that define a disorder such as a depression or an anxiety.

The classification is used as a short hand in discussions by various health professional. A psychiatrist, a medical doctor, who refers a patient to me, will state for instance that the patient has Post traumatic Stress Disorder. This will than I give me some idea of what therapeutic intervention the patient may need.

I am very cautious about labelling my client in terms of these classification systems. Labelling can be too simplistic and says little if anything about causes. Each person is unique with their own histories. I therefore use the initial diagnosis as no more than as a pointer.

The most important diagnostic reality for me is the distress that compromises the ability to enjoy life, and or to function in the work place that invariably brings people to seek help.