-Should people offer OPINIONS as to possible mental illnesses in others?

Today I gave a presentation to a group of about fifty people who were interested in learning more about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). One individual said she took issue with reducing people to a collection of symptoms. She emphasized the point that these patients are in a great deal of pain. She also said only a qualified doctor should diagnose a person after personally examined the individual.

I agree with the first and second points. These individuals are not just a collection of symptoms. They are human beings in a great deal of pain as they constantly struggle to contain the many adverse effects of their disease. One expert, Janice Cauwels, had this to say about BPD, “It is impossible to overemphasize how serious this illness is and how much pain it causes.”

With the third point, I agree in part and disagree in part. I agree that a psychology professional should NOT DIAGNOSE a individual without personally examining them. I strongly disagree with people who say anyone should not OFFER OPINIONS as to whether or not a person is showing signs and symptoms that suggest a particular psychological diagnosis. This is especially true of public officials who can have a dramatic impact on our lives, but also true of others who may not seek help for a mental disorder without encouragement.

Offering psychological evaluations of people without ever examining them based on observations of past actions is a science that is alive, well, and thriving. The FBI and CIA spend a great deal of time and money perfecting their profilers. These organizations would not pursue this avenue if it was not fruitful. There are plenty of television shows, movies, and articles that describe their work.

Most everyone has seen campaigns aimed at increasing public awareness of the signs of diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes among other diseases. The goal is to identify these patients and get them into treatment earlier. We more recently have been hearing about the signs of chronic depression. We should not be treating other mental illnesses any differently. Early identification and treatment leads to better outcomes. Informing the public of the signs and symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder is not meant to disparage these individuals, but to help them and those whose lives they affect.

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