The Person Behind the Diagnosis

The Person Behind the Diagnosis

Last update: 04 December, 2016

Whoever receives a diagnosis feels that in an instant everything has changed, that their yesterday is not the same as their today. With the power of the word someone has created a turning point in their life.

“Among animals it is eat or be eaten, including humans, define or be defined”

-Thomas Szasz-

Whoever receives a diagnosis often feels as if they had a bag of stones placed on their back. Not only do they have to carry their personal problems, but they also have to adapt to their new label. This weight and readjustment involves a great effort from the person.

Sometimes they feel that the diagnosis is bigger than they are. That it’s taken on a life of its own and as a monster that devours everything, has also devoured them. They may feel a strangeness in themselves, their body, their personality and their whole being.

Living with diagnosis

Assuming that new reality and all the changes involved is not an easy task. At first the word overlaps the person, creating a reality which, although it was already there in one way or another before being named, has taken up residence in their mind without being invited.

When you meet the monster face to face, only you decide whether to embrace it and learn to live with it or live locked in a battle that will leave permanent wounds. The ultimate responsibility for how to cope with this new situation is yours alone.


Living with the label and being fully aware of its meaning is difficult and takes time.

“Experience is not what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you”

-Aldous Huxley-

Everything changes and nothing changes

Like the seasons are to plants, a diagnosis is to the person. It’s like a forest that experiences the change of seasons as the months pass. Although the flowers and trees change color, they always sit on the same land.

Sometimes the person may feel that the land and the trees are the same. However as time passes, the leaves of the trees change color, fall and others are born. The same tree may even still be there or can be cut down and disappear forever. But, despite all these surface changes, one thing remains and that the fact of always needing to have an area where vegetation settles.


The same thing that happens with the forest occurs with the person. The word changes the person and does not change them. There is a part, a stretch of life that is different from the rest, nevertheless there is a deeper layer that is not altered and will always be there.

My diagnosis is not me

Sometimes the diagnosis can obscure the person. For example, it is common to hear phrases like “she is bipolar”, “she is depressed” or “she is schizophrenic.” Such sentences are not only used incorrectly, but also promote and perpetuate one of the great problems of mental illness, stigma.

Diagnoses often are used as if they were immutable traits. A diagnosis is not a noun, a person is not bipolar, depressive or anorexic. People are not only diagnoses, labels or words. It is possible that at any given time a disorder can present itself, but this does not mean that the person will become the disorder or stop being herself.

There is a single face behind the word

The diagnosis will always be attached to a face. We must not lose sight that a diagnosis is only a set of symptoms that tell us about the disease and not the person. It gives general information that may be happening to the sufferer, but does not tell us more about her.

Despite our similarities, each being is unique. We all have a name, personality, family, tastes, hobbies and special features that distinguish us from the rest. A diagnosis will never give information on these peculiarities that we should be discovering little by little.


A well-used diagnosis is important. It says something about the person who has it and transmits useful information on a professional level, but does not give us all the necessary information. We must never forget that behind a label is a unique and unrepeatable face, a person who feels and is much more than just a word.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.