Receiving a mental health diagnosis can feel like a relief for some people; it may offer hope and validate the suffering they are experiencing. However, others may experience shame and worry about being judged and the associated stigma of some mental health conditions as well as medication.
Ideally, the diagnoses should be an essential contribution to one’s life. I write this article from two vantage points. I have the perspective of being a nutritionist who works with clients suffering anxiety, depression, OCD and ADHD. The second viewpoint I hold is that I have experience with being diagnosed myself.
“Ideally, the diagnoses should be an essential contribution to one’s life.”
With my nutritionist hat on, no person having a diagnosis of any health condition, mental health or otherwise, presents in the same way as another. Conditions are complex, and there is no one fit treatment for all. You are uniquely you, with your biochemistry and experiences.
Diagnoses are labels, while significant, they are words. You are experiencing symptoms which vary from person to person and the cause or trigger, if there is one, will be different too. These need to be taken into account regardless of the diagnoses.
On the other side of the coin, having received diagnoses such as CPTSD, OCD, and ADHD, I have found it to be incredibly helpful. To illustrate, I received my ADHD diagnosis as an adult. I put the pieces together myself after my energy drink addiction got out of hand. After much research, I realised that my addiction was a form of self-medication. Energy drinks provided me with a sense of calm and helped with agitation and focus.
A person with ADHD may be medicated with stimulants to help with these symptoms; this was what I was trying to replicate with the consumption of energy drinks. I was fortunate to have a fantastic GP who felt it was highly likely once I explained what was happening for me. I got referred appropriately to a psychiatrist who made the diagnoses.
From here, I felt my life changed. With the right medication, I felt a sense of calm. I described it at the time, “I’m a new person.”
“Conditions are complex, and there is no one fit treatment for all. You are uniquely you, with your biochemistry and experiences.”
It does go beyond medication as to why the diagnoses help. I felt better about myself. I came to understand that my brain doesn’t fire up like a person without ADHD.
I no longer felt ‘something is wrong with me’ for all the times I was impulsive or quick to emotional outbursts. I view mental health conditions like physical ones; it not the person’s fault. You can’t get angry at a person who breaks their leg if they aren’t walking fast enough on their crutches. Compassion for one’s self is a massive part of recovery and mental health in general.
A diagnosis helps with long term management as well. You can begin to learn the skills needed, for example, to be more present using meditation or breathing exercises. It also is just as much knowing your weaknesses and knowing, for instance, that stress isn’t good for you. Therefore you’re probably not going to thrive in a high-pressure job.
Lastly, with two hats on, the nutritionist and mental health sufferer, I now know what nutrients to feed my body. A diagnosis, for it to be an essential contribution, needs to help guide treatment. It provides direction with medications, therapy, nutrition and other lifestyle measures.
“Nutrient therapy is part of the picture when managing and treating mental health conditions. Mental health conditions have associations with various nutritional deficiencies.”
For example, a person living with ADHD may experience episodes of rage. Research suggests those that exhibit these symptoms more than often, have elevated copper to zinc ratio in their blood (1). Such information is highly valuable as you can correct and monitor your nutrient intake.
Having a mental condition can be incredibly confusing for the one experiencing the symptoms. If you feel you may be experiencing a mental health condition, I encourage you to speak to your health care provider. It is your first step to fleshing out how best to help you.
Be your health advocate, do research online in conjunction with this. No one will ever care about your health as much as you. You know yourself better than anyone too. No one should have to live a life of suffering. Once you have the diagnoses, you can then find your team to help with improving your quality of life so ultimately you thrive and feel the peace you deserve.
Elizabeth Pattalis is a clinical nutritionist with a special interest in assisting people holistically with their mental health challenges.
(1) Walsh, W, ‘Nutrient Power – Heal your biochemistry, Heal your Brain’ (2012), Skyhorse Publishing, New York, USA
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